Official speeches and statements - January 17, 2020
1. Foreign policy - Brexit - Excerpts from the interview given by Ms. Amélie de Montchalin, Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to Europe 1 (Paris - January 15, 2020)
Q. - On January 31 the British are going to pack up and leave Brussels, but actually the toughest bit is going to begin: the new relationship must be negotiated. The divorce has already been a little bit complicated to negotiate. Is what awaits you now going to be even tougher?
THE MINISTER - What’s certain is that what’s actually happening for French people, as they well understand, is that on February 1...
Nothing’s happening in fact.
...there will no longer be any British MEPs in the European Parliament, there will no longer be any British European commissioners and there will no longer be any British ministers at European ministers’ meetings. It’s a political exit.
Now, we must actually be able to work on something that is, I think, going to be difficult, namely to recreate a relationship in every area—"disunravel" it, as it were—, because we have a trading relationship with the British, we have a defense and security relationship, we have a cultural, academic and research relationship. What matters for me is that we should be very clear: in these negotiations, we’re in no hurry.
Boris Johnson would very much like this to be settled by the end of the year.
Yes, but we Europeans, we French are aware of one very important thing: we’re currently building the foundation, the principles that are going to guide our relations with the British in every field for the next 20-30 years. And in those relations, things must be balanced, i.e. we must protect the interests of the French, because we must be able to guarantee their food security, the security of what’s imported. And above all, if we carry out major reforms, if we in Europe, for example, want to be carbon neutral by 2050...
The British must be too?
...we can’t accept that a country on our doorstep which, as Boris Johnson dreams of, we’re going to trade with freely, with no customs tariffs, no maximum volume, without asking whether it respects carbon neutrality by 2050, whether it respects, for example, the fact that we’re going to reduce, halve the volume of pesticides we put in our own modes of production, whether it respects things about taxation, about social commitments—in short, it’s out of the question for there to be any dumping. Why? Not because we’re dogmatic about the issue but because those are French people’s interests.
So we’re going to have a debate. There will be things where, clearly, we must do more with the British. And there are also things we’ll be strong about in order to assert our interests.
(...) Do you think all the Europeans will be able to remain united in the face of Boris Johnson, given that they’ll each want to defend their interests? For France it’s fisheries, for the Dutch it’s services.
All the Europeans have interests, not necessarily the same ones because, as you can well imagine, fisheries concern France more than Austria - geographically what I’m telling you is fairly basic. But what’s clear for all the Europeans is that we’re going to do this in close agreement, without animosity, but being very clear about the common and individual interests we’re defending in these negotiations. That’s in the Europeans’ interest, and I think the British will perfectly understand our doing it this way. (...)
Q. - Will the MoU signed by Libya and Turkey on maritime areas be discussed at the Berlin summit on Libya scheduled for this Sunday?
THE SPOKESPERSON - The goal of the international conference on the security and political situation in Libya, to be held on 19 January in Berlin, will be to solidify the international consensus needed for a lasting end to the crisis in Libya, and to end the foreign influences fueling the escalation of this conflict.
France fully supports this initiative, in order for the truce announced on January 12 to lead to a lasting cessation of hostilities, and for a genuine political process under the auspices of the UN and a dialogue between the Libyan parties, with assistance from the African Union, to get under way.
With respect to the memorandum of understanding between Turkey and the Libyan government on demarcating maritime boundaries, Jean-Yves Le Drian has reiterated that this is a subject of major concern. The European Union expressed itself very clearly on this subject at the European Council of December 12 and 13. This agreement directly undermines the interests and sovereign rights of EU member states, in particular Cyprus and Greece, and is not in compliance with the Law of the Sea. I also refer you to the communiqué issued following the meeting of the foreign ministers of Egypt, France, Cyprus, and Greece on January 8.