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European Union

Published on January 23, 2014
New Year greetings from M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, to the diplomatic corps (excerpts)

Paris, January 17, 2014

(…)

We can all, if we decide to, influence the world’s destiny. But Europe has a particular responsibility. Not because it’s made up of old nations… I won’t go back over this discussion: it’s not only in Europe that there are old nations! What’s important is always to look to the future, face up to one’s destiny, be confident in oneself. That is Europe’s responsibility.

Europe… When I spoke to you last year, I looked at your faces.

Sometimes I saw compassion. Ah, this Europe, this poor Europe! What was going to become of the Euro Area? Wasn’t it going to shatter? And the recession that was undermining us, and the speculation that could bring down countries… What’s happened in the past year and a bit? And I don’t want to claim any credit here, because it’s been a collective effort. France, Germany, the big countries have been supportive of those who may have been most in difficulty, from whom a lot has been asked in terms of sacrifices and austerity.

What’s the result? Today the Euro Area has been stabilized. The level of the euro is particularly high. I’ll make no comment. We have solidarity mechanisms that have been put in place: a financial transaction tax has been introduced for volunteer countries, and above all we’ve reached an agreement on banking union, the most ambitious project since the single currency. From now on, we’ll monitor any failing bank, because a mechanism is envisaged to that end, and if, despite the checks, it does badly, it won’t be European taxpayers who are called upon but the financial system itself. So we’ve protected savers and taxpayers. There too, with Germany, we’ve reached the essential compromise, because this is always how Europe manages to move forward.

We also had other grounds for satisfaction, [including] having a European budget adopted. It’s never simple, no matter where – and especially in Europe, with 28 [countries], with countries that want to pay less and receive more. It’s very complicated! And yet that’s how Europe works. We’ve made sure that youth employment is regarded as the decisive priority. But we must also tell Europe that it can’t simply be a market, a currency, instruments, mechanisms… It must have an ambition. What ambition?

First, defence. We’ve started working on this, with the common desire to develop new capabilities, get our defence industry to cooperate more and include countries such as Poland, which wants to play its full part in this initiative.

Second goal: energy. I was talking about the climate, but I could also have said that, when it comes to competitiveness, we’ve got a great deal to do as regards energy: conduct a policy both of diversification of resources and network sharing, and get a genuine European energy community under way.

The digital economy. We’ve also got to master the technology, protect our personal data and make the most of all this stock of information. That’s a fine ambition for Europe.

A number of challenges also remain. We know what they are: among other things, the protection of our borders and immigration control, because, heaven forbid, we don’t want to relive what happened only recently on Lampedusa. What must be created? A comprehensive policy of prevention in the countries of origin, border protection and solidarity.

Finally, I don’t want Europe inevitably to have to go on extending its borders, but [rather it should] talk to major countries, Russia in particular, as part of a strategic relationship. (…)./.

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