Official speeches and statements - November 27, 2018
On Friday 23 November 2018, the French President hosted a meeting with Mr. Felwine Sarr, Professor at Gaston Berger University, Saint-Louis (Senegal) and Ms. Bénédicte Savoy, Professor at the Technical University of Berlin (Germany) and holder of an international chair at the Collège de France, on the occasion of the submission of their report on “The Restitution of African Cultural Heritage. Towards a New Relational Ethics".
The President commissioned the report in March, following his speech at the University of Ouagadougou on 28 November 2017, in which he expressed the wish that, “within five years, the conditions will exist for temporary or definitive returns of African heritage to Africa". The President welcomed work of remembrance on colonization, which provides new clarification on the circumstances of “heritage seizures" and the specific characteristics of the African heritage case.
When the report was submitted, the President entrusted the Minister of Culture and the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs with responsibility for taking the next steps, which are decisive for achieving the goal set for the initiative: for young Africans to have access in Africa and no longer just in Europe to their own heritage and humanity’s common heritage. In line with his commitment, the President would like all possible forms of movement of these works to be considered: restitutions, but also exhibitions, loans, storage, cooperation projects etc.
The President has invited museums to play a key role in this process: to identify African partners, organize the possible restitution, movement and dissemination of works, and take the necessary means - with the cooperation of teachers and researchers specialized in this field - to swiftly create and put online an inventory of the African collections they hold, including systematic research into origins. The need for in-depth work with other European countries that hold collections of the same nature acquired in similar circumstances was also emphasized.
Consistent with the initiative undertaken, and at the proposal of the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac and the Ministry of Culture, the President has decided to immediately return 26 works claimed by the authorities in Benin, looted by General Dodds from [King] Behanzin’s palace following the bloody fighting of 1892. These works will be able to be displayed to the Beninese and international public as part of the ambitious museums plan presented by the Republic of Benin. He thanks the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac for supporting this restitution. Operational and, if necessary, legislative measures will be taken to ensure the works can return to Benin, together with the expertise of the museum, which has conserved them until now.
The President proposes convening all the African and European partners in Paris in the first quarter of 2019 to build, together, this new relationship and policy of exchanges. Directly in line with his speeches in Athens, Abu Dhabi and Algiers, the President recalled his desire to implement a heritage policy geared to the future, based on a search for the universal and the inclusion of works of art in humanity’s common heritage.
UK / BREXIT
Q. - You’re back from Brussels, where the 27 gave their go-ahead at the weekend to the agreement concluded on Brexit. What do you say to the British this morning? Good luck or good riddance?
THE MINISTER - What was concluded yesterday is a good agreement but it’s a bad piece of news. Brexit isn’t good news, certainly not for the European Union and not, we firmly believe, for the British. We’ll always miss them and they’ll miss us one day.
Now, it’s just the end of the beginning. We’ve agreed on the conditions of our separation. The British still need to ratify the agreement. And then we’ll have to build as close a future relationship as possible, because the United Kingdom is a great country and a great ally of the European Union. But all the same, it will be less good than when it was a member state.
Q. - "A great ally, a great country": you regret the departure of the British. But isn’t Europe stronger this morning without them? For years, we know that they put up resistance on defense issues, currency issues. Won’t things be more straightforward from now on?
THE MINISTER - Europe is never straightforward, but it’s always essential. We’re seeing this with a lot of issues. You were talking this morning about implants. What’s needed today is greater European proactiveness to tackle a public health issue effectively.
No, the British being outside [the EU] isn’t good news. But you’re right, on Defense Europe we’ve made much faster progress in one year than we did before, and that’s perhaps because the British are leaving. Having said that, they’d like to work with us on Defense Europe.
Q. - Theresa May doesn’t currently have a parliamentary majority to vote this Brexit agreement through. What will happen if Parliament tells her no?
THE MINISTER - We’ll see if she has a majority or not. Some are saying she doesn’t. She’s extremely skillful and resilient, as she’s proved in a year of negotiations, and she’s shown great commitment. It’s not for me to say on her behalf whether she has a majority or not. What we can say to the British is that there can’t be a better agreement. If it isn’t this agreement...
Q. - The agreement which is on the table and was signed at the weekend - can’t it be refined? Can’t it be improved?
THE MINISTER - Michel Barnier has done a tremendous job. He’s been working on this withdrawal agreement for more than a year. Every scenario has been worked on from every angle, and the British negotiators know that equally well. It’s also what Mrs May is saying.
Q. - Is it this or nothing?
THE MINISTER - It’s this or no deal. There’s a risk, if there’s no majority, that there will be no withdrawal agreement, and we’re preparing for that too. As you know, I have a bill that is going before Parliament to take measures to protect our fellow citizens and our businesses in the event of no deal.
Q. - Does it seem to you possible that the British will return to the ballot box for a second referendum on Brexit?
THE MINISTER - It’s for them to decide, certainly not for us. We’re not going to tell them what to do or give them any advice.
Q. - Is there nothing banning it?
THE MINISTER - There’s nothing banning it. It wasn’t us who kicked out the British; the door is still open.
Q. - A few words about the current situation between Russia and Ukraine. At the weekend, Moscow fired on two Ukrainian vessels off Crimea, the region it annexed four years ago. What should Europe say to Moscow?
THE MINISTER - There’s a meeting of the United Nations Security Council this afternoon; it will enable us to see things clearly, particularly in terms of the exact sequence of events, because we’re hearing a lot of things but we must take the time to look at exactly what happened.
Europe means France and Germany in particular. And there’s a process called the Minsk process in which France and Germany play a special role when it comes to bringing about a de-escalation between Russia and Ukraine.
Tomorrow, Jean-Yves Le Drian is hosting a meeting with Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister; this will obviously be central to their conversation. (...)
During the night of 22-23 November 2018, French military forces serving in the Sahel as part of Operation Barkhane carried out a bold, complex, large-scale raid to neutralize a large terrorist detachment that probably contained one of Iyad ag Ghaly’s top commanders, Amadou Koufa, head of the Macina Liberation Front.
Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly applauds the courageous and effective efforts by the troops involved in this operation. This latest French military success in the Sahel reflects our resolve to relentlessly combat terrorism. It also demonstrates our determination to assist the Malian authorities in their daily battle to stabilize and restore peace to their country.
Last night’s operation deals a serious blow to a particularly brutal terrorist organization. It has repeatedly targeted civilians and symbols of the authority of the Malian state. Weakening terrorist groups is crucial to the restoration of public services, access to education and a gradual return to normal daily life. Military action can be effective only if it goes hand in hand with development policy. This is how Barkhane conceives of its mission.
The current and incoming Members of the Security Council from the European Union express their utmost concern about the maritime incidents that took place yesterday in the Kerch Strait, involving Russian forces and Ukrainian navy ships intending to sail through the strait, and resulting in the wounding of several Ukrainian sailors. Nothing justifies the use of force by Russia.
This situation is a direct consequence of the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia in March 2014 and the subsequent construction of the Kerch bridge. We strongly reaffirm our full recognition of the territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty of Ukraine within its internationally-recognized borders.
We call for restraint and de-escalation. Detained Ukrainian sailors should be freed without delay and captured vessels returned.
We call for the Russian Federation to restore freedom of passage at the Kerch Strait and to ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea.
We will pursue all our efforts to find a peaceful and durable solution to the conflict in the East of Ukraine including Crimea and we will fully support the efforts within the Normandy format.