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Fight against terrorism/European Union

Published on March 23, 2016
Replies by M. Manuel Valls, Prime Minister, to questions in the National Assembly (excerpts)

Paris, March 22, 2016


This morning Brussels, the heart of Europe, the seat of our European institutions, was struck by Islamist terrorism, by the unleashing of the ideology of death that afflicted our country in January and November 2015. Everyone fully understands that what’s been happening in Brussels for several days now is directly linked to what we experienced a few weeks ago. Europe, which has already been struck, is in mourning again. All our thoughts go to the very many victims and their families. I extend France’s wholehearted support to the Belgian people, who are our friends and neighbours. We stand with them, united in suffering in the face of the acts of war that have just occurred – because we are at war. Europe is at war, because Islamic State, Daesh, has declared war on it.

As the French President, I myself and the Foreign, Interior and Defence Ministers said on Saturday, the arrest of one individual and his accomplices is no reason to feel relieved. We know that it’s one step and the war goes on. We’re up against a terrorist organization with unprecedented firepower and with logistical organization on a scale never seen before – we must all bear in mind the number of individuals involved in organizing these attacks. It has its strongholds, its networks and its cells. It’s recruiting, mobilizing and indoctrinating in the very heart of our societies.

In the name of radical Islam and a totalitarian ideology, Daesh, but also branches of al-Qaeda – which are engaged in a kind of competition of terrorist violence – share a hatred of democracy. That’s why they’re striking on our soil. That’s why they’re striking in Europe, today in Belgium, recently in Tunisia, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire, and again yesterday evening in Mali. France, Europe, Africa and the Middle East will again be targeted and struck. We must never lose sight of this certainty.
We must respond together with the greatest strength, the greatest determination and the greatest calm.


We’ll respond militarily with our armed forces deployed in Iraq, Syria and the Sahel.
We’re protecting French people on national territory. We’re living under the state of emergency and we’ve adopted legislation aimed at strengthening it. You’ve just adopted, here in the National Assembly, ladies and gentlemen deputies, a bill presented by the Keeper of the Seals aimed at strengthening the power of police, gendarmes and judges to take action. This very day, in view of the situation, the Interior Minister has sent the préfets [high-ranking civil servants who represent the state at the level of the department or region] a circular aimed at strengthening the security measures already in force. All this is in addition to the deployment of police, gendarmes and soldiers announced this morning by Bernard Cazeneuve with a view to strengthening all the mechanisms already deployed on our soil for months, such as border control.

We’re doing all this together. It’s one strength of our democracy that the majority and the opposition can face up to the terrorist threat together. We must also take action at European level, as you yourself, Mr President, and the Interior Minister, have recalled. Europe is under attack. So, contrary to what we sometimes hear, the response must also be European. Our area of freedom must also be an area of security. France will continue to pull all its weight, because this is an emergency, as the President, I myself and the Interior Minister constantly repeat. As for the PNR [Passenger Name Record], it’s due to be debated jointly with another subject at the European Parliament in April. I, in turn, say it’s time to adopt it. I say so in particular to the socialist and environmental groups in the European Parliament.

Everyone must shoulder their responsibilities. The government of France needs everyone’s support, particularly that of the European Parliament. We’ve wasted enough time on this issue. We must take action on stepping up border controls.

Finally, acting against the terrorist threat and eradicating jihadism will be a long-drawn-out battle, a battle against radicalization first of all. We’ve established an unprecedented detection, monitoring and handling mechanism at departmental level. But we’ll need time to flesh it out and develop it to prevent individuals from becoming radicalized. It’s no doubt a matter of several years, if not a generation.

The Interior Minister I have been working for many weeks to update the plan for combating terrorism and radicalization adopted in April 2004. The plan will be revised in the next month. (…)

Ladies and gentlemen deputies, a war has been declared on us, against what we are, against our values. In unity and respect for our law, with the greatest firmness and pride in being French, and while upholding these universal values, we must win this war, and we’re giving ourselves every means to do so. (…)

We had a meeting chaired by the President, in which the Interior, Defence and Foreign Ministers took part, to guarantee the security of our borders and of our transport infrastructure.

To date, 5,000 police and gendarmes have been mobilized to monitor our borders, first and foremost in the north. At these 220 checkpoints, 42 of which are permanent, six million individual checks have been carried out. These checks have already – and this illustrates the action of our security forces – enabled us to prevent 10,000 individuals from entering our country.

This operation will immediately be beefed up with an additional 1,600 police and gendarmes distributed among the different border crossing points and on air, rail and sea transport infrastructure.

As I’ve said – and as Bernard Cazeneuve has also emphasized –, we’ll continue our fight against terrorism at European level, because Europe, the Europe of freedoms and of the Schengen Area, must also be, for our compatriots, safe.

I want to stress two points. First of all, with the support of the vast majority of deputies and senators, which has never been expressed so widely – although it’s true we’ve never had to face such a significant threat –, we’ve never done so much to protect our compatriots.

I’m thinking in particular of the vote on two anti-terrorism bills, two bills focused on intelligence, of the examination (…) of the bill on criminal procedure, and of the additional resources allocated to the security forces, especially our armed forces.

This approach will have to continue over time: indeed, it’s not a matter for this five-year term alone. In the face of a threat that is going to last, this national effort to support our security forces, the justice system and the fight against radicalization will have to be made over the long term.

Finally, this is a battle for democracy and not a battle of West against East, or of Christians against Muslims, who today are the first victims of terrorism in the world.

The anonymous victims of Brussels and Paris are of all religions, all colours and all origins. So it’s a battle for democracy. And we must fight with the weapons of democracy, the strength of the rule of law, and the power and the conviction we possess, against the terrorism which is striking in Africa and the Middle East – including against our Israeli friends – and against ourselves.

We’ve entered into a war we must win because, quite simply, our fundamental identity is at stake.


Since 2012, as Interior Minister and today as Prime Minister, together with Bernard Cazeneuve, I’ve been playing an active role, with a single objective: the fight against terrorism.

In the summer of 2012, I addressed the Senate and the National Assembly during the presentation of the first counter-terrorism bill. We’d already all detected the phenomenon of Syrian and Iraqi networks which, over time, demonstrated to us the deep-seated evil afflicting us: young people, French or living in France – individuals who leave for Syria or Iraq and come back to France to kill their compatriots.

To tackle this threat – and this is unprecedented – we mobilized the state, our security forces and our armed forces, and we must continue.

To protect French people, together we passed two anti-terrorism bills, two intelligence bills, we set in motion the law on criminal procedure, which further strengthens the capabilities of the security forces and the justice system, and we decreed the state of emergency.

At this time, although we don’t yet know the number of dead and injured, and we don’t know whether the attacks involved any compatriots, I’d like us to make progress together, both now and in the future, including on measures like the one you propose. We’re ready to examine all measures that might be effective, in the framework of the rule of law which applies in our country and with due respect for our values.

We’ve also shown ourselves to be making progress on counter-terrorism laws and on the law reforming the code of criminal procedure, even though there was ultimately no constitutional reason – it wasn’t necessary to obtain a qualified majority or an identical vote [by the Senate and the National Assembly].

We considered, with the Justice Minister, that Senators Mercier and Bas’s bill substantially reflected what the government was proposing and what the National Assembly fleshed out. So we can move forward and look at this bill closely.

This afternoon, as we do every fortnight, several members of the government and I will have meetings with the assembly presidents, the chairmen of the relevant committees and the chairmen of the parliamentary groups to carry out a very detailed review of the threat status, which will be even more detailed following the terrible Brussels attacks.

The government is open to all proposals in order to move forward together, and we’ve demonstrated this. But at these moments, quite apart from the effectiveness of our security forces, our armed forces, the justice system and the fight against radicalization, symbols have importance. Given the threat posed by over 2,000 individuals involved in the Iraqi-Syrian networks and the thousands of individuals and young people who might become radicalized – which, in a way, tears up the Republican pact –, given this threat in the world, in Europe, in our country and our neighbourhoods which we discussed yesterday with the representatives of Islam, what’s the response?

It’s a long-term response, which has to include this good question: what does it mean to be French? How can we for one moment tolerate some of our compatriots turning against us and, in the name of an ideology, killing our compatriots and our values?

This question is for every one of you. Let’s move forward together on all these issues and not just one or two of them./.

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