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Europe/economy – Foreign policy – Syria

Published on May 31, 2012
General Affairs Council – Press conference given by M. Bernard Cazeneuve, Minister delegate for European Affairs (excerpts)

Brussels, May 29, 2012



THE MINISTER – First of all, on my initial feelings about taking up this post, in a particular context of crises and tensions within the European Union, I obviously see the importance of the subjects the Foreign Minister may have to deal with, at a time when we’re confronted with extremely serious emergencies reported in the news, such as the Euro Area crisis, which I discussed with my German colleague at last Tuesday’s informal meeting. It’s a crisis that’s been greatly preoccupying most governments for many months, and as you know, it’s a subject of particular concern to President Hollande. Indeed, even before he was elected, in the debates that punctuated the presidential campaign, he had several opportunities to express his concern about the gravity of the situation, and his strong belief that the financial crisis has not been overcome and that we’ll have to reorient the EU’s policies to be able to overcome it in a lasting way.

The events that have occurred in recent days, in the period following the presidential campaign, show that François Hollande – who since then has become President – was right in his analysis and that different solutions need to be provided to the crisis the Euro Area is going through. It’s about ensuring that our countries experience recovery, that the financial crisis is overcome and that the whole of Europe isn’t plunged into recession at a time when the OECD’s forecasts show this could be the start of a recession, because growth stands at -0.3%.

So President Hollande is determined to rebalance the EU’s policy by ensuring that, alongside the restoration of budgetary discipline, growth initiatives exist that are especially relevant in view of the events the Euro Area has been experiencing for several weeks and months. We’re in a position to examine all this very closely.

There isn’t only the Euro Area issue: there’s the issue of the [fiscal] treaty, which is of course linked to the situation the EU is experiencing, where we’re asking for the rebalancing you’re aware of.

And then there are the Financial Perspectives 2014-2020, which may at first glance appear to be a different subject, but all these problems are linked, and we saw it clearly during this morning’s debates, when many of those who spoke, representing the different states, stressed the importance and urgency of taking initiatives in the framework of the discussions under way on the EU budget, initiatives that would enable us to strengthen the EU countries’ ambitions in relation to this aim of growth.

So we’re dealing with different subjects: the euro crisis, the treaty, the EU budget, the Financial Perspectives 2014-2020. And when you stand back and look at these subjects, you realize the issues are closely interlinked. (…)


The second point I’d like to stress is my wish to strengthen bilateral relations with a number of countries to whom we’ve talked less or little in recent years and which are asking for a revitalized, renewed relationship with our country; I’m thinking of Poland and the Baltic countries. (…)

The third point I’d like to emphasize is the issues that will arise beyond the crisis – that is, the issue of what vision we have of Europe with a view to 2014. I attach great value to relations with the European institutions, the voluntary sector and think-tanks, which can do useful thinking on these subjects. It’s one of the aspects of the Ministry’s action where I’d like to be able to make a concerted effort and prepare for the events of 2014, which will be upon us fairly quickly.

And then – this is the fourth point – there are all the EU’s relations with the rest of the world. I’m thinking of all the Euro-Mediterranean problems, which the Foreign Minister considers important and on which we must, of course, be able to work in the coming years. (…)


Q. – Earlier on, at midday, François Hollande announced the Syrian Ambassador’s expulsion from France, saying it was being done in consultation with his partners. Yet we’re being told here that the consultation is obviously limited to the United Kingdom and Germany, which are said to be more or less on the same wavelength. So I’d like to know if you can confirm that this is indeed the case, or if other countries have been consulted, because otherwise it’s not very clear: you talk about consultation with as many countries as possible in the EU, and you mention Poland, the Baltic states etc.; does that also involve this kind of decision or not?

THE MINISTER – First of all, the subject of Syria has been discussed by President Hollande in all the contacts he’s had since he took office. On a global level, there’s agreement among very many countries on the level of atrocity of the actions committed by Bashar al-Assad’s regime and the necessity of putting an end to those atrocities by mobilizing all the international community’s resources to achieve that objective.

President Hollande had the opportunity to discuss this subject in Washington with a number of his fellow leaders: President Obama, Prime Minister Cameron, and all the government leaders he had the chance to meet, with whom he was able to discuss the subject.

And he also said that he’d make every effort to organize this meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People soon, to ensure this consultation can continue. (…)./.

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