Official speeches and statements - January 12, 2017
The European Union, an indispensable actor in an uncertain world
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Chère Mrs Mishra,
Ladies and gentlemen,
At the outset, allow me to thank you for your invitation. I am delighted to participate in this conference held in the memory of the founder of ORF, Mr. Rishi Kumar Mishra. Mr. Mishra was a source of inspiration for foreign policy matters for several successive prime ministers. He championed a generous and universalist vision of the world—which did not prevent him from being a great patriot.
Rishi Kumar Mishra desired to build bridges between traditional Indian philosophy and today’s world. He was a man who respected borders, but also liked being able to overcome them. I think this little summary is an apt introduction for our theme today: the European Union.
2016 was a year that severely tested the European Union. Distrust regarding its functioning is gaining ground. It would be over-simplistic to think that this distrust alone explains the outcome of the Brexit referendum, to which I’ll come back later. But it is impossible to deny that this result speaks volumes about the state of the European project and its perception by its citizens.
The European Union must also face the challenge of its security. Tensions at its door are multiplying. They have a direct impact on European countries. Several regions in our neighborhood are prey to instability and war. I am obviously referring to Syria, Iraq as well as Libya, Ukraine and the Sahel in Africa. Millions of refugees are leaving their countries to escape from barbarity. The lack of prospects pushes millions of Africans towards perilous migration routes. Terrorist groups—Daesh/ISIS being the foremost among them—are feeding off these tensions and directly threatening Europe by trying to sow division and hatred within our societies.
The internal functioning of the European Union is at stake. Tensions exist within each member state. This is true in Poland, this is true in Hungary, this is true in Austria, in Germany, in the Netherlands or in Italy; it is equally true in France. Today, populists derive arguments from developments in the world, the terrorist threat, the fear of decline, to question the European project and challenge its founding values. They are misguided.
Europe has a duty to be clear and must adapt itself to respond concretely to the anxieties of Europeans. But this is not the sole reason. The 2008 financial crisis has left deep marks. The transformations at work in the world bring numerous opportunities, but create more risks for the most vulnerable. Inequalities are growing. The preference given to return on capital over remuneration for work has widened disparities. Combined with a digital revolution that generates low employment, this change weighs particularly on the middle and most deprived classes, who are left to the temptation of the extremes.
US RELATIONS WITH EU AND FRANCE
The ensuing tensions are visible everywhere, including the United States. American voters have chosen a figure who embodies a rupture; but why? For now, questions abound over the direction that the new administration wishes to give its diplomacy after 20 January. The European Union and France have a shared history with the United States, shared values. These common interests, I’m sure, will continue to govern our relations with that country in the long term. And we will find common ground on the most crucial challenges of our times, notably the fight against terrorism, to which the United States, like the European Union, contributes on a global scale.
France and the United States are allies, and this will not change. France will swiftly develop close ties with the new administration. No stone will remain unturned to convince them that the interests of the United States are better protected when we together combat climate change under the framework of a collective approach. Or when international trade develops on the basis of rules accepted by all, respecting reciprocity and equity. In the face of unilateral temptation or the idea that deals can suffice to resolve world affairs, France will make its voice heard. It could, for instance, so act as to make Europe embody, with much greater force, a vision of international trade that is beneficial to the greatest number.
In the face of global challenges, I firmly believe that the only possible response is a response supported by a collective political will. The founding of the European Union is one such example and one of the most enduring.
For sixty years, the European Union has been sufficiently strong to make us recover from the worst: the fratricidal war that wounded our continent and plunged it into grief, and the horrors that it engendered, to the point of even negating humanity. Robert Schumann or Jean Monnet, men born in the 19th century, left their mark on the succeeding century by rising above the differences between countries to put to the fore, protect and strengthen the values and goals we have in common. These values and goals have remained the same: democracy, respect for the rule of law, equality for all, and the ability to bring together the peoples of the Union thanks to concrete achievements that enabled the birth of a common solidarity.
And what a success! For Europe is a collective success. It gives each of our member states a stronger voice and greater influence in the 21st-century world.
Europe is the top economic and commercial power in the world. It promotes the interests of its member states even as it acts for the common good, by contributing to advancing social and environmental norms, and by fostering sustainable development, on which the future of our planet depends.
Europe is one of the greatest democratic spaces in the world, one of the greatest spaces for freedom, for the circulation of goods, capitals, services, but also and above all, human beings. It is the region in the world in which wealth is best distributed, where equality of opportunity is best guaranteed. Moreover, the Union and its member states contribute to more than half of development aid given in the world.
European integration enabled the construction of a space of stability, peace and democracy. Europeans together uphold the universal values of human rights, freedoms, gender equality and the fight against the death penalty. They act towards the peaceful resolution of conflicts in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere. They so act that multilateralism wins over unilateral temptation and the dangers of gradually straying towards the clash of nationalisms.
The Union does a lot. It supports growth and encourages investment. It acts concretely and decisively for the security of its citizens and even beyond this. It formulates an ambitious defense and security strategy. It forms a space for research that is substantive, attractive and fosters innovation. Lastly, for free trade agreements, it is the EU that has the mandate to negotiate on behalf of all its members, which makes us stronger. Once a member leaves the EU, it must renegotiate all its free trade agreements one by one and by its own devices.
We should continue to act so as to augment these results that the EU has already achieved. We adopted a road map in Bratislava last September and we must now carry out the commitments made.
For all that, within the European Union, 2016 was also marked by a schism, with the decision of the British to contribute no longer to this great project launched on the morrow of the Second World War. The unexpected result of David Cameron’s risky political tactic, the expression of an insular sense of identity, the assumed will to respond to migration challenges, which were, moreover, widely instrumentalized during the campaign: much has been said on the reasons behind this vote. The consequences of this «political coup» will take a long time to show, as reflected in the difficulties encountered by Theresa May’s government in implementing the will expressed by her people and avoiding endangering the cohesion of the United Kingdom itself.
The European treaties provide for a schedule of negotiations, a framework with a procedure that is transparent, democratic and respects each of the institutions of the European Union: the Commission, the Council—and therefore the member states—, the Parliament—and therefore European citizens. The European Union is ready to initiate negotiations with the United Kingdom as soon as the latter officially notifies its intention to leave the Union and activates Article 50 of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union.
European leaders are united in this process and have fixed several guiding principles for the upcoming negotiation. The choice of the United Kingdom to leave the EU has, of course, given rise to speculation regarding the future of the European Union without the United Kingdom. My conviction is that Europe will be able to surmount all these fleeting difficulties and that European construction will continue to offer a future to our continent.
EU PROJECTS/RELATIONS WITH INDIA
In 1957, there were six of us. Today there are 28. There will be 27 tomorrow. We form a unique political whole that has, first of all, been able to preserve peace in Europe, then get through deep crises thereafter and adapt its functioning.
Thus, on the morrow of the British referendum and many times since, EU member states have reiterated their trust in European construction, and their attachment to what makes up our identity and our values, which are not empty rhetoric but our reality and our plan.
We owe a duty of clarity to the questions raised by our peoples. The latter do not want «less Europe». They want a Europe which truly responds to their concerns. Which protects our values, ensures economic prosperity and social progress, and offers everyone greater opportunities in free societies open to the world and geared to the future.
Ambitious European projects are under way, particularly to better ensure the security of its [Europe’s] citizens and to combat terrorism and its financing as well as all forms of trafficking. The European Union is not only a key power for its neighborhood but also a force of peace at the global level. In the coming years, it intends to bring decisive responses to global issues and continue to support a world order based on the primacy of law, the peaceful settlement of differences and multilateralism.
The strategic independence of the European Union, thanks to that of its member states like France, is its greatest asset in this regard. With 16 crisis management operations, including six military operations in several regions of the world, sometimes in support of UN operations, the EU is an indispensable player. It is a reliable partner of India. This is so particularly in the Indian Ocean, where the Union is conducting Operation Atalanta against piracy by drawing on the naval capabilities deployed by its member states, foremost among which is France. This operation has considerably reduced this scourge and reinforced the security of strategic sea lanes for the international community in general and for India in particular. A fruitful collaboration towards this has been initiated with the Indian navy. Other cooperation can be envisaged. Peacekeeping operations in Africa, for example, come to mind, where India as well as Europe are particularly active. Afghanistan, where India and the EU play a vital role in reconstruction, development and stability, also comes to mind.
The European Union pursues its ambition to build an economy of knowledge, by using its considerable investment capacities, by choosing to invest in research and development. The EU’s investment capacities are a resource for financing programs India has launched for its own modernization and economic development. We can strengthen our cooperation in these areas. Here, I would like to acknowledge the initiative taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for an International Solar Alliance, which we were able to launch together in Paris on the margins of COP21 and which will tomorrow contribute to developing solar energy everywhere in the world.
The member states of the European Union have today embarked on a new path for renewing their project. In March this year, European construction will celebrate its 60th anniversary. This anniversary will mark a new start, an affirmation of our shared will to resist fatalism and defeatism. It will mark a decisive step in the relaunch of the European project. Europe is a community of nation states, with each nation possessing its own history, its own traditions. They will remain so, but the EU’s originality lies in the fact that these nation states freely decided to pool together what made them stronger. In the uncertain world now ahead of us, this original and unique Union is more necessary than ever before.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The EU and India are united by shared values. They share a vision of international relations based on multilateralism and dialogue, rather than a power struggle.
The European Union has the will and the capacity to bring collective responses to the challenges of the world. This will is precious, like the involvement of great emerging countries in the international arena, at a time when the commitment level of the United States in the world has become uncertain, and inaction, indecision or self-withdrawal will expose us even more to threats.
The European Union is India’s foremost trade partner and one of the top investors in India. With a single market of 500 million persons, the EU offers Indian companies unmatched economic opportunities. I invite Indian companies to choose France so as to access this market. France, first-ranked destination of foreign industrial investments in Europe, possesses all the advantages to be—allow me to borrow an English expression—India’s gateway to Europe.
It is together that India and the European Union will find ways and means to respond effectively to common challenges that they must face. It is thus that they will find the way to an economic development that will usher in sustainable and inclusive growth. Such growth must be based on research, innovation and skill development. It must be achieved to the benefit of all, including the most vulnerable. It is together that we will meet the energy and climate change challenge.
Lastly, it is together that we will respond to the threat of international terrorism. India and Europe are both victims of terrorism, precisely because of what brings them together and what terrorists aim to weaken: democracy and freedom. We can only meet this challenge jointly, by cooperating more closely in the monitoring of terrorist groups, in the fight against radicalization and against terrorism financing networks, while respecting the fundamental values that we have in common, but are unfortunately not common to all.
Ladies and gentlemen,
History is written by women and men who decide that destiny is the result of a collective will. Bolstered by this ambition, we will continue to build a Europe of peace, democracy and sustainable and shared prosperity. It is also this political will that I would suggest we muster to forge the future of the India-European Union relationship and the Indo-French friendship.
(Source of English translation: French Embassy in India website.)
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The France-India bilateral relationship is based, above all, on human ties. You embody these ties, you help consolidate them, just like those French people of Indian origin from Metropolitan and Overseas France, some of whom are here today.
A growing number of Indian people are moving to France. This immigration, which contributes to our country’s diversity and richness, is rooted in history. We too often forget that Réunion’s history is closely bound up with India’s. Nearly a third of the French people who live there are of Indian origin. Mainly from Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, they’re a bridge between our two countries, furthering our cooperation. The day after tomorrow, I myself will be in Gujarat, where France is participating in the annual economic forum in Ahmedabad. There I’ll be meeting Prime Minister Modi, who was in Bangalore today.
The France-India relationship is also a strategic partnership which makes India a major partner of France in Asia. This strategic partnership is flourishing, whether as regards space, maritime safety, the fight against terrorism, nuclear cooperation or, of course, defense. It was further strengthened last year with President Hollande’s state visit, which resulted in the signing of the Rafale contract.
This partnership between our two countries is resolutely geared to the future. Together, we’ll help build the India of tomorrow. Together, we’re seeking solutions to address our common challenges, such as sustainable development and the fight against climate change.
At the end of 2017, all over India we’ll be celebrating—thanks to the Bonjour India festival—the vitality of the France-India relationship, our unwavering friendship and the values shared by our two countries.
Our presence in Bangalore—i.e. your presence—perfectly illustrates the many aspects of the France-India relationship.
This presence is also economic. Some 100 French businesses are here, from CAC40 companies to SMEs, in every sector: [for example] in information technology, obviously—since we’re at the heart of India’s Silicon Valley!—, and aerospace, with Airbus, Safran, Thalès and Dassault, whose recent success I welcome. I mentioned Thalès; let’s remember that as early as 1953 its forerunner, CSF, set up in cooperation with the Indian authorities one of the first telecommunications equipment factories in Bangalore, which is today the centre of the public group Bharat Electronics. So France pioneered the development of this Indian electronics capital!
I’m also thinking of other sectors such as rail transport, with Alstom, and sport, with Decathlon, a fine example of French success in India.
I couldn’t list all those who contribute to the robustness of Franco-Indian ties. You all illustrate the diversity of France’s presence in India and the diversity of our skills and French talent and know-how. I’m thinking of start-ups and innovation. I’m also thinking of space. Our two space agencies, CNES and ISRO, have been working together for over half a century—still pioneers! Today, India is our number one non-European partner, after NASA.
On Monday, the CNES President and I will be going to ISRO, then we’ll visit a private Indian company which plans to send a small robot to the moon at the end of this year. The robot’s eyes—two very hi-tech cameras—will be French. For the first time, a piece of French equipment will set foot on the moon; it will travel on board an Indian capsule, a fine example of our shared accomplishments. (...)
New arrivals to India are often told, «you won’t change India, India will change you». For me, admittedly, the process is still recent, since I arrived less than 24 hours ago...! But I know that India is a country which leaves a deep impression. Because of its history, its culture and its men. Because of the challenges it faces, too.
India is changing, as we can see. It is changing fast. It is aware that the challenges confronting it are major ones, not just for the country but for the stability of the world. They also provide as many opportunities to be grasped, and we want France to support this change. Thank you to everyone—citizens and businesses—who has chosen to move to India and Bangalore and support the emergence of this great country. You are all helping to heighten France’s impact on the world. (...).
3. European Union - Economic policy - Article by Mr. Matthias Fekl, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, the Promotion of Tourism and French Nationals Abroad, and Mr. Christophe Sirugue, Minister of State for Industry, published in the daily newspaper Libération (Paris - January 11, 2017)
Industry: supporting «Make in Europe»
Through pride or naivety, we have long believed our technological leadership to be taken for granted. The economic crisis, from which we are only just emerging, served as a harsh reality check in France and Europe. The world has changed, the rules have changed. We cannot be naive and turn a blind eye to the current situation any more. To overcome the crisis of confidence paralyzing it, Europe must reconnect with people by showing it is up to the challenge and adopt a genuine European industrial policy.
Industry is at the heart of our economy. In France, it accounts for over 12% of GDP, three million jobs, 70% of our exports and three-quarters of private research. It went through an unprecedented crisis at the end of the last decade. Hundreds of thousands of jobs were destroyed and exports fell. Our industry could have collapsed. But this did not happen.
In France, the government responded with strong measures. Thanks to the Competitiveness and Employment Tax Credit (CICE), the Research Tax Credit (CIR) and the increased depreciation mechanism for investment in particular, French industry has remained robust and enterprising. It is the second-biggest exporter of manufactured goods in the Euro Area. Its technological excellence is recognized and it has companies which are leaders in their field, allowing it to respond to the major challenges of tomorrow. However, with emerging countries moving upmarket, the situation has changed since the crisis. Yesterday, those countries were the factories of the world; tomorrow, they will be its research centers too. In Asia, several million engineers graduate every year. Every sector is competitive, including some which we thought untouchable. This change is, of course, a cause for concern. The concern increases when combined with a fear that tomorrow humans may be replaced by machines in the industrial base, or that technological progress benefits only the most qualified and leaves others by the wayside.
These worries contribute to the crisis of confidence which the whole of Europe is suffering. Some of our fellow citizens fear the effects of globalization, which they regard as a source of insecurity and inequality—which it is too, contrary to what the proponents of «happy globalization» maintain. Those aspiring to run our country tomorrow after the presidential election cannot afford to overlook this matter: there must be a rethink of industrial policy to provide concrete solutions and guarantees which allow us to remain competitive players in this new world. This is what we have started doing by supporting the modernization of our production base and the innovation of our businesses. This industrial policy cannot operate according to a now-obsolete model in which we design and the emerging countries produce.
So we must act, and this response must be a European one: only the European framework allows us to compete on equal terms with the other major powers. The European project, which was built after the Second World War, has brought us peace. Thanks to Europe, our countries are more prosperous than ever. We shall not be able to defend the European dream unless we can protect our citizens and retain mastery of our technology and the ability to produce on our soil. Faced with a globalization which is brutal for many of our fellow citizens, the European economic area cannot remain wide open.
Industry is also a question of sovereignty. How can we ensure Europeans’ security if we do not master the technology critical for our defense? How can we guarantee the integrity of transport, digital and financial infrastructure if we depend on non-European industrial solutions?
We are experiencing an industrial revolution. Big Data, advanced materials, 3D printing and the necessary energy transition are all opportunities for Europe to produce as close as possible to consumers, in a more environmentally-friendly, personalized and efficient way. If we do not grasp these technologies, we will be left behind. Tomorrow, connected vehicles will be made as much from electronic components as from steel: unless we master these technologies, what future will our car manufacturers have?
We do not believe in protectionist responses whereby European peoples would supposedly gain from barricading themselves behind their borders. There is an alternative to supposedly inevitable industrial decline or blind, suicidal self-absorption. Together we must review all our European policies in the light of these upheavals, with a view to possessing and promoting a powerful European industry.
Our trade policy must guarantee fair rules for our businesses. The United States is demanding that the high-speed trains for which Alstom won a contract should be manufactured on American soil. Is it right that Europe should be unable to demand the same thing for its procurement contracts? Likewise, it took Europe 15 years to adapt its trade defense instruments, at the French government’s request. Is it right that we should take so long, when the United States acts more quickly and pulls more weight?
In terms of competition, Europe must adopt the goal of creating European champions able to compete at global level, even if it means those champions holding strong positions in Europe. Do our competitors worry about strong positions on their domestic markets when it comes to winning export contracts?
Finally, Europe must make a strong investment in critical industries, from R&D to the most advanced projects, with stronger and more responsive capabilities. The complexity of European support mechanisms makes them disconnected from the pace of innovation of our businesses, particularly SMEs.
Industry without factories is not viable; nor is Europe without industry. This is why we shall continue making proposals to overhaul Europe’s industrial activity, under the heading «Make in Europe», by creating a European investment control mechanism, strengthening trade defence instruments, introducing a «Buy European Act», releasing European funds to support the emergence and consolidation of European industrial champions, and speeding up the digitization of industry initiative.