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Official speeches and statements - November 6, 2019

Published on November 6, 2019

1. Foreign policy - Brexit - Interview given by Ms. Amélie de Montchalin, Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, on "CNEWS, Europe 1, Les Echos - Le grand rendez-vous" - excerpt (Paris - November 3, 2019)


Let’s talk about Brexit, which still hasn’t taken place. Are France and Europe mere spectators to the upheavals in British domestic politics, or behind the scenes do you have a role, does France have a role, do the Europeans have a role with the British in terms of the triggering of the general election that is scheduled for December 12?

THE MINISTER - What’s clear is that since April, as you know - the President also puts it this way - we’ve been presented as the toughest in the gang. We’ve been told: it’s always the French who are firm, are hard. Well, the reality is nothing like that.

Since April, very clearly, the President has been trying to ensure we have clarity, because behind Brexit there are, above all, a lot of uncertainties, there are millions of families, millions of businesses which no longer see any clarity in this. And everything we’ve been trying to do since April is to get some simple things: to have an agreement on the table, be able to ask the British to say "yes" or "no", and then have a clear timetable.

So are you satisfied about there being an election on 12 December?

It’s why we fought for 31 October, and we’ve always said we’ll only postpone that date on two conditions: either because the British need a bit more time to say "yes" or "no" to the agreement or because they’re holding an election.

Why did it seem to us important to have justifications? Because you had a lot of Europeans, and not necessarily people who come to talk on the radio, who thought that it was very, very good to give them time, six months longer, nine months longer, and that it would resolve things. France’s strong belief on this is that in order to resolve things you have to have a tight timetable: time itself won’t resolve the issue.

Today it’s decision time for the British. Do they want, yes or no, to leave the European Union as the referendum said in 2016? Do they want, yes or no, the agreement which has now been negotiated a second time? And - because they can’t manage to arrive at that [decision] - are they ready, yes or no, to hold an election?

Well, precisely: let’s talk about what’s going to happen, let’s talk about the future, about what’s happening. If Parliament doesn’t ratify the agreement, if Boris Johnson has no majority, must they leave at the end of January this time, whatever happens, even if it means a "no deal", because you talked about uncertainties, and those uncertainties have now persisted for a long time?

I can tell you we’ve set very strict conditions. January 31 is not negotiable; the agreement on the table is not renegotiable and so, at a given moment, responsibility will indeed have to be taken. That’s also why I’m advising businesses to continue preparing. The risk of a "no deal" hasn’t been ruled out. Now the democratic clarification, the election currently being prepared in the United Kingdom, is going to enable something that hasn’t occurred for two years, namely a fresh alignment between the British people, the composition of Parliament and therefore the government. Why has there now been deadlock for two-and-a-half years?

Because the planets aren’t aligned between the various players!

So that it’s properly understood: because the British people said "we want to leave the European Union", because Boris Johnson went to negotiate an agreement and because Parliament tells us "we’re not having it", and so we’re in an impossible triangle where those three forces aren’t working together.

So the election will enable us to realign things: either they ratify the agreement before January 31 - well, that’s an orderly exit, it’s what we’ve now been working towards for years, for two-and-a-half years...

All the same, this is a further delay for companies, whereas you were saying precisely that "it has to be October 31" because they’ve got to prepare.

Yes but it isn’t a delay as some wanted, i.e. an unconditional delay. There were people around the table who were prepared to make us go back to six months.

But there’s nothing more demotivating for a company than knowing this may never happen. How do you prepare?

The preparation we’re asking of businesses basically isn’t very complicated; it involves them asking for a number, to be registered so they can cross the famous smart border in the event of there being new controls. Once you’ve taken that step, you’ve taken that step. There’s a website...

We know that not all companies have done this. Last week on Europe 1 we were talking about the 30,000 SMEs which export to the UK and only 10,000 had carried out a diagnostic on the Bercy [French Economy and Finance Ministry] website, precisely to find out about the new customs arrangements.

This is where we’ve got to use the three months ahead of us so that those companies...

When all’s said and done, is this new delay a good thing for France as well?

It’s always good to be prepared and all businesses are preparing; they’ve got lots of risks - flood risks, social risks, political risks. Here, there’s a risk they must be prepared for, we’re going to go on supporting them [inaudible].

If needed.

So is a website which not only provides information but, above all, support; we’ve put in place a whole administrative infrastructure so that every company can ask very specific questions about their business sector etc. So I can only encourage businesses to continue; there’s a risk [of no deal]. It’s possible - and I think it would be good news for everyone - that if we have a deal, well, we’ll have a transition period which makes all this easier for everyone, including businesses. And maybe it will be unnecessary, but when you’re a responsible company head, risk management is also at the heart of what you do. So this is fortunate; we’ve got a bit more time. But what’s essential for us is that this time is conditional, it’s justified. It isn’t time for time’s sake.

January 31 or never. No deal or deal, we’ll see; the ball is now in the UK’s court. (...)

2. United Nations - De-occupation, de-militarization and reintegration of the autonomous republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (Ukraine) : challenges ahead - Remarks by the Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations (New York - November 6, 2019)

Thank you very much. We are all here in solidarity with Ukraine and the defense of your sovereignty and of your territorial integrity within your internationally recognized borders. It’s really a matter of principle, as underlined by you and by Ambassador Heusgen. It’s also a key point for France. Five years after the illegal annexation of Crimea, we can’t remain silent.

In addition, I think we also have serious concerns about the consequences and the evolution of the situation in the peninsula, as a result of the measures that have been imposed by Russia and that you have very well described. You described the militarization, and the way it’s happening at the detriment of the living conditions of local communities, and also the impact in terms of the stoking and the exacerbation of regional tensions which we have seen in the Azov Sea last year. You also described the ecological deterioration which is certainly a very serious problem.

I also want to flag another concern for us which is the deterioration of the situation of human rights in Crimea. We know that there is a widespread repression of dissenting views and we know that men and women of the Tatar community pay a particular heavy price in this regard. Last March, there was a new wave of crackdown on the Tatar community, and reports show that the Tatar community represents a greater proportion of political prisoners in Russia.

Faced with this reality, it is right that we take actions here in the General Assembly. France supports the two resolutions that you are presenting and we are encouraging the member states to do likewise. I think it is also very right that in the resolutions you try to be up-to-date and acknowledge the steps in the right direction that have been taken, in particular the release of the 24 Ukrainians sailors that were captured last year. I couldn’t agree more with Ambassador Heusgen that we need to broaden the support in the international community for these resolutions. It is really a crucial matter of principle, respect for international law. And I think this is the point on which we can all rally.

We need also to continue the diplomatic efforts, and you can count on France, together with Germany, to continue our efforts in the framework of the Normandie format, to try to find and to push a political negotiated solution through the full implementation of the Minsk agreement.

3. United Nations - International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists - Remarks by the Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations on behalf of the Group of Friends for the Protection of Journalists (New York - November 5, 2019)

Distinguished representatives and guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am really pleased to make these introductory remarks on behalf of the twenty-one Member States who are members of the Group of Friends for the Protection of Journalists that France is honored to co-chair, alongside with Lithuania and Greece. And for this very special occasion to mark the 2019 International Day to end Impunity for crimes against Journalists, I recall that the date of 2 November was chosen in memory of the assassination of two French journalists, Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, which tragically happened on the 2 November 2013 in Mali.

The Group of Friends is honored to host today this screening of the documentary film "Under the Wire" together with UNESCO whom I thank warmly. I would like particularly to welcome the presence of the sister of Marie Colvin for this event. Thank you for being with us.

Since the establishment of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists (IDEI), this event has gained significant support by all actors involved in the promotion and protection of freedom of expression and of the safety of journalists. With over 1,000 journalists that have been killed across the world in the last 12 years, meaning between the year 2007 and the year 2018, and only one case out of ten that is judicially solved, the level of impunity for crimes against journalists remains terribly and, I want to say, horrifyingly high. This high level of impunity imposes a climate of fear in many parts of our world, and this is true not only for media professionals, but also for entire societies, and it’s detrimental to the free circulation of information, but also detrimental to the expression of opinions and ideas for all citizens.

The formation of our Group of Friends for the Protection of Journalists in 2016 was primarily driven by the shared urgency of its founding members to promote a better implementation of existing international norms on the protection of journalists. We were concerned, and we remain concerned, that despite significant progress in the international framework, major gaps remain and normative rules are still challenged by the reality that is experienced by journalists and by media workers.

Today, the Group of Friends remains dedicated to full implementation of the resolutions on the protection of journalists as well as to the UN Plan of Action, there is a UN plan of action, adopted under the auspices of UNESCO. And thank you again UNESCO for your action in this regard. We are particularly grateful for the leadership of the Secretary-General in this regard and for the activation of the relevant Focal Points Network within the UN system, that’s an important element. We encourage this network of focal points to report on its activities as necessary. That is really crucial for the level of vigilance to actually be practical in the UN Family. The Group of Friends continues to work closely with all UN entities, representatives of representatives of the media organizations and NGOs.

All of our efforts are of course important, and we need to count on each other, as we all growing acutely and painfully aware of the rising global challenges and difficulties to the rights and fundamental freedoms, the deteriorating security situations, the repressive media climate, and the shrinking space for civil society and human rights defenders. Unfortunately, journalism remains a dangerous profession to engage in situations that are increasingly challenging around the world, as well as domestically when it comes to shed lights on organized crimes or on corruption.

Risks and threats to female journalists are also significantly higher than those encountered by their male counterparts. That’s the focus that has been chosen for the resolution on the safety of journalists this year, which seems more relevant than ever.

Impunity for crimes against journalists constitutes one of the main factors fueling the cycle of violence against the exercise of freedom of expression. It weakens not only freedom of expression and access to information, but it weakens all other fundamental rights as well as democracy. That’s why we, the Group of Friends, along with UNESCO and international and grass roots organizations, will continue to stand ready to do our part in strengthening international commitments to the freedom of expression both online and offline as well as to strengthen international standards on safety of journalists and media workers.

Thank you very much.

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