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Official speeches and statements - December 19, 2017

Published on December 19, 2017

1. Digital sector - Joint article by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, and Mr. Mounir Mahjoubi, Minister of State for the Digital Sector, in the daily newspaper Les Echos (Paris - December 18, 2017)

Our ambition for a digital France

We are living in the digital age, an age of global transformation and major strategic shifts. Whether it relates to our economy’s success amid worldwide competition or to peace and power at global level, digital technology is now a major challenge for our foreign policy and for public action as a whole.

The digital arena can give our democratic values a new boost, but we also face the risk of a digital world manipulated against those virtues of openness whose guarantor it was supposed to be. The questioning of net neutrality is a fresh example of this. France reiterates its commitment to this principle.

Race for innovation

To address these challenges and to map out a digital world made up of cooperation, openness and trust: those are the goals of France’s international strategy for the digital sector.

Our first challenge is to make France a centre of digital excellence, first of all by strengthening an ecosystem that fosters innovation and investment. La French Tech exists to support the development of start-ups in every sector. Boosting digital activity in our country also means ensuring our attractiveness: that is the purpose of La French Tech and the French Tech Visa, which enable foreign entrepreneurs and investors to develop their projects in France more easily.

In the coming half century, new technological breakthroughs will very probably have consequences similar to or even greater than those of the first digital revolution. We must be players in this new race for innovation. That is the goal of the brief the Prime Minister entrusted to Cédric Villani and of the artificial intelligence strategy that will be drawn up in the next few months.

The key lies in a joint, Europe-wide R&D effort, which will guarantee enhanced sovereignty for each of our member states. It may require, as the French President has suggested, the creation of a «European agency for disruptive innovation».

Tailored regulation

This economic ambition also means fair rules on competition and taxation. We need Europe-wide regulation to limit economic distortions linked to the digital transition. So we are working on tax plans to ensure that digital activity does not escape tailored taxation by dint of its immaterial nature.

But the challenges of the digital world also trickle down into democratic issues - justifying the boost France is giving to promoting the Open Government Partnership - and security issues.

New forms of conflict are emerging in cyberspace, as borne out by the exponential rise in the number of cyber attacks worldwide. The targets are many and varied, as are the attackers - they may be state-controlled or comprise a veritable market of interference.

To ensure the conditions for stability in the digital arena, we need to establish collective cyber security by drawing on the balances defined under international law, particularly the Charter of the United Nations. Moreover, the sudden development of the digital world as a tool and space of confrontation gives the private sector unprecedented responsibilities in the preservation of international security. This is particularly the case when it comes to fighting terrorist organizations so that online terrorist content is removed and prevented from reappearing and being spread.

So states must together embark, along with the private sector and the world of research, on new work to define types of regulation tailored to the development of the digital world. This multilateral, realistic and pragmatic innovation is the approach France wishes to promote.

2. United Nations - Syria - Remarks to the press by the Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations (New York - December 19, 2017)

Let me say a few words on the renewing of Resolution 2165, which is our top priority today, because we want to keep the delivery of humanitarian aid across borders without interruption. I’d like to emphasize that this is a life and death issue for thousands of people, literally.

Who can seriously argue that the humanitarian situation in Syria has improved? Just look at the figures. When we renewed this resolution last year, 10 million people in Syria needed humanitarian aid. Today they are 13 million.

I would also like to sound the alarm bell on the situation in Eastern Ghouta. This is a new Aleppo in the making: 400,000 people trapped with no access to food and basic medical care. Still 500 people in need of urgent medical evacuation. And this is a so-called de-escalation zone. The Syrian regime continues bombing its population, using hunger as a war tool: this constitutes a war crime and is not only a violation of basic humanitarian law, it’s also a moral terrible failure. So we urge all to pressure the Syrian regime to stop this catastrophic situation.

Second, on the political side, we will listen to Staffan de Mistura. The latest Geneva round was clearly a moment of truth. Here again, let me be clear. The Syrian opposition participation was unified and very constructive. On the other side, the Syrian regime chose an irresponsible strategy of obstruction by not engaging in the discussion. This is irresponsible given what’s at stake in Syria and it needs to be said and clearly said.

You know our position with respect to the Geneva process. In our view the UN must be front and centre. Now, more than ever. There is no alternative to the Geneva process led by the UN. There is no other game in town credible to get to a political solution.

So this is what I wanted to say in clear terms today before the consultations we are about to have.

Ambassador, on the cross-border aid, if Russia supports and there is an unanimous vote, should we see this as a new – I can’t say consensus – but some new unity around Syria?

This is a good question Carol. I think that indeed, ideally, if there is a strong agreement on the 2165, it could be used as a leverage to try to build unity on other issues related to Syria.

(Mr. Delattre spoke in English.)