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Foreign policy/handover of power

Published on February 16, 2016
Speech by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development (excerpts)

Paris, February 12, 2016



You’re going, leaving this institution – you’ve loved it, as you’ve just recalled very emotionally – to join another one, and I have no doubt your talent will leave just as strong a mark on it.

When you arrived here nearly four years ago, you knew you’d love this ministry. You confirmed this a few days ago at the National Assembly when, like today, you used the word “happiness”. In politics it’s rare – I’m tempted to say too rare – for the word “happiness” to be used, because with all the offices we’ve held, and the highest ones, we both know that difficult moments can arise in political life and that the day-to-day action of government is an exercise in self-denial and commitment.

But we also know there’s no greater satisfaction than duty accomplished in the service of France. And what you’ve accomplished, cher Laurent, will remain central to the work of this five-year term. You were – as we often saw first-hand, but we didn’t always see the work behind the scenes – the tireless architect of the Paris Agreement and of COP21’s success. And you took action on a profound level to increase the consistency of France’s diplomatic action and economic influence,
through all the reforms carried out at this ministry. And I’m delighted that you spent so much time and energy, with the support of all this ministry’s officials and staff, to ensure that when I arrived to succeed you, a lot of things would already have been prepared and embarked on.

And when France had to shoulder its responsibilities – I’m thinking of the Middle East, of Africa, and elsewhere of course – you got across our commitment to peace, respect for the law and multilateralism. And you always repeated that military solutions must serve political goals.

And in the face of increasing dangers – and they are many –, the effectiveness of French diplomacy is an asset for France, an asset in responding to the crises we must address. Moreover, our country is respected – more than ever respected, awaited, even hoped for. Through its influence and the values it promotes, France has the power and the duty to shoulder all its responsibilities.


And that’s the thrust of the action taken by the President since 2012, be it in Syria, the Sahel, the Central African Republic, Libya, Ukraine or all the conflicts and crises we must anticipate and address. The current tragic situation in Syria – with an unprecedented humanitarian crisis that hasn’t stopped getting worse every day,
particularly in Aleppo, and the millions of refugees who are fleeing and fighting for their survival – reminds us of that absolute requirement. Because it’s a moral imperative, because it’s essential to combat the expansion of terrorism, which has become a direct and immediate threat to our country, to our values and to our democracy, we must tirelessly continue the military and diplomatic work for a political solution to the conflict. The results of the meetings held in Munich yesterday are encouraging, even though we are, as always, mindful of what is done and will form our judgment on the basis of the various parties’ actions.


That’s also the purpose of the initiatives we must take: to restore a meaning and a future to Europe, even though a lot has been done, and you were right to recall it. France and Germany – whose joint initiatives are and will be decisive – but equally all the European Union member states must swiftly rally around a renewed ambition. At stake are not only Europe’s cohesion and solidarity but also the very survival of the European project.


Our future is also Africa, where our new development policy must now be deployed, in a relationship of trust between partners who can provide a great deal to each other.


I’m aware of the skill and dedication of all the staff of this great ministry, and you found the words [to express this] because you’ve known them well for nearly four years. And I, in turn, would like to address everyone, to assure them of my full confidence that they will accomplish the missions ahead of us and increase France’s power and influence.

I’m also fortunate enough to have the support of experienced ministers of state. I’m thinking of Harlem Désir for Europe, Matthias Fekl – whom you spoke about – for foreign trade as well as many other things, and André Vallini, who is changing posts and coming to join this team. I’ve known each of them well for several years, I appreciate them, we have ties of friendship and I know we’ll work effectively, with confidence and always fulfilling the missions entrusted to us.

Mon cher Laurent,

Our country and our time need experience, tenacity and solidity. Those, among others, are the qualities that have led you to the Constitutional Council. And they’re the ones that will also inspire me to fulfil the mission entrusted to me. All my wishes, all my gratitude, all my friendship for this new stage as a wise man at the service of values and the law, leading the Constitutional Council to keep our democracy alive, to keep the values of our Republic alive and to keep citizens confident. That too is our responsibility and I know you’ll succeed there too.

Thank you for everything you’ve contributed. Thank you for the support you’re lending me by welcoming me here to this great ministry. (…)./.

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