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Fight against terrorism/United States

Published on February 23, 2015
Speech by M. Bernard Cazeneuve, Minister of the Interior, at the international summit devoted to the fight against terrorism

Washington, February 19, 2015

(Check against delivery)

Mr Secretary-General,

Mr Secretary,


Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to begin by telling you how honoured I am to attend this international summit, which offers me the opportunity – after the attacks on my country – to thank you warmly on behalf of France and the French people for your gestures of solidarity during that ordeal. I salute our American hosts, and particularly John Kerry, for their unwavering support.

We are all concerned by this threat. That’s why we must be more united than ever in facing it, as the United Nations’ Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and Security Council Resolution 2178 make clear.

How should we characterize the threat facing us? What should we do about violent radicalization?

Despite the barbarity of their crimes and the recent setbacks they’ve experienced, terrorist organizations in Syria and Iraq such as Daesh [ISIL] and Jabhat al-Nusra are still recruiting in Europe, and particularly in France. This terrorist threat is multifaceted and of a type largely not seen before. Nowadays, terrorism is diffuse and “open-access”. It involves individuals who were born or who grew up among us, and who one day, following a more or less quick process, embrace terrorist fanaticism. Hence, the profile of terrorists and potential terrorists has changed. Many have become radicalized on the Internet. Some leave for Syria or Iraq, and return to Europe indoctrinated and trained to kill. Others shift from crime to terrorism after serving time in prison or after contact with hardline Islamists.

While the preventive actions we put in place in April 2014 thwarted many departures, more than 400 young French nationals are now in Iraq and Syria. It is estimated that nearly 1,400 French nationals are involved, in one way or another, with networks of fighters.

For our security and intelligence agencies, these different radicalization processes all represent challenges. The French government has taken strong measures to strengthen our counter-terrorism arsenal, while respecting the law and fundamental liberties. All of our agencies are mobilized to dismantle terrorist networks and prevent any threat of attack.

1. First, we are stepping up the efforts of our domestic security and intelligence agencies:

- by providing them with additional human and material resources;

- by reforming their organization and coordination: to better take into account the overlap between crime and terrorism, these agencies must end their culture of separation and systematically exchange information;

- by creating a denser network in order to more effectively detect signs of radicalization at their source.

2. Next, to impede terrorist efforts and propaganda, we are instituting new legal tools.
The law of 13 November 2014, which is for the most part already being very strictly implemented, introduced four major innovations into our legislation: a ban on leaving French soil; a ban on non-resident foreigners representing a threat to national security from entering or staying in France; the blocking of Internet sites that incite or express support for terrorism; and finally, instituting additional penalties for the offence of expressing support for or inciting terrorism.

Furthermore, we are developing a modern legal framework for the activities of our intelligence agencies. In the weeks ahead, the French government will introduce a bill giving it legal tools that are commensurate with the new terrorist threats, technological developments, and changes in national and international law.

3. Finally, our efforts include a radicalization-prevention component, which is mobilizing all the government departments. We have established a national hotline that allows families to report departure risks and receive support. More than 1,000 relevant alerts have already been reported. In addition, throughout France, prefects – who represent the state – are tasked with running a “follow-up unit” consisting of representatives from the judiciary, domestic intelligence, local government, the Education Ministry and social services. These units are responsible for individuals who are being radicalized. There are several types of actions that can be taken, based on the individual’s particular profile: criminals; young people from broken homes or troubled communities who may also be psychologically vulnerable; and young people who don’t appear to have “problems” but who are “looking for meaning”.

This comprehensive action should be extended to the European and international level. France therefore calls for the full implementation of Security Council Resolution 2178. In order to ensure the long-term effectiveness of our efforts, we must take action together and coordinate our response. That’s why we’ve also proposed a comprehensive strategy to the EU members. On 11 January, I met the interior ministers of the G10 (the EU members states that are on the front line regarding this issue), the President of the EU Council and the European Commissioner for Security Affairs. Eric Holder and Alejandro Mayorkas, as well as the Canadian Minister of Public Safety, Steven Blaney, also attended the meeting. Last week, a European summit confirmed the guidelines that we agreed upon on 11 January.

We have three priorities:

1. The establishment of a European PNR (Passenger Name Record) system;

2. Increased use of the Schengen Information System (SIS) in order to trace, report and arrest foreign fighters. This would require strengthening controls at EU borders, notably for European nationals

3. Lastly, improved coordination on combating propaganda and the recruitment of terrorists on the Internet, by collectively exerting our influence on the Internet providers (I am due to meet the main ones in San Francisco tomorrow), by harmonizing our legislation on the removal of illegal content, and by adapting the legal framework for international cooperation to the way in which globalized information systems work.

Finally, cooperation with Middle Eastern countries, which are particularly affected by the terrorist phenomenon, is an absolute necessity.

This is what I wanted to say to you today. I’m convinced that, in the face of terrorism, our strength lies in our unity and our solidarity. That’s how we will overcome this threat. Thank you. /.

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