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Official speeches and statements - March 31, 2016

Published on March 31, 2016

1. Syria - Interview given by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, to the French press - excerpts (Algiers, 29/03/2016)


Q. - On Syria, you say you discussed the issue.

THE MINISTER - Yes, I discussed Syria with my interlocutors, of course. I recalled France’s position, which is as follows: France welcomes the ceasefire, which has now lasted nearly a month and is generally being complied with. That’s a recognized fact, even though, as I told my interlocutors, we regret the fact - and we’re continuing to work on this - that humanitarian aid isn’t reaching everywhere, and it’s essential. And furthermore, [we discussed] the resumption of the process of political negotiation in Geneva, under the authority of the United Nations Special Envoy, Mr Staffan de Mistura. We’d like to make progress on the political solution, and that’s what I told my interlocutors.

I mentioned the issue of Bashar al-Assad, who can’t be the solution. He can’t be the president of a reconciled Syria with stable institutions that guarantee peace and allow the country to rebuild itself.

Q. - And what did your interlocutors reply to you - in the knowledge that Mr Mouallem [Syrian Foreign Minister] was in Algiers today?

THE MINISTER - They’re not making it a priority issue, but that’s a point where we differ in our assessments. But we’re not setting any preconditions for the political process: we’d like all issues to be raised with all those involved. You don’t say it’s necessary to begin with this or that before you can make progress, but you have to say so when it comes to the ultimate solution. We’re saying so to all our interlocutors, namely the Iranians, the Russians and the Americans, who also share this goal. So the discussions are continuing.

We’ve encouraged the Syrian opposition to take part in these discussions, these negotiations, and I have to say it’s made proposals. The Syrian opposition negotiator has been extremely clear and constructive. The same can’t be said of the Damascus regime authorities. We must continue, persevere and make progress by talking to everyone. At any rate, France would like to talk to everyone. I spoke to my Iranian counterpart on the telephone last week; we discussed these issues. We’re also having dialogue with Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. We’re trying to make headway and talk to everyone, including the Russians. We’re of course liaising with our European partners, particularly with the Germans and the British, but also the Italians and obviously the Americans, because we had a meeting together a very short time ago to bring our positions into line. But at any rate, it’s clear to see - and in a way the facts speak for themselves - that the solution to the war is a political solution.

Q. - Is the recapture of Palmyra good news for the French government?

THE MINISTER - We’re not going to complain that Palmyra is no longer in the hands of Daesh [so-called ISIL], because the battle against Daesh is of priority importance. This battle has to continue with very great determination; we spoke about this in our discussions with our Algerian friends. We must fight Daesh in Iraq and Syria, but also in Libya; we talked about the Libya problem too. So this concerns the whole coalition’s battle against Daesh.

Palmyra, in many people’s eyes, is symbolic. The destruction or attempted destruction of Palmyra symbolizes hatred of culture and a particular idea of civilization. But at the same time, when Daesh gained control of Palmyra, it can’t be said that the Damascus regime really put up a fight, and this is regrettable. Perhaps if there had been as strong a reaction at the time, we wouldn’t be where we are, we would have been able to prevent the capture of Palmyra. There you are, it’s in the past, but I wanted to make the point, and this mustn’t exonerate the Damascus regime of the responsibility it has for the way it has treated its people. (...)

2. Energy policy - Electricité de France (EDF) - United Kingdom - Hearing of M. Emmanuel Macron, Minister of the Economy, Industry and the Digital Sector, before the National Assembly Economic Affairs Committee - excerpts (Paris, 22/03/2016)


There’s still the final decision which has to be taken by EDF on Hinkley Point and which is giving rise to many concerns. The decision will probably not be made official on 30 March, but, more reasonably, at the beginning of May, i.e. before EDF’s General Assembly and in a timeframe which allows our British partners to have complete visibility on this critical investment, ahead of the important decisions they’re preparing for. We need time to work on a set of measures which go beyond just the Hinkley Point project.

Let me remind you that this is a project promoted and supported by the company’s last two executive committees and the government, in a manner consistent with our energy strategy, in which nuclear energy retains a predominant share and is still destined, for the next 10 to 15 years, to account for roughly 50% of our energy production.

Not only does nuclear energy form the basis of our energy sovereignty, it’s an industry which offers us important job-creating international markets, bringing industrial benefits for the country. The developed world’s main nuclear project today is Hinkley Point. Can we legitimately decide that investing in it isn’t a good choice? I, for one, don’t think so. The coherence between our energy strategy, our industrial strategy and the strategy of the company requires this to be done, but in an organized framework with all necessary visibility regarding the project’s financial feasibility.

Hinkley Point accounts for 15% of EDF’s planned investment over the next few years. It must take its place next to investment in renewable energy, investment needed for major streamlining, the acquisition of Areva NP and all the projects which are going to necessitate a total annual investment of euro11 to 15 billion.

The first actual disbursements won’t take place until the end of 2018 or the beginning of 2019. In view of this, the British government has committed to EDF and the French state to acquire the electricity produced at a guaranteed price for 35 years. This commitment has been validated by the European Commission. It enables us to secure the project’s profitability for 60 years, at around 9% a year. So beyond the short-term financial difficulties, Hinkley Point is a good long-term industrial and financial investment. Every energy producer is on the lookout for such a project...

Finally, let’s remember it relies on entirely French technology, even though the production won’t be carried out entirely in France, because we have partners in this business such as the Chinese and Japanese. For example, the latter will manufacture the reactor vessel - a sensitive issue if ever there was one -, which therefore won’t have the same characteristics as that of Flamanville.

Before taking its final decision, EDF must ensure all the conditions are met for profitability and risk control. The state, in its capacity as shareholder, will be especially mindful of this. The cost of construction is estimated at euro10.5 billion per tranche. (...)

3. Energy policy - United Kingdom - Hinkley Point EPR project - Reply by M. Emmanuel Macron, Minister of the Economy, Industry and the Digital Sector, to a question in the National Assembly (Paris, 29/03/2016)

The subject of Hinkley Point is indeed of the greatest importance, because it’s about whether we have the capability to produce and sell an EPR in developed markets - nothing more and nothing less.

Is the project entirely free of risks? No. What’s our collective responsibility? To reduce them.

To that end, there’s a framework: namely, the board of the company - which, as you know, is quoted on the stock exchange and in which we’re the majority shareholders -, and we have representatives on that board, sitting alongside representatives of the employees and of independent administrators.

There’s no secret report. There’s been the activity of a financial director who, in a position of responsibility and under two successive CEOs, has championed and led the project from the outset.

Moreover, since 2013 the Hinkley Point project has been the focus of several independent reports at the request of the board of directors, including a report by Accuracy [Consulting] in 2015, for evaluations, and M. d’Escatha’s report.

All these documents have been discussed by the administrators in the framework of the board of directors. I know no secret document - which is supposed to have been issued in what framework? -; I know only documents that have been issued and discussed in the framework of the board, which is the right policy and the right way of doing things.

In this context, the legal risks have been weighed up. At this stage it seems to us that they’re being dispelled and that our rights - those of EDF - are indeed protected in the framework of the contractual agreement signed with the British government. They won’t be finalized until May, when we’ll sign the definitive documents.

Finally, financial and operational issues are currently being discussed and will be the focus of forthcoming board meetings, during which we’ll defend the interests of taxpayers and of EDF.