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Official speeches and statements - March 29, 2017

Published on March 29, 2017

1. European Union - 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaty - Statement to the press by Mr. François Hollande, President of the Republic (Rome - March 25, 2017)


THE PRESIDENT - This ceremony wasn’t simply retrospective, it wasn’t just to emphasize what Europe had brought: peace, prosperity for many, the reunification of the continent, the ability to create a single currency, the opening of a great market, the world’s leading economic power. No, this ceremony had a special meaning in relation to the challenges and threats we’re facing.

Are we stronger together or would we be better divided and separated? Well, that’s the answer that had to be provided. We’ll be stronger together in order to face terrorism, avert the conflicts on our doorstep and send a message of openness to the world by means of trade which must be regulated.

We’ll be stronger together so that the planet can be protected, so that we can protect our environment. We’ll be stronger together to guarantee the industries of the future, we’ll be stronger together also to combat the return of empires, of the temptations of influence and pressures from outside. We’ll be stronger together to combat nationalism, extremism and everything that takes us back to what was the cause of so much sorrow, so much separation and war. Yes, we’re determined to be stronger together!

And this message will be valid for the years beginning now, and the fact that all the countries - even if they’re not necessarily in agreement on everything - have signed this declaration, with the idea that those countries which want to go faster can do so, that Europe can remain united but with different speeds, was also an idea which I was championing and which was kept in the declaration.

That’s why it’s not an anniversary like others, because life doesn’t stop at anniversaries. Life goes on, life is a process, and today French people must know that with Europe they can be greater, they can be stronger and they can be listened to more.


Q. - Europe is at the center of several candidates’ programs: some are in favor, others are in favor of leaving it. Which ones do you feel closest to, and which are capable of best upholding this message in Rome today?

THE PRESIDENT - There are some who want to leave Europe. Well, let them show the French people they’d be better off all alone! That we could fight terrorism without the essential Europe-wide coordination! That we could protect our borders without having coastguards where migrants or refugees arrive! Let them show that without the single currency, without the single market, there would be more jobs, more economic activity and better purchasing power!

They won’t be able to show this, because it’s impossible, because returning to a national currency would bring about a devaluation and a loss of purchasing power; because closing the borders would lead to a loss of jobs; because nationalism would bring about a resurgence of conflicts; and because protectionism would be a further cause of difficulties for many of our compatriots. We can see this from what’s being experienced in a country on the other side of the Atlantic.

So yes! I’m in favor of this debate being started. And for the past five years I’ve been conducting a policy that meant Europe had to change; it has changed. That Europe had to move forward; it has moved forward. It had to resolve its problems, had to keep Greece in the Euro Area, had to be capable of revitalizing the economy through an investment plan; we created banking union.

There you are: Europe is making progress, and it must make progress even faster, because the problems are there and we can’t resolve them simply by imagining that by putting up barbed wire, walls and borders with watchtowers we’ll be able to protect ourselves from everything coming from the rest of the world. No! If we want the world to change, Europe must be stronger, and France must play its full role in that Europe.


Q. - Did you miss Theresa May?

THE PRESIDENT - It was she who chose not to be here. By that I mean it was she, it was the British, who chose. They’re no longer in this adventure, they chose another path, but we must maintain good relations.

France is very closely bound to the United Kingdom: we have agreements, particularly on defence, and we have a lot of French nationals living in the UK. So it’s a sovereign decision, but at the same time we’ll ensure that it’s not to the detriment of Europe and that the UK remains a partner of the EU, but it will necessarily pay the consequences because that’s the decision that was made.

Thank you.

2. European Union - Brexit - Press conference by Mr. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development (Paris - March 29, 2017)

Ladies and gentlemen,

I wanted to speak here, in the Quai d’Orsay’s Clock Room, on the day when the British Prime Minister officially sent her notification, by letter under Article 50 of the European treaty, that the United Kingdom wished to officially leave the European Union. Clearly it’s no surprise, because the event had been announced, but nevertheless it’s no ordinary event.

As I had the opportunity to say again on Saturday, Brexit has, in a way, destroyed a taboo: that of the irreversibility of the European enterprise. At the same time, this letter arrived a few days after the Rome Treaty’s 60th anniversary, which led to the adoption of a strong declaration by the 27 members of the European Union.

While this notification stage was expected, it has an advantage: it brings clarity. On the one hand, the will of the British people will be respected; on the other, it’s up to the 27 members of the European Union to implement their shared determination to strengthen the EU, and that’s the spirit of the Rome declaration that was adopted on Saturday.

I’m here in the Clock Room because I want to send a message, a strong belief. It’s in the interests of France and the Europeans to continue together what they’ve patiently built. And it began here, in this room, with the declaration by Robert Schuman, Foreign Minister, on 9 May 1950. It was five years after the war, in a difficult situation. And it was, first of all, a message of reconciliation and a hand outstretched to Germany. That hand was taken and it made possible that first stage of the European enterprise, namely the European Coal and Steel Community and then, a few years later, the Rome Treaty, which led us to what we are. That strength, that union - more then ever in the unstable context we’re experiencing - must be reaffirmed with conviction and force.

And so it’s in this spirit that we’re going to embark on this new stage in the history of the European enterprise.

In the negotiations beginning with the UK, what matters for France is the unity of the 27 in their determination to uphold the European interest in the forthcoming negotiations. This unity is based on some shared principles. We’ve identified them.

Firstly, the negotiation must be orderly, methodical and conducted by the Commission, with a negotiator who has been appointed, Michel Barnier, on the basis of the guidelines and mandate that are going to be provided by the European Council and the Council in a few weeks’ time.

And we must also remember a principle, namely the indivisibility of the four freedoms relating to the movement of goods, capital, services and people in the European Union, as part of the single market.

Finally, it’s a rejection of an «à-la-carte» Europe where it’s possible to take it or leave it depending on one’s preferences or interests. The European Union is a balance. It’s a balance between rights and responsibilities. The one doesn’t go without the other and, as I’ve had the opportunity to say several times, there will be no cherry-picking, there will be no «à-la-carte» Europe. And we must stick to this line of conduct.

So France is embarking on these negotiations in a clear and calm frame of mind.

They will indeed be difficult negotiations, but we must approach them constructively, with respect for the UK, and our approach is in no way to want to punish a country that voted the way it wanted. The UK voted and the UK decided to leave. Theresa May’s letter is clear. So we must ensure that the negotiations are conducted on the basis of clarity, which, for many issues - I’m thinking of security -, doesn’t mean cooperation with the UK is going to stop. It will continue and it’s necessary. But the UK knows full well that leaving the European Union has consequences that it will have to take on board. That’s what Theresa May recognizes herself in the letter she sent the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk.

So it’s through a spirit of responsibility that it will be possible to carry through these negotiations on separation, which, by virtue of Article 50, will have to be completed within two years. Moreover, within two years we’ll have another rendez-vous, namely the next elections to the European Parliament. So it’s desirable for these negotiations not to go on too long.

After the negotiations on separation, there will be other negotiations, namely on organizing he future relations between the 27-strong European Union and the United Kingdom.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is France’s point of view. Thank you.

3. United Nations - Protection of cultural heritage in armed conflicts - Statements to the press by Mrs. Audrey Azoulay, Minister of Culture and Communication, before the UNSC meeting¹ (New York - March 24, 2017)

This morning’s meeting of the Security Council is very important for us because, on the joint proposal of Italy and France, the whole Security Council is going to discuss for the first time the issue of cultural heritage endangered during armed conflict. It’s already spoken about the issue, but in a more limited way, and now it’s going to discuss it comprehensively for the first time.

It’s an issue particularly close to our hearts in France. That’s why I wanted to be here this morning. It’s an issue being championed directly by the French President, because we’re well aware that when cultural heritage is attacked, in addition to the attack on civilians, their memory is being targeted, their history is being targeted and cultural diversity is being targeted. And on top of the large-scale physical attacks targeting people, it’s also an attack on their past, their present and also the possibility of a future. It’s an issue we’re making very great efforts on, and I hope this Security Council resolution can be adopted this morning, because it’s an issue that deserves it.

Q - The UN is already having difficulties on the ground as regards, for example, Mali and the fight against terrorism, and the protection of civilians; how could it also deal with protecting heritage?

A - I think you absolutely mustn’t pit one issue against the other. In reality, the two issues are linked and we must fight on both those fronts. It’s about the same thing. And the UN can also draw on a whole network that already exists. And the first way of dealing with the issue is to rely on UNESCO, which is there for that, and which is—to quote Léon Blum—"the conscience of the United Nations." UNESCO can also take action through a number of other initiatives that must be better coordinated. That’s also the purpose of this resolution. I’m thinking of the different funds that exist, particularly the fund we’ve just created in line with the Abu Dhabi conference held in December 2016, where the decision was taken to create an international protection fund and a network of safe havens for endangered cultural property.

To pick up on the issue of finance and a financial tool, this financial tool has now been created, and it was provided with finance only last Monday at the Louvre, at an initial donors’ conference which enabled $75 million to be raised already. France played its full role, because it pledged to pay $30 million to the fund.

So we must use the different tools that exist, coordinate them, take action and, of course, take action at the same time for security. Precisely because it’s also a security issue, it’s legitimate for the Security Council to fully deal with this issue.

Q - You were speaking about the fund. Can you tell us: what will the fund be used for? And to follow up on the previous question, there already are peacekeepers on the ground defending populations, and now you are adding another item to the mandate. How do they gérer [handle] all of that ?

A - As I said, the international fund has now gathered more than $75 million, and we are going to launch an appeal for projects and initiatives in the second semester of this year, because there are many projects on the ground with archaeologists, people and teams trying to protect cultural heritage, sometimes at the peril of their lives, and we have to help these initiatives. So the fund will be operational at the end of this year.

On the peacekeepers’ mandate, both mandates are not contradictory. It is quite the opposite. You have to protect both the civilian populations and their cultural heritage, because attacking cultural heritage is also an attack on cultural diversity, on the past of these millenniums [i.e. ancient] civilizations. In order for these people to have a future once the conflicts are over, they have to gather themselves, to reunite around this cultural heritage. So both aims are totally linked: to protect civilian populations and to protect cultural heritage and diversity.

Q - A word on places where there is a total lack of security, like Syria?

A - During conflicts, this resolution, if adopted, provides tools and guidelines for all parties in armed conflicts in order to protect cultural heritage. Of course sometimes it will be very difficult on the ground, but it is rules that the parties will have to follow. Also, before the conflicts, there is a responsibility for states to protect cultural heritage, sometimes to protect them in safe havens. And after the conflicts there will be international help with funding in order to protect cultural heritage.

¹Mrs. Azoulay spoke in French and English. Source of English excerpts: French Foreign Ministry.