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Official speeches and statements - November 25, 2019

Published on November 25, 2019

1. Singapore - Communiqué issued by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (Paris - November 22, 2019)

France welcomes the entry into force of the free trade agreement between the EU and Singapore. This is an ambitious and balanced agreement, incorporating the promotion of high international standards with respect to social rights, environmental protection and the fight against climate change, which will lead to increased trade, to our mutual benefit, and will strengthen relations between the EU and Singapore. In addition to the reduction of customs duties, it will for example lead to significant progress with respect to the protection of intellectual property, notably through the protection of geographical indications (including 36 French geographical indications such as Beaujolais and Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Bayonne ham and Camembert from Normandy) and the reciprocal opening of government procurement markets.

This agreement also serves as a benchmark for the negotiation of trade agreements with other ASEAN countries.

It is fully consistent with our national strategy for the Indo-Pacific region, aimed at affirming, based on an inclusive and non-confrontational approach, France’s momentum in the region in support of peace and the promotion of global public goods.

An agreement on the protection of investments between the EU and Singapore, based on the new European model relating to this matter, was also negotiated and signed. It will only enter into force once it has been ratified by the EU and all of its member states.

2. Bahreïn - Speech by Ms. Florence Parly, Minister of the Armies, at the "Manama Dialogue Regional Competition and Cooperation" (Manama - November 23, 2019)

[Check against delivery]

Dear fellow ministers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It’s an honor to be with you today. I would like to pay tribute to our gracious Bahraini hosts, and to IISS—but having participated in two IISS dialogues already, albeit at Shangri-La only, I have already exhausted my catalogue of superlatives, so, Dear John Chipman, please allow me to get away with a simple “Thank You".

John, I want to thank you particularly, because when I run through the titles of the other panels today, I have the impression that you placed me in the one where I can really speak my mind. When it reads "regional stability", or "maritime security", I see what there isn’t—rather than what we have. By contrast, with “regional competition", I trust I am at the right place.

It is also a pleasure to sit down with my colleagues from Jordan and Bahrain, two countries that matter a lot to France.

But first allow me to ask you to pause for a minute, and think how far things have changed recently. Four years ago, in the corridors of this very building, many of you were stunned, watching on screens the images of cruise missiles fired from the Caspian Sea into Syria ; those images resonated strangely : how could they not summon those other images of missiles fired into Iraq 12 years before—except this time, they were Kalibr instead of Tomahawks. Closer to us, there were the images of a meeting in Astana, that remote bit of central Asia, where three non-Arab leaders pretended to adjudicate Syria, that quintessential Arab country. And closer still, we had images of bearded generals inspecting the debris of a US drone shot down over the Gulf—that mighty piece of technology being paraded on Fars news.

The Middle East is an empire of signs. Nowhere is the art of messaging more sophisticated. And nowhere is the propensity to interpret symbols stronger than in this region.

The signs are plain for all to see. And they hint at the severe weakening of an order based on cooperation—that mix of US presence, norms, a degree of multilateralism, some stability of governance, and a great deal of deterrence.

For, what has happened, as this decade is coming to a close?

We have seen a deliberate, gradual US disengagement. It had been in the cards for a while, but it became clear when fighter jets remained on the tarmac in 2013 after the Syrian chemical attacks, or later, after the downing of a US UAV and the bombing of Saudi oil facilities. With the cornerstone moving, the edifice has started shaking, and opportunists to rush in. The region is accustomed to the ebb and flow of US involvement, but this time, it seemed more serious, courtesy of the fracking revolution and the rise of China. It is a slow process—after all, hasn’t a US Carrier Strike Group just entered the Gulf? But the trend is, I think, quite clear, and thus, probably irrespective of who wins the next election.

As a result, with several actors stepping in to feel the vacuum, we have seen the landscape become more complex and entangled, with Turkish spoken in Ayn Issa, Russian in Benghazi, and even Chinese in nearby Djibouti.

With the US looking sometimes elsewhere, an entire grammar of deterrence needs to be reinvented. No place better exemplifies this than the Gulf. When the mining of ships went unanswered, a drone got shot. When that in turn went unanswered, major oil facilities were bombed. Where does it stop? Where are the stabilizers? This is dangerous, even for those who think they gain: because bold is never far from daring, and daring never far from reckless.

Do norms and multilateralism, these standard expressions of cooperation, provide any relief? Hardly so.

In fact, norms are being weakened in the region. The saddest example is Syria, where every international taboo has been broken by the regime and allies: cities besieged, populations starved, children tortured, hospitals targeted, and chemical weapons being used time and again, covered by foreign obfuscation and regime lies.

And multilateralism provides little comfort. The JCPoA is reeling from a string of recent blows. The whole body of international rules on Palestine, including UN Security resolutions, is also being spectacularly disregarded these days. Regional organizations are divided, and the GCC is no exception. As for the Arab League, I believe its internal balance has been deeply affected in this decade, from the Arab spring to wars in the region.

Even the fight against terror hardly manages to unite us all. A sad example was the way Turkey recently cracked down on the Kurdish-Arab militias that helped us roll back Daesh. This prompted the French President to ask for a serious update of the NATO software.

Against this rather depressing backdrop, there are also intriguing new developments. In Lebanon, a generation that wasn’t born at Taef, and was hardly grown of age in 2006, is taking to the streets to Protest against an entrenched system that fails to deliver a decent living to most. In Iraq, it is the meticulous Iranian attempt to control the country which is being rejected by youths in the streets. Where competition between states seems hopeless, competition between generations may be the next frontier.

Now, how to navigate the future? Can there be any prospects for future cooperation? I will venture a French perspective. Don’t expect it to be entirely neutral or distanced, though. Because in French hearts, this region is home, too. A spiritual home for France’s Muslims, Christians, Jews. A home for our memories, good and bad, as France has had a long presence over centuries in the area. A home, today, for as many as 240.000 French citizens, who live and work here. And a temporary home for 2800 French soldiers, who serve in partnership with countries in the region, in the fight against Daesh or as peacekeepers in Lebanon.

This is no coincidence: our involvement in this region is strategic, enduring, and sincere. It is rooted in friendships; it is rooted in mutual interests; it is rooted in a common analysis of threats, especially of terrorism.

Our action will follow a few simple principles, that I would like to outline for you.

First, we will support our friends, and we will not waver in that support. Tomorrow I will fly to the Emirates, where we have a defense agreement, three military bases, and a rock-solid relation that I will make my duty to deepen further. Earlier this month, after the attack on Abqaiq and Khurais, I have sent a robust package of advance warning, including a sophisticated radar and tens of servants, to deter drone and cruise missile attacks.

We will stand by our allies. You can count on us.

Second, we will apply an equal determination to fight terror and uphold rules. We have constantly argued that it was necessary to remain engaged in the fight against Daesh in Syria. ISIS leaders have been killed, and territory reclaimed. But the profound crisis of governance that made Daesh’s emergence possible is still there; the regime is unreconstructed ; and sure enough, from town to river, and river to desert, Daesh is looming again.

We will remain engaged in the coalition, France’s aircraft will continue to strike relentlessly, and French forces will continue to train and equip partner forces. Don’t expect a lesser commitment from us on upholding rules. I am thinking of chemical weapons here: their use is an insult to international law and to humanity. It is an absolute red line for France. As I see the clouds gathering again in the Idleb province, I want to reiterate our solemn warning: there will be a heavy price to pay if those weapons are used again.

Third, we will continue to speak to everyone, and we will not let ourselves be forced to choose between our friends. France speaks to everyone; that includes Iran. We deplored the US decision to step out of the JCPOA; we deplored in equal measure the severe recent breaches of the same JCPOA by Iran. But we will continue to engage Tehran: you never waste your time when you try to prevent escalation. The JCPoA was our plan A; I am not sure what plan B its critics had in mind; what is sure, is that we want to avoid sleepwalking to plan C—with C for conflict. The same state of mind will guide us in our partnerships in the region. Today I am in Bahrain; tonight I’ll be in Abu Dhabi; and on Monday I will be in Doha. We have many friends, and their occasional disputes are no reason for us to part with any.

Fourth, we will try to involve our European friends in the region’s stability. I believe Europe can play a moderating role, all the more so as most of us Europeans have friendships on both sides of the region’s rivalries. In that spirit, France is currently working to put together a European maritime surveillance mission, distinct from the policy of maximal pressure. It will be separate from, but coordinated with the US presence. Several European countries have confirmed their willingness to contribute. We hope it will help establish facts, ensure presence, and above all, cool down tempers.

Last, we will want to offer a vision that goes beyond security. I know the saying, "if you have visions, go see a psychiatrist". I’d say: if you lack vision, you should go see a doctor, too. I believe France can help devise cooperative solutions for the challenges of tomorrow, and not only the austere agenda of who fights whom and who deters whom. I am thinking climate, where we will campaign to uphold the Paris Agreement. Technology, where our companies will pioneer transfers to local industry. And improving people’s lives, from clearing mines in post-ISIS North-Eastern Syria to developing smart cities in the Gulf.

As you can see, the agenda is vast, the prospects are great, but my time is out, so I will now hand over the floor, and thank you again for your kind attention.

Source : site Internet du Ministère des Armées

3. European Union - Speech by Mr. Franck Riester, Minister of Culture, at the Culture Council meeting (Brussels - November 21, 2019)

The European cultural space is an area of creativity, diversity and pluralism. It must remain so.

At a time when increasingly powerful digital platforms are imposing new commercial models, we must be vigilant and bold.

The European Union has been able to respond by adopting an ambitious directive on copyright in the digital age. It has thus reaffirmed its desire to promote a fair, open and protective Internet. This result is the fruit of collective work. We can be proud of it.

The member states are now being called on to transpose the directive. This was done in France on 24 July 2019 for the neighboring right for press publishers.

Following this transposition, the reaction of some stakeholders went directly counter to the European goal of a better sharing of value produced.

For example, Google announced on 25 September that it would stop using extracts from articles unless publishers gave it free authorization to do so.

For its part, Facebook expressed its intention to abide by French law. However, even before entering into negotiations with publishers, it asked them to temporarily apply the same system of free authorization.

I am afraid that when you begin your transposition efforts you may come up against the same difficulties.

It is unacceptable for an operator, however powerful, to impose its rules on sovereign states and democratically-elected institutions.

The value created by publishers and press agencies is currently being monopolized by these types of stakeholders, who reuse their content without paying them, even though it generates significant advertising revenue.

For the sake of their profile, publishers cannot allow themselves to disappear from such a crucial search engine [Google].

The situation thus reveals clear market imbalances which demand a firm and appropriate response in the European area.

In France, press publishers and agencies have lodged their complaint with the Competition Authority. It has decided to launch an inquiry into the new rules being applied by Google.

In general terms, I call on European press publishers to form a united front and rally together to provide responses and solutions to this threat. I’ve therefore accepted the invitation we’ve received to meet them early this afternoon.

The future president of the European Commission has spoken out in favor of a digital agenda that is conducive to innovation and guarantees that digital platforms are held to account.

It’s therefore essential to deploy appropriate competition tools at European level.

Moreover, it seems to me a priority at European level to establish specific regulation of "key" platforms that have become unavoidable when European citizens wish to gain access to information online.

Our swift and coordinated mobilization is the only possible response in order to guarantee European cultural sovereignty.

Thank you.

4. Combating violence against women - GREVIO report: every area will be assessed - Press release issued by the office of the Minister of State for Gender Equality and the Fight against Discrimination (Paris - November 19, 2019)

The Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO) has issued the draft of its initial assessment report on France. The draft covers the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (the Istanbul Convention) and assesses the level of compliance in French legislation and practice.

France is more committed than ever to preventing and combating all sexist and sexual violence, and it commends the Group of Experts, which emphasizes the government’s efforts in this battle.

France, which was awaiting the report, has committed itself and has been conducting a campaign for the universal ratification of the Istanbul Convention for two years, as part of its feminist diplomacy.

Every possible area of improvement will be assessed in order to be implemented as soon as possible, as Marlène Schiappa again pledged at the UN in Geneva last month during the regional convention.