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New Year greetings to the armed forces

Published on January 15, 2014
Speech by François Hollande, President of the Republic

Paris, January 8, 2014



In a few weeks’ time there will be important decisions taken in the Central African Republic, for the Central African Republic. Firstly, Europe will get more involved. A European Foreign Affairs Council is scheduled on 20 January. And these ministers will decide on the resources to be given so that Europe plays a supportive role – so that the European flag is raised there too, in the Central African Republic –, providing humanitarian support, since this is essentially what Europe is going to be concerned with.

There will also be decisions taken in the United Nations framework, so that what today is an African force with Operation Sangaris becomes a peacekeeping operation. This will take time because there are rules, there are stages to go through. So during this period we’ll have to be there with the Africans, whose presence is also going to be reinforced.
We have to let the Central Africans and [other] Africans decide that country’s political future. Provisional authorities have to take some decisions to eventually (…) prepare elections and ensure a democratic transition.

It isn’t easy to imagine when elections could take place in the Central African Republic when there’s no longer any state, when there’s no longer law and order and when there are these acts of violence. And yet this is what we’ve really got to seek as well, in the Central African Republic like everywhere else. It’s good that democracies can act together and guard against tomorrow’s threats.


That’s why I’m committed to Defence Europe. But at the same time France must play its role, and that’s why it has deployed significant military capabilities in Africa – I’ve talked to you about them a great deal – but also in the Caribbean-Guiana area, where we also have missions to accomplish, and in the Indian Ocean. France must act whenever its interests are threatened.

France acts with its allies and partners, particularly the Europeans. France always acts within the framework of international law. Its approach is based on law. It can do so only because there are service personnel from the three armed forces and the National Gendarmerie who contribute to the excellence of our military capability. (…)


2014 will be an opportunity to delve into the history of global conflicts in order to understand better the challenges of peace today and the role of successive generations in ensuring the country’s security. First of all there will be the commemorations of the centenary of the First World War and the 70th anniversary of the Liberation. They will be high points: dozens of countries will be taking part in these events over the next four years. Their enthusiasm in crossing the globe to come and join us here for these commemorations will remind us that on the battlefields of the Marne, on the coasts of Provence, on the beaches of Normandy, there were also young people who came to rescue us and enable us to be free.

So we’ll be able to welcome all these friends from afar. Sometimes they’ll come to spend some moments in silence at the grave of one of their distant relatives. They’ll come in order to understand what happened 100 years ago or, in the case of the Second World War, more recently.
They’ll try to ensure that we can come together – yesterday’s adversaries included – to build tomorrow’s peace.

My thoughts go especially to those who came to sacrifice their lives for us. This is why I wanted to award the Légion d’Honneur to many foreign combatants who came here 70 years ago, from every continent, to help us. Yes, although foreign, they deserve this red ribbon, because they too, by serving their countries and their ideals, saved France. They loved our country and still do. (…)

Still on the subject of the Second World War, I’m conducting a census of all our compatriots who have received the Resistance medal but not yet been awarded the Légion d’Honneur, so that we can reward them. They’re survivors and they’re men – and sometimes women – who also deserve to be singled out by the Republic.

Several, perhaps many of you will be asked to welcome or accompany French and foreign veterans to all our country’s places of remembrance.
Give them the best welcome, support them and be sure that no continent, no nation can expect to protect its freedom without guaranteeing its security. Freedom necessarily has a price.

What we’re doing for defence isn’t only for the sake of France’s status, it’s also to protect our rights and freedoms. It’s thanks to you, our armed forces’ capabilities and your professionalism that we can achieve this. Through you France can engage; through you it can send a universal message, which is always that of peace, security and stability. Through you, France’s influence can spread throughout the world./.

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