President’s Speech at Ambassadors Conference 2012: Excerpts
Alliances, yes, we have one with the United States of America and this relationship is today marked by trust. President Obama and I noted the great extent to which we see eye to eye on major international issues, the economic crisis and the imperative for growth. I am keen to see the excellent relationship between France and the United States become even stronger over the next few years.
At the Chicago [NATO] summit, I recalled France’s commitment to the Atlantic Alliance – which did not prevent me, with the foreign and defence ministers, from expressing my reservations or laying down some conditions, particularly on antimissile defence. I have, moreover, asked Hubert Védrine to assess what the return to the integrated military command has really contributed to our goals and to Defence Europe.
But France has her own goals in line with her situation, role and even her interests.
The second challenge is the Syria crisis.
The principle is simple: Bashar al-Assad must go. There’s no political solution with him. He is a threat, he’s continuing with unbelievable violence to massacre the people, destroy cities and kill women and children – we’ve had evidence of this again in the past few days. It is intolerable for the human conscience, unacceptable for the region’s security and stability. The matter should be referred to the International Criminal Court so that those responsible for these atrocities one day stand trial.
I want to be clear: France shoulders all her responsibilities and spares no effort in order for the Syrian people to gain their freedom and security.
To achieve this, we have to overcome obstacles at the Security Council; the Foreign Minister is working on this. We’ll return to this at some point because the Syria crisis is dangerous for everyone, beginning with Syria’s neighbours. We’ll go on as much as necessary doing a job of exerting pressure and persuading at the Security Council in order for the international community to reach a consensus. But in the immediate future, we must act.
Firstly, stepping up efforts so that the political transition takes place as soon as possible. With this in mind, France is asking the Syrian opposition to form a provisional, inclusive and representative government, able to become the legitimate representative of the new Syria. We’re urging our Arab partners to speed up this initiative and France will recognize the new Syria’s provisional government as soon as it has been formed.
Secondly, and without delay, we are strongly supporting those working on the ground for a free, democratic Syria who guarantees the security of all her communities. We are helping in particular those organizing the liberated areas in Syria. We are working on Turkey’s initiative of proposed buffer zones. We are doing so in consultation with our closest partners. Finally – and I say this with all due solemnity – we and our allies remain very vigilant in preventing the regime from using chemical weapons, which for the international community would provide a legitimate reason for direct intervention.
I know how difficult the task is, I’m aware of the risks, but what is at stake goes beyond Syria; it concerns the whole security of the Middle East, and in particular the independence and stability of Lebanon.
But above and beyond these guidelines, I want immediately to move to the most burning issues.
The first challenge is the crisis hitting Europe: a lack of foresight for too many years has multiplied debts, weakened our industry and undermined social cohesion. Europe too has its share of responsibility: it has not protected us as much as we had hoped. Mistrust is spreading, fuelling populism, and austerity risks adding still further to the impugning of European policies.
This is why, immediately after my election, I decided to reorder Europe’s priorities. I contributed with others to the adoption of a growth pact whose every measure must be implemented rapidly. France, through Bernard Cazeneuve, will very soon make proposals to amplify these policies, give priority to innovation and investment and defend production in Europe, and I have confidence in the European Commission represented here to ensure we waste no time in implementing these decisions and spending the funds put on the table: €120 billion. My goal – I am not pursuing it alone – is also to put an end to the doubts which are fuelling speculation. This is the aim of the European Council and the decisions taken on 29 June this year. An agreement exists for the European Stability Mechanism, in cooperation with the European Central Bank, to be able to intervene to reduce sovereign debt interest rates when these become prohibitive. Do we have to keep on waiting for the European Stability Mechanism finally be able to act? The Karlsruhe [Federal Constitutional] Court will provide the answer. And in the meantime, we still have the European [Financial Stability] Facility (EFSF). So the mechanisms exist, they must be brought into play and if still further fine-tuning is needed, the Central Bank contributes to it. I think the time has come for states to be able to use the instruments available to them if these are requested. Everything has to be in place by the end of September, and the 18 October European Council will have to ratify the decisions so that a compromise is also found before the end of the year on the banking union and European-level supervision by the European Central Bank, which I want to see.
The budget treaty to be put before Parliament in early October is consistent with this rebalanced framework.
My approach to the Iran crisis is based on the same requirement for collective security.
The Iranian nuclear programme, which has no credible civilian purpose, constitutes a threat to all countries in the region. It’s all the more unacceptable because it’s being carried out by a regime that frequently issues statements – reiterated in recent days – directly calling for the destruction of the State of Israel.
France’s position is clear: it would be unacceptable for Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. And that country must comply with its international obligations under the NPT as well as the resolutions adopted by the Security Council and the IAEA. The path of dialogue remains open because our goal is to achieve a diplomatic resolution to the crisis, but until Iran answers all the outstanding questions and complies with international law, France has a responsibility to further strengthen the sanctions against the Tehran regime.