Skip to main content

Official speeches and statements - February 29, 2016

Published on February 29, 2016

1. Thirty-first session of the Human Rights Council - Speech by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development (Geneva, 29/02/2016)

Thank you, Mr President,

Mr President of the United Nations General Assembly,
Mr President of the Human Rights Council,
High Commissioner for Human Rights,
Ladies and gentlemen,

We are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Human Rights Council and the 50th anniversary of the two texts that represent, for all of us, a shared foundation: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

This anniversary should be an opportunity for an uncompromising evaluation and collective remobilization. Human rights are under greater threat than ever before. And the Syrian people are paying the highest price. For the last five years, the Damascus regime has been relentlessly committing crimes against humanity. It has been torturing, murdering and starving people with complete impunity. It has been dropping barrel bombs and firing chemical weapons. There have been 260,000 deaths in five years; most of them civilians, the bulk of them killed by the regime. Over four million refugees have been driven into exile in desperation.

Alongside the crimes of the Syrian regime, let us not forget the barbarism of Daesh [so-called ISIL], which is terrorizing the Iraqi and Syrian people with rarely-equalled cruelty and depravity, and striking terror into the heart of Europe. We need to fight it resolutely; it’s a priority. In the face of these crimes, a ceasefire in Syria is crucially important. The fragile truce that began a few days ago offers a glimmer of hope. But it is still too weak. We need to take action for humanitarian access, a political transition and respect for human rights, while not easing the pressure on the parties to the conflict, especially the Syrian regime and its allies, so that they finally respect their international obligations in terms of humanitarian law, but also while continuing to denounce acts of violence and gather evidence. This is the mandate of the Pinheiro Commission, set up by our Council, which will ensure that, one day, justice is done. It deserves our full support in combating impunity.

The issue has been referred to the French courts. I encourage all countries which can to do the same. We need to go further, to ensure that all criminals are tried. The Security Council must refer the issue to the International Criminal Court, because there can be no lasting peace without truth or justice. Unfortunately, Syria is not the only place suffering from mass human rights violations. But let us be clear about this: the Syrian tragedy is the measure by which our human rights action will be judged.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Human rights violations are not limited to crimes committed in war-torn countries. They are also more insidious on every continent. An increasing number of governments are restricting public and individual freedoms in the name of security, political stability or even cultural idiosyncrasies, including in countries that claim to be democracies. Journalists, lawyers and the leaders of voluntary organizations are arrested. Non-governmental organizations are prevented from operating. Even in Europe, people are once again tempted to build walls, even though history teaches us that walls have never solved anything. Faced with the risk of regression, we must continue to be guided solely by the universality of human rights, which is enshrined in international treaties to which we freely acceded. Yes, I repeat: freely. Let us never forget that; and it imposes an obligation on us: to comply with them and never turn back.

Tunisia has never turned back. Even in the midst of a transition, and as the target of terrorism, it has adopted a constitution that protects fundamental freedoms, including freedom of belief and gender equality. It has maintained an open political space. This is a brave decision, and an example for all of us.

France will not turn back either. After the attacks of 13 November, the French government declared a state of emergency. This is an exceptional measure, authorized by law for a limited period, under the supervision of the judicial authorities; obviously it is not supposed to be extended indefinitely. We have heard people’s concerns. My country is open to dialogue. But much more than that, it wants to have this dialogue in full transparency, for it is doing its utmost to reconcile the legitimate security of its citizens with the preservation of public freedoms, to which the French Republic is deeply committed.

France and Europe also need to shoulder this responsibility, in order to combat the rise of populism and the return of nationalists and welcome, in dignity, the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing war and persecution. This crisis is testing the unity of our societies and our continent. It is weakening our ability to defend a model and principles, in particular the right to asylum. We should not underestimate this challenge, but it is up to us to confront it boldly and with respect for the principles of solidarity and responsibility on which Europe was built. France is fully committed to this approach.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I came here to reaffirm France’s commitment to human rights. They are, and will remain, a core principle of our democracy and our diplomacy. France has always been on the side of human rights defenders. Now more than ever, the doors of our embassies are open to them. Now more than ever, dialogue with our international partners is necessary. Supporting countries that wish to improve their human rights protection system is one of France’s long-term priorities. For all these reasons, France is running for re-election to the Human Rights Council from 2018.

As it runs for re-election, France has four aims:

Firstly, it aims to strengthen the protection of civilians and respect for humanitarian law during conflicts. Lessons must be learnt from the Syrian crisis. France, with its partners, will shortly refer to the Security Council the issue of protecting healthcare workers in conflict zones. It will continue to work tirelessly towards regulation of the right to veto at the Security Council in the case of mass atrocities. As ever, it will shoulder its responsibilities as a permanent member of the Security Council to prevent massacres, as it did recently in Mali and the Central African Republic.

Secondly, it aims to continue fighting for women’s rights, which - it should be acknowledged - are seeing a tendency towards regression. We should all be working harder than ever to achieve real equality between men and women in all areas. Such equality requires, for example, ensuring that women have access to contraception and combating forced or child marriages. This equality can be conquered through tireless effort and should encourage us to combat all forms of discrimination, including those from a previous age that are still experienced all too often by LGBTI people.

Naturally, France aims to step up the fight against the death penalty - an old but essential battle. For although an increasing number of countries have abolished the death penalty or established a moratorium, this practice, which reflects above all a failure of the justice system, has not become any less common. On the contrary, in 2015 a record number of executions were carried out worldwide.

Lastly, France aims to advance economic and social rights, especially by promoting corporate social and environmental responsibility. Our duty is to fulfil our citizens’ aspiration for decent working conditions and a healthy environment, for themselves and for future generations. Our duty is to combat climate disruption, which undermines fundamental rights, by implementing the Paris agreement. There is no time to lose; we must act now.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are at a crossroads. For the past 50 years, we have been building an international human rights system together, in reaction to violence against humanity, which we wanted to banish forever. This shared system is fragile. Our responsibility is to defend it in each of our countries against the temptation to turn back. Firstly, beyond stating principles, it is the duty of all of us - France first and foremost - to ensure that these principles are applied in practice and to combat all inequalities and all forms of discrimination, without wavering. And secondly in this forum, where, more than ever, we need to question one another uncompromisingly, and to develop and enforce the law together.

Ladies and gentlemen,

You can count on France’s voice and commitment.

2. European Union - United Kingdom - Economy - Foreign policy - Interview given by M. Harlem Désir, Minister of State for European Affairs, to Sud Radio (Paris, 21/02/2016)

Q. - Is this a victory for David Cameron?

THE MINISTER - No, I think it was a victory for Europe to succeed in reaching an agreement, the one David Cameron wanted but with conditions that had been set by the French President and a lot of member states. Given that David Cameron decided to organize a referendum on whether or not the United Kingdom would remain in the European Union, he not only had to show he’d obtained clarifications on the UK’s special situation being taken into account - it already doesn’t take part in a number of common policies: the UK isn’t in the euro, isn’t in Schengen and doesn’t apply the Charter of Fundamental Rights, for example...

Q. - That poses a problem...

THE MINISTER - It would pose a problem if there hadn’t been limits, and the limits are the ones the French President had set. Firstly, the UK can have no right of veto on the Euro Area, on its development or its future integration. Secondly, the rules of financial regulation apply to the whole of the EU, including the UK and the City, because we took measures to combat financial crises and there would be a distortion of competition if those rules applied only in the Euro Area and not outside the Euro Area. Thirdly, there’s no revision of the treaties, we’re not building some great institutional edifice that in no way addresses the urgent needs of the moment: the refugee crisis, the fight against terrorism, and growth and employment. Finally, fourthly, the opt-outs the UK was demanding on social security benefits for European workers living and working in the UK, many of whom come from the countries of eastern Europe, particularly Poland, are very tightly controlled and don’t call freedom of movement into question. That’s what François Hollande asked for, and that’s why the negotiations were lengthy, because the UK had to understand that we agreed to take a number of its concerns into account but that we didn’t want to weaken the European Union.

Q. - Then this raises many issues, and we’ll come back to it point by point. No right of veto by the UK over the Euro Area, but the ability to force a debate.

THE MINISTER - The chance for the UK, if there are questions about the decisions the Euro Area is preparing to take, to be informed of them: we’ve always accepted that, working transparently...

Q. - To be informed of them and to force a debate...

THE MINISTER - Not to force anything at all! To be able to talk about them! But there’s absolutely no way for the UK to force a deadlock, to prevent the Euro Area from moving forward. If the idea ever crossed anyone’s mind, it’s been clarified. Why is this important? Because Europe is differentiated. Ultimately, this was endorsed by the agreement negotiated in Brussels on Thursday and Friday. A differentiated Europe means recognizing that a number of countries don’t necessarily want to move towards more advanced integration and cooperation in many areas.

Q. - Does that mean there are currently two Europes?

THE MINISTER - It means, at any rate, that there’s one greater Europe which together handles a number of common policies, particularly an internal market but also important policies, whether it be for example in the area of the environment, energy or even freedoms. But there are also countries which want to go further and have already done so in the course of history. They happen to be basically the founding countries, the countries which had the idea of launching the European project. Others joined them. This was obviously the case of a number of countries in southern Europe when they were able to join Europe after getting rid of the dictatorships: Spain, Portugal, Greece. It was also the case of a number of the new member countries in northern Europe, for example the Baltic countries, which have also joined the euro. So there are countries that want to go further together, and we think we must go further. And we also want to respect one another...

Q. - And there are countries that don’t want to go so far...

THE MINISTER - There you are... we want to respect the choices of those who want to stay in the EU, and we think Europe must remain united as far as possible. That’s why we think it’s in Europe’s interest for the UK to stay in the European Union, and we think it’s in the UK’s interest to stay in the European Union.

We’re in a time when there are centrifugal forces, there are forces advocating break-up, there are nationalist tendencies, Eurosceptic tendencies. We’d rather the UK remained in the EU. So we had to give David Cameron elements to enable him to conduct his campaign to keep the UK [in]. But the most important thing I’d like to tell you is that whatever the result of the British referendum, France, along with its closest partners, will take the initiative of revitalizing Europe, and so this will involve a vanguard...

Q. - What does revitalizing Europe mean?

THE MINISTER - It means that, with countries that think the same way as us about the major challenges we face, we must go further in a number of areas; we’re preparing new steps forward. We think that this relates in particular to the need to have economic government of the Euro Area, to have more integration, more capacity to invest in the industries of the future, in areas like energy, digital technology, the environmental transition, that we must be able to create a genuine European security pact, to have a foreign policy, to strengthen our capabilities on defence policy, and that in order to uphold our social model, we must also have more tax harmonization and social convergence. On all these levels - with Germany, with our closest partners - we think that, whatever the result of the British referendum, we’ll have to prepare an initiative, an initiative to revitalize the European enterprise... (...).

3. Digital economy - La French Tech - Communiqué issued by the Ministry of the Economy, Industry and the Digital Sector (Paris, 24/02/2016)

Emmanuel Macron and Axelle Lemaire welcome the Mobile World Congress’s selection of NUMA to implement an international acceleration programme in Barcelona. mVenturesBcn, the programme dedicated to supporting the projects of Mobile World Capital Barcelona (MWCB), announced on Wednesday 24 February 2016 that it had selected NUMA - La French Tech’s emblematic, pioneering accelerator, already established in Moscow, Bangalore and Casablanca – to create an acceleration programme specially designed for start-ups in the growth and development phase on European markets.

Each year, this acceleration programme will welcome 10 new start-ups with innovative mobile solutions which have already established business plans and are focused on conquering international markets.

Emmanuel Macron said: «NUMA’s success in Barcelona illustrates the international success of La French Tech. This will speed up with the growing strength of the French ecosystem and French Tech Hubs, which enable all French hi-tech talent around the world to be organized into a network.»

Axelle Lemaire said: «The selection of NUMA by mVenturesBcn in a highly-competitive context testifies to the maturity of La French Tech’s ecosystems and in particular the quality of all our accelerators, which today can claim to rival the world’s leaders. It says a lot about the internationalization of La French Tech, and in particular the gradual building of European digital ecosystems with the capacity to support the development of our Internet start-ups and make them the digital champions of tomorrow.»

      top of the page