Official speeches and statements - March 18, 2016
1. Côte d’Ivoire - Terrorist attack in Grand-Bassam - Statements to the press by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, following his audience with the President of Côte d’Ivoire (Abidjan, 15/03/2016)
I came here on France’s behalf, accompanied by Bernard Cazeneuve - my government colleague, the Interior Minister - to convey a message.
Firstly, from François Hollande, the President of the Republic, who spoke to you yesterday afternoon. A message of solidarity, condolence and affection for your country, to the Ivorian people, who have suffered deep wounds.
And following this craven attack, we want to express our condolences to all the casualties and their families. A few moments ago, we silently paid our respects in front of the coffins of the four French people who died, but, of course, in our tribute we paid our respects to the memory of all the victims.
Following the attacks in Bamako and Ougadougou, but also in Kenya, Tunisia and France - as you know, twice, last year -, we share the same threat from terrorists.
What’s at stake is our way of life, our desire to make a success of our development through democracy and freedom. It’s this model of society which is threatened and at stake. We must defend it with all our might, with all our heart, with our firm beliefs and the necessary means, in a mutually supportive way.
In a few moments, Bernard Cazeneuve and I will be having a working meeting with our counterparts - the Foreign and Interior Ministers - and Defence Minister. We’ll be able to look at the necessary cooperation in more detail.
At any rate, Mr President, I also wanted to express to you our admiration for the courage with which the Ivorian police and special forces intervened to stop the slaughter, with a modus operandi similar to that in other countries. We need to step up our cooperation further so that the terrorists have no chance.
The message I would like to convey in concluding this speech is also one of confidence for all those who believe in freedom, who believe in democracy, and one of confidence for Côte d’Ivoire.
Economic meetings are scheduled in the next few days. They are all going ahead. It’s the best response to the terrorists, who want to break us. Life goes on. Life for our peoples, so they can live their future lives in complete safety.
So we’ll use the means necessary and continue to provide mutual support. In particular, we’ll continue to support Côte d’Ivoire, which has now begun - and did so several years ago - a remarkable political process and, at the same time, is getting back its economic dynamism and regaining its leading role in this part of Africa.
It’s also all that, your whole ambition, that we’ve come to support: to support you, Mr President, your government and the Ivorian people. In other words, the support of French people and the support of France’s friendship.
Q. - Today in Nîmes you’re taking part in a simulated attack on a Euro 2016 fan zone. How real is the threat in France today?
THE MINISTER - As the President, the Prime Minister and I said yesterday, the terrorist threat remains at a very high level. We must exercise the utmost vigilance to protect our fellow citizens. Throughout France, the security forces and emergency services are training in exercises such as the one in Nîmes. This year, 75 exercises aimed at managing a major crisis are planned in our country. They are taking on particular importance with Euro 2016, an international event, three months away. It is our responsibility to prepare ourselves to anticipate and prevent any kind of threat.
Q. - Is France particularly targeted by jihadist terrorists?
THE MINISTER - France is targeted, as we saw with the terrible attacks of January and November 2015, because the terrorists loathe our Republican values of freedom, tolerance and laïcité (1). French people are showing courage and exceptional resilience, which I want to pay tribute to. But the terrorist threat affects other countries too. On Tuesday I went to Côte d’Ivoire with Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault to show the Ivorian government and people France’s solidarity in the wake of the Grand-Bassam attack on Sunday. I said there that anti-terrorist cooperation between our two countries would be stepped up. We are also carrying out resolute EU action, because to respond effectively to the terrorist threat we need to step up European Union external border controls.
Q. - Are jihadist networks more active in the Languedoc-Roussillon-Midi Pyrénées region?
THE MINISTER - Such networks have been dismantled in various parts of the country; no region is more or less affected than any other. We are taking action all over the country with the same vigilance and efficiency. I want to salute the job our police, gendarmerie and intelligence services do daily to combat terrorism. Since the beginning of 2016 we have arrested 74 individuals linked to terrorist activities, 37 of whom have already been charged and 28 imprisoned.
Q. - The state of emergency ends on 26 May, three weeks before Euro 2016. Will it be extended?
THE MINISTER - Whatever the prevailing situation during Euro 2016, we are taking the maximum precautions to ensure its optimum security. We have been doing this for months, liaising closely and constantly with the organizers and host cities. Today’s exercise in Nîmes is part of this. We are taking the necessary measures, regardless of whether there is a state of emergency. We have submitted a new bill to Parliament to increase police and justice system resources in the fight against organized crime and terrorism; we would like to see this come into force at the end of May. A large majority of the National Assembly has already voted it through and I hope the Senate will do the same. (...).
(1) laïcité goes beyond the concept of secularism, embracing the strict neutrality of the state.