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Official speeches and statements - February 18, 2019

Published on February 18, 2019

1. Foreign policy - Joint article by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, and Mr. Heiko Maas, German Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, published in the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (Munich - February 14, 2019)

Who, if not us?
An alliance for multilateralism

The multilateral order is experiencing its perhaps gravest crisis since its emergence after the Second World War. Unfortunately, it can no longer be taken for granted that an international rules-based system is seen by all as the best guarantor of our security and prosperity. Trust and commitment within the framework of international cooperation, the quest for joint solutions, strong and effective institutions - all of these values and principles are at risk of losing their impact. Such an outcome would catapult us back to yesterday’s world. The critical state of multilateralism, i.e. a foreign policy based on the cooperation among many states, will also play a prominent role in the debate at the 55th Munich Security Conference.

The international order is under huge pressure. Some players are increasingly engaging in power politics, thus undermining the idea of a rules-based order with a view to enforcing the law of the strong. At the same time, criticism of seemingly inefficient international cooperation is growing in many societies, also in some Western countries. Ever more people are rejecting it as too expensive, acting as though global problems such as climate change, migration and cyber security could be successfully tackled at national level. The rivalry among major powers and growing nationalism have resulted in an increasingly fragmented world order - in political, economic and social terms.

To counter this trend, like-minded states must make common cause and double their efforts to promote multilateralism. France and Germany intend to lead the way. Together with our European partners, we are placing our faith in multilateral cooperation and a rules-based world order. We firmly believe that a new commitment to multilateralism, an alliance for multilateralism, is more necessary than ever if we are to stabilize the rules-based world order, to uphold its principles and to adapt it to new challenges where necessary. We therefore want to establish a global network of like-minded states which are convinced that pursuing legitimate, national interests and protecting the collective property of humankind are fully compatible, not mutually exclusive.

We have to protect international norms, agreements and institutions when they come under pressure, or when their existence or funding is jeopardized. This includes international law as well as human rights and international humanitarian law, which are violated on a daily basis throughout the world, thus triggering conflicts. We are therefore calling for open and fair world trade. Furthermore, we will do all we can to safeguard major diplomatic successes such as the nuclear deal with Iran, the agreements on combating climate change or the arms control regimes.

We will also have to be even more committed and assertive where there is a need for regulation at political level and where new challenges require joint action. That applies in particular to regional crises and new mechanisms for international security cooperation. In the digital age, we will endeavor to find an adequate regulatory system which reconciles privacy and security concerns with the protection of individual freedoms. We want to formulate effective multilateral responses to cyberattacks and the malicious manipulation of information.

The current multilateral system is undoubtedly imperfect. It is not always able to find the right answers to the countless challenges we face. Those like us who support multilateralism must therefore seek to make it more efficient, representative and agile in future. The global political and economic order must be more inclusive and effective in order to deliver tangible successes for people around the world.

The challenges are huge and there is no one solution. Rather, we have to form intelligent networks of committed states in order to achieve maximum effectiveness through variable geometry and fluid membership. Depending on the issue, like-minded states should form coalitions to attain concrete political results. Participation in this network for multilateralism is not exclusive. However, it requires dedicated and sustained contributions to the alliance’s goals.

France and Germany are prepared to act in unison with other partners as the engine and hub for the network. To this end, Paris and Berlin will take advantage of Germany’s membership of the UN Security Council in 2019 and 2020 to work together on strengthening multilateralism. In particular, we will cooperate closely when we successively hold the Presidency of the UN Security Council in New York in March and April of this year.

Our European partners and the European institutions will play a key role in all of this. The European Union is a cornerstone of the multilateral system. Compromise and consensus are deeply embedded in its DNA. We Europeans are therefore a reliable partner for those who want to uphold the rules-based order and who are prepared to shoulder more responsibility to this end. We see considerable willingness to do this around the world. It is high time we coordinated more closely to form a strong and dedicated network in order to safeguard multilateral diplomacy from false nation-state promises and unbridled power politics. Who, if not us? When, if not now?

(Source of English text: German Federal Foreign Office website.)

2. Italy - "France is ready to work with Italy in a spirit of mutual respect and cooperation" - Interview given by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera (Paris - February 14, 2019)


Q. - After Ambassador Masset was recalled to Paris, what’s the current state of Franco-Italian relations?

THE MINISTER - France and Italy have been neighboring countries, friends and allies for a long time. We decided to recall our ambassador to Paris precisely because this historic relationship, to which we’re so committed, is being undermined.

For the past few months, France has been the target of repeated attacks and outrageous accusations. But we believe Franco-Italian friendship is a common good that it’s important we protect. Because the situation raised issues about the Italian government’s real intentions, we thought it necessary to recall our ambassador. The aim of this symbolic gesture is both to better understand the situation and to give him the most appropriate mandate. On Tuesday evening, President Mattarella and President Macron, who are the guardians of the relationship between our two countries, spoke to each other. They share the same vision of the relationship, which strengthens us mutually and places a strong obligation on us.

Q. - When will the French Ambassador return to Rome?

THE MINISTER - I can tell you today that our ambassador will return very soon.

Q. - How have the Quai d’Orsay and the Farnesina [Italian Foreign Ministry] worked together to defuse the crisis?

THE MINISTER - There was a succession of attacks against France, and I made it known to the Italian Ambassador in Paris that the positions repeatedly adopted by several leading members of the government on French domestic politics were beginning to pose us serious problems. The initiative by the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Di Maio, was the last straw - firstly because that visit was paid outside any diplomatic framework, whereby a minister informs the authorities of the country he’s visiting, and secondly because he met someone who was calling for an insurrection and an intervention by the army. The limit was overstepped.

Q. - Di Maio has since explained that he was acting in the context of the political debate for the European elections.

THE MINISTER - Once again, it isn’t an ordinary political situation. We’re talking about a meeting between a person who calls for armed insurrection and a member of the Italian government, which doesn’t comply with the basic etiquette between European partners.

Q. - What demands is France making to ensure such crises don’t recur?

THE MINISTER - We have disagreements, but we believe we can still have fair cooperation, respecting each other. We’re allies, we’re two founding members of the European Union, we’re two countries with a long shared history. So it matters that we should be able to deal with our disagreements through dialogue and not confrontation, in a spirit of mutual respect. These are fundamental principles.


Q. - The points of disagreement emphasized by the Italian government include policy on migrants. Can France confirm that some of the migrants of the Sea-Watch are being taken in?

THE MINISTER - It’s another issue of primary concern to us: France is, after Germany, the second country in Europe in terms of the number of asylum applications received. We’re addressing the practical problems that are currently posed. I’m thinking in particular of the boat Sea-Watch. France made commitments and is sticking to them unambiguously, just as it’s stuck to the commitments it made about the Aquarius. A French team is in Sicily right now for that purpose. We’re also continuing to uphold a mutually-supportive European solution.


Q. - There are also more local issues - for example the Alpine border between France and Italy. The Italian government has been talking lately about more stringent checks on the French side.

THE MINISTER - Many difficulties of a technical nature can arise in a relationship between two neighboring countries. They must be looked at by means of frank, calm dialogue, where solutions are always found, maintaining contact at every level, including locally. And on the ground, the cooperation is very good.


Q. - What about the disagreements on the situation in Libya?

THE MINISTER - We’re both partners and complement each other. When President Conte organized a meeting in Palermo last November, I went. When there was a road map allowing elections to be held quickly and armed groups to withdraw, we agreed. There was no dispute then and there’s no need to make one of it.

Q. - It’s often pointed out in Italy that the French company Total and the Italian firm Eni are competitors in Italy, with consequences at political and diplomatic level.

THE MINISTER - To be quite honest, the only issue is security and the return of peace and a legitimate authority in Libya.


Q. - Another issue that poses a problem is the 15 Italian former terrorists who have taken refuge in France. When can we expect a first extradition?

THE MINISTER - I’m aware of the great sensitivity of this issue in Italy. On the basis of requests issued by the Italian authorities, French and Italian judges in Paris have been engaged since yesterday in a case-by-case legal examination. You have to look at things in depth and not exploit these situations; there too, in practice, the cooperation is good.


Q. - The Italian government is divided today on the Lyon-Turin project; is France still committed to it?

THE MINISTER - There was an intergovernmental agreement on this, as the President reiterated during the last Franco-Italian summit, in Lyon in September 2017 - I was there. I understand that the Italian government has asked for a cost-benefit analysis of the project. We’re keeping a very close eye on the timetable and the European funding deadlines. The Italian government now needs to come to a decision quickly.


Q. - France and Germany’s antitrust authorities have asked for the Commission’s opinion on the Fincantieri-Chantiers de l’Atlantique agreement. Does France no longer completely support the agreement?

THE MINISTER - It’s a good agreement. It was concluded at the Lyon summit in September 2017. I hope it becomes a reality. Moreover, Germany and France’s antitrust authorities are independent of the governments. As far as the French government is concerned, we’re in favor of the agreement.


Q. - At European level, some people in Italy followed the signing of the Treaty of Aachen between France and Germany with concern. Is the Quirinal Treaty between France and Italy still on the agenda?

THE MINISTER - We still want France and Italy to sign a great friendship treaty together. The project was discussed several times with the previous government. Work was begun. The issue remains on the table and we’re still ready and willing.

Q. - President Emmanuel Macron is talking to President Sergio Mattarella, whose position as guardian of Italy’s European commitments is known. But then there’s the two governments’ day-to-day business, which appears more complicated. Are you confident that new cooperation is going to be fostered between France and Italy at ministerial level?

THE MINISTER - We’re committed to two principles: mutual respect and the desire to cooperate. If these principles are respected, we can work together, in spite of our political differences. France is ready to work on all issues in the framework of these principles.