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G8 summit/Sahel/Syria/economic issues

Published on June 20, 2013
Press conference given by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic (excerpts)

Lough Erne, June 18, 2013

G8/ECONOMY/TAX EVASION/DEVELOPMENT/TRANSPARENCY

THE PRESIDENT – Ladies and gentlemen, this G8 summit has allowed useful convergence between us on several important subjects. First of all on economic issues, with the reiterated support for growth through policies of coordination between the different areas, and the repeated concern that budgetary improvements – which are, moreover, necessary – must be controlled over time and at the right pace, in order not to affect economic activity too seriously and on the contrary even, in some countries, in order to support it. On France’s initiative, there was also a determination to ensure that monetary policies don’t create any extra distortions and that we can have another vision of competitiveness than one concerning only labour costs, taking [into account] all factors of production, particularly energy.

Still on economic issues, a great step was taken on the fight against tax evasion. It was an initiative which originated in Europe, which was also asserted on the American side and which was therefore promoted by all the countries present at the summit. And this same determination will be reaffirmed at the G20 summit, through several measures. The first is information exchange. The second measure is the fight against tax havens: everyone must make an effort wherever they can intervene. Finally, the fight against money laundering, which is also closely linked to the fight against trafficking and terrorism.

We would have liked to go still further, particularly on everything related to multinational companies and the registers that could be published. But I take the step forward for what it is: important, useful and also capable of being universally implemented. It was a long-awaited signal, because if we want to control our public finances, the simplest method is to ensure taxes are paid by those who currently refuse to pay them and who evade them. And only together can we achieve this. Automatic information exchange is a powerful lever that also persuades a number of people to pay tax who previously tried to evade it. Through what’s been decided here at the G8, they must know this policy won’t be softened.

I also insisted that some large companies’ tax optimization strategies should later be looked at. I’m thinking in particular of the digital economy, where multinationals manage to prosper in a number of territories without paying those territories’ taxes. There too, there are a number of steps to be taken in the coming years.

The third step forward at this summit was what was announced for development, or more precisely for a certain idea of development. It was the focus of today’s lunch with African heads of state, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and also leaders of the major international organizations: the IMF, the OECD and the World Bank.

What’s the idea? The idea is transparency: transparency for the extractive industries, so that we know exactly under what conditions they obtain profits and what transfers are carried out. Transparency, too, to be more aware of land ownership and land acquisition, particularly in Africa, because it’s a challenge for development.

So it was decided – and it’s a fine idea – that, particularly regarding the World Bank – we made the proposal –, support can be provided to states, particularly African states, to negotiate the contracts and support them vis-à-vis extractive companies or other companies that request plots of land for activity in ports or elsewhere. So there too, there’s a determination to clarify this demand for transparency and this affirmation of development.

CLIMATE CONFERENCE

We were also able to recall France’s bid to organize the climate conference and reaffirm the necessity of having an agreement in 2015, which is bound to be in the interest of the developed countries but also in the interest of the emerging countries or those which have trouble ensuring their development. It’s a global cause which we must promote and which, through the climate conference, we must go some way towards resolving.

MALI/LIBYA/NIGER

Finally, there were the international subjects that concern us the most: first of all, West Africa, and on Mali the members of the G8 all recognized the importance of the initiative we took and its success – political and military success – in Mali.

I also informed the G8 members that the Malian government has just now signed an agreement with the people who for a long time opposed its authority and who even took up arms, while not joining the terrorists. So an agreement has been reached, and it will enable the presidential election to be organized throughout Mali’s territory, including in Kidal, with the presence of the Malian civilian administration and also military and gendarmerie units that will ensure the security of the operations. It was very important to succeed not only with the military operation – this had already been achieved several weeks ago – but also the political operation, as it were, preparing the ballot and then dialogue and the future of Mali.

We also discussed Libya, with a determination to come to the support of that country’s legitimate authorities and provide them, too, with all the conditions for their security, because we’re well aware that a number of groups have taken refuge there and may put pressure on the government and even try to destabilize it or conduct operations that would affect the neighbouring states, and I’m thinking particularly of Niger.

SYRIA/GENEVA CONFERENCE/CHEMICAL WEAPONS

We also discussed Syria, of course. Many people thought we wouldn’t manage to reach an agreement, at least on the Geneva conference. My wish – and it was shared by all the participants – was to affirm that Geneva could take place quickly. I know it’s difficult and there was every pretext to postpone the meeting. Geneva means the possibility of a political transition. Geneva means everyone being obliged to put pressure on the Syrian regime and, for our part, on the Syrian opposition to ensure that all those parties are around the table, not for the sake of being around the table but to find a political solution through this transition.

Likewise, on the issue of chemical weapons, beyond condemning their use – which is, after all, the least one can do –, it was agreed that an international investigation would be conducted in Syria to get confirmation of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and a report will be made to the Security Council. It wasn’t about resolving the Syria issue at this summit – who could claim to do that? – but at least about setting the framework – Geneva – the timetable – as quickly as possible – and the goal – the transition – and being able, between now and then, to conduct the investigation into chemical weapons.

That, ladies and gentlemen, was the scope of this G8 summit. We’ll have the opportunity to see the possible follow-up to it at the G20 summit, to be held in St Petersburg at the beginning of September. In fact, the same themes will be discussed: what do we want for our economies? Do we want to promote growth, combat unemployment, ensure we can have balance and rules for trade? Because trade negotiations were launched here between Europe and the United States, while those being conducted between Europe and Canada aren’t over yet. (…)

SYRIA/RUSSIA/IRAN

Q. – Among the meetings you’ve had during this G8 summit, there was one with Vladimir Putin yesterday. How would you describe the atmosphere and outcome of that meeting, at a time when, as we know, positions are very different, particularly on Syria?

THE PRESIDENT – On the economic level, we have bilateral relations with Russia and President Putin that are destined only to improve, and we’re ensuring this is the case. Likewise, on the issue of human exchanges – be they academic, scientific or cultural – we’re trying to bring about new developments in the historic relationship between France and Russia. But we have disagreements, particularly on the Syria issue. (…)

We expressed the disagreements. I must say President Putin understood that it was also advantageous insofar as he wants stability, he wants the conflict under way in Syria not to last, he wants this Geneva conference to be planned now, and that he has a responsibility – because he supplies weapons to the regime and supports it – to put pressure on Assad to ensure this Geneva conference goes ahead and there’s a political transition. (…)

Q. – To continue with my colleague’s question about Vladimir Putin, what was the Russian President’s attitude in the meetings you had with him, and what are you asking of him now? Do you believe you’ve received all the necessary guarantees from Russia about her attitude and the actions she’s now going to take vis-à-vis the regime?

THE PRESIDENT – President Putin agreed to the discussion, particularly yesterday evening at dinner and again this morning. He agreed to the discussion not simply to make his viewpoint known – I’d already heard him on several occasions and again at the bilateral meeting I had with him yesterday – but to find solutions that could be shared. On chemical weapons in particular, he agreed to this investigation being carried out, because he denies chemical weapons have been used. So he agreed to the investigation and to the matter being referred to the Security Council. On the Geneva conference, we found common ground, including on its being held “as quickly as possible”. So he accepts that framework. Finally, on the political transition, he’s more cautious, but it’s up to us to continue exerting pressure and getting our arguments across. But I’d said from the outset of this G8 summit that we weren’t going to resolve the Syria issue here. Here we could set the framework – the Geneva conference – the timetable – as quickly as possible – and the idea for a solution – the political transition; that is what’s been done. (…)

Q. – (…) Can you envisage Iran taking part in those negotiations?

THE PRESIDENT – (…) Let’s wait for the new president’s statements; let’s see if he can be of any use. And here’s my position: if he can be of use, yes, he’ll be welcome.

FRANCE/US/SYRIA

Q. – In a television interview, President Obama voiced his scepticism about American military action in Syria and about the creation of a no-fly zone. Did you discuss this together, and more broadly, how did your meeting go? I believe you invited him to “land” – as you yourself put it – whenever he wants?

THE PRESIDENT – I did indeed invite him to the ceremonies to mark the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Landings, on 6 June 2014. And he told me he was looking into the possibility. But I told him he could come any time.

On your question about Syria, it was President Obama himself who made that statement, in the belief that the idea of intervention wasn’t in Americans’ minds today. I think all our efforts must be concentrated on pressure on the Syrian regime, to ensure the Geneva conference goes ahead. That’s the scenario.

And in order to achieve that, we must support the Syrian opposition by every humanitarian, material and political means. And we must ensure that the Syrian opposition – and it’s a condition – is very clear about certain groups whose terrorist nature is recognized. That’s what must be done in the coming days. (…)./.

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