Official speeches and statements - November 22, 2019
1. European Union - Interview given by Ms. Amélie de Montchalin, Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to the newspaper Les Echos (Paris - November 20, 2019)
Q. - At the mayors’ conference, you’re going to propose simplifying payment procedures for European funds going to project initiators. Why this initiative?
THE MINISTER - One of my ambitions since I arrived at the Ministry is to put Europe into practice on a daily basis. It’s one thing negotiating budgets in Brussels, but people still have to be able to access this money at the other end of the chain. However, visiting many corners of France over the past few months, I’ve noticed a worrying situation. Local players are facing often absurd administrative obstacles which give rise to incomprehension and frustration. The source of this complexity is at national level: the stacking of regulations, the stratification of procedures which complicate things and waste an insane amount of time. We’ve changed regulations and levels of responsibility between the state and regions many times without ever cutting them back. Some projects are rejected because a few cents haven’t been recorded on software; for others, dozens of unnecessary administrative documents are required. We’re up against a paradox with, on the one hand, the highest state authorities demonstrating a very strong European ambition and, on the other, polls revealing French people’s fragile European convictions, and, in the middle, local elected representatives - mayors in particular - who are motivated but give up because it’s become too complicated to get European funds.
Where are the obstacles ?
There are successes. Take the plan to install a France Services center, designed to offer a cluster of public services in Saint-Martin-de-Londres, in the Hérault department. It restores economic life to a whole area. In Thionville a "third place" project, which offers digital skills, should help unemployed people find jobs. Yet how many projects don’t happen! European funds are nevertheless perfectly adapted to this "tailor-made" initiative in rural areas advocated by the Prime Minister. We should still be able to spend these funds. Yet today the problem is threefold: projects which don’t happen, elected representatives who no longer wish to be effective prime movers in the European project, and lastly, a loss of revenue because these are French people’s taxes which aren’t coming back into France.
What are you proposing?
We must take a detailed look at the complexities of the dossiers, look at where things are getting blocked and understand why things are more complicated in France than elsewhere. And implement a “simplification shock". From December, we’re going to be carrying out a consultation with project initiators who will highlight the main obstacles. Inspections of the relevant ministries will result in a diagnosis and a dozen simplification measures for every fund will be chosen, the goal being to be operational at the start of 2021. So I hope we’ll be able to use 100% of the funds we obtained from the European Union for the period 2014-2020.
On Kashmir, France’s position is consistent: it is up to India and Pakistan to resolve this dispute in the framework of their bilateral political dialogue.The French President reiterated this position during his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Chantilly on August 22, 2019, and during a telephone conversation with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on August 28, 2019. The Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs has also reiterated this position during his discussions with his Indian and Pakistani counterparts.
During its contacts with the two countries and in multilateral forums, France calls for restraint, de-escalation and a calming of tensions, emphasizing that the resumption of bilateral Indian-Pakistani dialogue is the only credible path to a lasting and peaceful solution. It also recalls that it is necessary to combat all forms of terrorism and their financing. Indeed, it is important to prevent any violent action, including terrorist action, that would risk inflaming the situation in the region.