Official speeches and statements - July 13, 2016
1. South Africa - Bilateral relations/United Kingdom/defence and security - State visit to France by the President of South Africa - Statement to the press by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic
(Paris le 2016-07-11)
Ladies and gentlemen, I’m very pleased, indeed honoured, to be receiving Jacob Zuma for this state visit, which is going to considerably strengthen the partnership between South Africa and France.
I myself paid a similar visit in 2013, and we decided to broaden the foundations which were laid by Nelson Mandela and François Mitterrand and which, in a way, formed the basis of the strategic partnership between France and South Africa.
Our two countries are far apart geographically but very close politically, because we, South Africa and France, have the same goal of defending democracy, pluralism and culture everywhere. That’s doubtless because of our history and the ties that were created throughout the period when South Africans wanted to end apartheid and when progressive movements in Europe and France fought alongside Nelson Mandela and his party to achieve the result he finally got, namely the definitive abolition of that terrible system, apartheid.
Today we’re no longer at that stage, but we still have the same idea: to uphold human dignity, make emancipation possible and not tolerate any attack on the principle of equality, and that’s why we have a political partnership which we’ve decided to enhance further, with regular meetings between our foreign and defense ministries.
We also want to take action to give the world rules. South Africa is a member of the G20 and we’ll soon be meeting again in China. We want globalization in both its economic and its environmental versions, we want there to be progress like the progress we achieved at COP21, and South Africa was a particular driving force in leading a number of countries, particularly the emerging countries, towards the conclusion of that Paris Agreement.
France now wants to put that agreement fully into practice and conduct development policies that can give a major role to renewable energy, to modes of transport, to the organization of cities, which can have a swift impact on the climate.
In this regard, we’ve signed a framework document in the France-South Africa partnership and an agreement that will enable the French Development Agency to successfully complete renewable energy and energy efficiency projects with South African businesses.
President Zuma is leading a very sizeable delegation, firstly of ministers, whom I welcome and who have already been in contact with their French counterparts, but also many business leaders, many economic [stakeholders’] representatives, who are going to prepare an enhanced partnership with the MEDEF [French employers’ organization] - a meeting was held this morning. There’s one example I want to mention - among others, because other agreements are going to be signed -, namely between SNCF and its South African counterpart PRASA, with very concrete repercussions in terms of investment.
I haven’t forgotten, either, that South Africa and France - although geographically far apart if you’re looking at mainland France - are also neighbors, because with the island of Réunion we have a presence in the Indian Ocean, and we also wanted a cooperation agreement governing fisheries in the southern region. I’m delighted with this commitment, which may also have consequences in terms of security, because during President Zuma’s state visit we wanted our action to be stepped up in terms of security and counter-terrorism, and there too, this visit will have consequences.
We’re also concerned about a number of situations in Africa. France has shouldered its responsibilities in the Sahel and is continuing to do so, and we also had to intervene under a UN mandate in the Central African Republic, in close coordination with South Africa. Today we’re expressing our shared concern over the situation in South Sudan, with violence that has occurred again and, sadly, a high death toll.
I want to finish with an observation I shared with President Zuma and his delegation concerning Brexit. Everyone’s aware of the links uniting South Africa and the United Kingdom - links related to history and also to intense economic relations. I was perfectly clear: Brexit will have no consequences on the relationship between the EU and South Africa. I’d almost say, on the contrary, that we’re going to strengthen our trade relations further so that South Africa can be a partner for Europe, also in the framework of regional organizations like the SADC.
We also want to specify clearly what the French position is on Brexit: it’s not to punish the British people because they voted - as was their choice - to leave the European Union, but we want to reduce, as far as possible, the period of uncertainty. It’s the same concern as was expressed at one point by our South African friends: nothing is worse in economics, or in politics for that matter, than uncertainty, and it’s in the common interest to embark on the negotiations as soon as possible.
FIRST WORLD WAR CENTENARY
I was talking about the UK and the historic link with South Africa; President Zuma will be going to the Somme to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of Delville Wood, in which many South Africans died. It was during the First World War, and France will never forget the courage and sacrifice of those South African soldiers. That’s why it was very important, on the centenary of the Battle of Delville Wood, for there to be a memorial to recall that story, that sacrifice and that link uniting South Africa and France. Thank you, Mr President.