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Official speeches and statements - May 18, 2020

Published on May 18, 2020

1. Digital diplomacy - Fight against terrorism - Joint statement by Mr. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic, and Ms. Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, on the first anniversary of the Christchurch Call (Paris / Wellington - May 15, 2020)

One year since we launched, in Paris, the Christchurch Call to Action, New Zealand and France stand proud of the progress we have made toward our goal to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online, and are committed to continuing progress.

For one year, and for the first time, governments, major tech companies and civil society representatives have been working cooperatively together to stop and prevent attacks like the one we saw in Christchurch being broadcast and spread online.

Forty-eight countries, the European Commission, two international organizations, and eight tech companies are now actively contributing to the implementation of the Call commitments, together with an Advisory Network of 44 international civil society representatives, which include non-governmental organisations, academia, think-tanks and others who focus on human rights (including freedom of expression and digital rights), counter-radicalization, victim support and public policy.

The multi-stakeholder collaboration of the Christchurch Call has enabled significant progress over the past year:

When the Christchurch terror attack was live-streamed across social media just over one year ago, its reach was amplified by a network of malicious actors working together to deliberately and relentlessly modify the footage to avoid the existing safety checks of online platforms. Thanks to the Christchurch Call to Action, we now have the means to coordinate across governments and tech companies to respond to attempts to use the Internet as a terrorist weapon;

Tech companies have reformed the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) into an independent organization with dedicated resources, a 24/7 crisis management function, and an enhanced governance structure. The reformed GIFCT now includes an Independent Advisory Committee to guide its work, scheduled for launch mid-2020, and composed of governments and civil society organizations.

A crisis response protocol has been adopted and already been used: in October 2019 and February of this year, the GIFCT companies demonstrated a far quicker and more efficient response to real-world attacks that had the potential to develop into online crises.

While this is a promising start, we have more to do.

New Zealand and France will continue to engage regularly with partners and supporters to continue implementing the Christchurch Call commitments. This includes as members of the GIFCT Independent Advisory Committee, where we will seek to provide insight, alongside civil society, to the organization’s Operating Board. We expect the new, multi-stakeholder working groups launched within the GIFCT to provide crucial input into solutions that substantially shape the international response to eliminating terrorist and violent extremist content online for years to come.

New Zealand and France together, as co-founders of the Call, will also work to broaden commitment to the Call this year, focusing particularly on the tech industry, including small and medium-sized companies.

The work of the Christchurch Call will not cease. Malicious actors are still searching for new ways to promote terrorism and violent extremism, and inflict harm, online. We will work together to prevent and counter them.

2. Iran - Situation of Fariba Adelkhah - Statement by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs (Paris - May 16, 2020)

I utterly condemn the announced sentencing of our compatriot, Ms. Fariba Adelkhah, to five years’ imprisonment in Iran.

This sentence is based on no serious information or established fact and is therefore political in nature.

The French authorities remain completely mobilized to obtain consular access to our compatriot from the Iranian authorities. We urge the Iranian authorities to release Ms. Adelkhah immediately.

3. Human Rights - International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (May 17) - Statement by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs Spokeswoman (Paris - May 17, 2020)

On the occasion of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, France welcomes the progress made since the WHO removed homosexuality from its International Classification of Diseases 30 years ago. Over the last five years, nine states have decriminalized homosexuality and 12 states or territories have legalized civil unions and/or same-sex marriages.

This progress has been achieved thanks to the efforts of civil society, including in its international dimension, notably embodied by the United Nations LGBTI Core Group and the Equal Rights Coalition, of which France is a founder member, and which actively contribute to the defense and promotion of LGBTI rights at the international level.

However, homosexual, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons all over the world continue to experience violence, hate speech and discrimination, which may be exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Almost 70 countries continue to criminalize homosexuality and/or transsexuality, and in 10 of these countries, being homosexual is punishable by death. In other countries, these persons may face harassment or arbitrary arrest.

In this context, France reaffirms its wholehearted commitment to the promotion and defense of LGBTI persons and will continue its efforts to achieve the universal decriminalization of homosexuality. It will continue to provide its direct support and assistance to the actors on the ground and to LGBTI rights campaigners.

4. Brexit - Interview given by Ms. Amélie de Montchalin, Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to the daily newspaper Les Echos (Paris - May 13, 2020)

Q. - At the National Assembly on Thursday you’re championing the "Brexit chapter" of the Enabling Bill for tackling the coronavirus epidemic. What measures does this legislation provide for?

THE MINISTER - That’s right, the legislation provides for the possibility of issuing ordinances in relation to the UK’s future relationship after the transition period. Government is responsible for protecting the country from the unexpected. We aren’t doomfully gambling on a failure of the negotiations, but we’ve got to make sure businesses and citizens are protected in the event of a partial deal or no deal. And there are a number of subjects we’ve planned to get guarantees on.

A few examples?

Rail safety in the Channel Tunnel first of all. We want to negotiate a new agreement with the British, but in case this fails, measures must be planned if we want to avoid having to close it. There’s also the issue of protecting French people’s savings. Some savings, for instance the PEA or life insurance, may comprise British shares. If we do nothing, the banks could be required to liquidate these shares in an emergency. We want to avoid that. Finally, from a defense and security perspective, we must ensure that the bilateral agreements for exporting defense and space products we produce together are still operational.

What do you think about the mindset of the British in this negotiation on the future relationship?

Clearly they aren’t tackling the tough subjects even though they’re asking Michel Barnier to speed up the discussions so things are wrapped up by the end of the year. It’s important they honor the commitments made in the withdrawal agreement of October 2019. They’ve committed to negotiating issues which can’t be ignored: fisheries, fair competition conditions and the governance of this new relationship. By refusing this negotiation, the British run the risk of imposing a double sentence on our economies by imposing a no-trade-deal Brexit just as these economies emerge from the health crisis.

Isn’t Boris Johnson once again putting the European Union up against the wall to force it to reach a last-minute compromise?

Today it’s a question of acting responsibly for your citizens and businesses. In Normandy, in Brittany, in the Hauts-de-France, there are businesses that export a third or half of what they produce; whole economic sectors are affected; I refuse to explain to them that they’ll no longer have access to the British market, or that competition will be distorted because we haven’t managed to reach an agreement. We don’t want winners and losers, we’re seeking a balanced relationship for the future. The 27 are totally united on this.

The British believe complying with European standards impedes their sovereignty...

Politically, they’re fully sovereign and they apply the standards they wish. But when it’s about exporting goods to the European Union, it’s legitimate for us to ask them to comply with our rules, our European sovereignty. On health security, reducing pesticides or carbon intensity, we can’t imagine importing British products that don’t comply with those standards.

Is an agreement on fisheries taking shape?

We have two aims. Fishermen from eight countries fish in British waters. We must create not only resource management rules but also a framework that provides a clear way ahead, so as not to have to renegotiate quotas every year... On these points, the British are refusing to talk. Under these conditions, how can we speed up the timetable?

The coronavirus crisis has completely eclipsed the issue of Brexit. Won’t the economic meltdown descending on Europe mask the Brexit effect if the UK leaves without an agreement?

First of all, that’s not a pretext for shirking your responsibilities. And a trade agreement also has an economic impact over 10 or 20 years. There are many things at stake in the negotiation which go well beyond the time of this coronavirus crisis.

Doesn’t the spectacle of division provided by the European Union on the handling of the coronavirus crisis give arguments to the Brexiters?

If you add up all the Europeans’ decisions to support the economy, collective purchases of equipment, strategic reserves and the decisive role of the ECB, that makes a lot of tools enabling us to combat the virus together. We’re also working on a European plan to massively stimulate the economy, which has received political endorsement at the highest level. The British are going to have to deal with this crisis solely with their national resources.