Official speeches and statements - May 22, 2020
France extends its congratulations to Mr Benjamin Natanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, and Mr Benjamin Gantz, Deputy Prime Minister, on their investiture and that of their government. In the spirit of friendship and cooperation prevailing over French-Israeli relations, France reaffirms its desire to continue working with the new Israeli Government in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and in the many substantive areas of our relations, as well as its unshakable commitment to Israel’s security and, alongside Israel, to regional security.
In this respect, France reaffirms its commitment to a fair, lasting settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With this in mind, it calls on the Israeli authorities to refrain from any unilateral measure which would lead to the annexation of all or part of the Palestinian Territories. As the European Union’s High Representative Josep Borrell said, such a decision would violate international law and seriously undermine the two-state solution. This could not be without consequences for the European Union’s relations with Israel. France remains fully prepared to support any effort aimed at resuming negotiations between the parties, the only path towards peace, security and regional stability.
Q. - This recovery plan has been announced by Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, with €500 billion of budget allocations. Of course, this recovery plan is substantial - we’ll get back to it in detail - but is that it? Is the European Union going to get into debt for the first time?
THE MINISTER - What we can see above all is that this crisis is revealing our interdependence. No country has experienced the virus alone, no country can get over it alone, and what France and Germany are saying this evening is that we need a solution that can benefit every State, in other words that we can multiply, be much more effective than, what each country is currently doing in terms of recovery and protection. Together we must be able to support the most affected regions, sectors, in each country, and therefore take responsibility for Europe being useful but also for it acting swiftly. And so that’s the purpose of this initiative, which is decisive, which is essential, and [it’s also] to ensure Europe picks itself up together and can set off again with an economy that we hope prospers and a social crisis that we hope is as limited as possible.
So €500 billion directed to the regions and sectors most affected by the crisis, that’s good, but is it enough to protect European countries from recession and rival, for example, China and the United States?
What’s certain is that if we don’t make that effort, Europe won’t count any more. If we want Europe to be a power, we must have the means to be credible. You know, only a few weeks ago, what was announced this evening seemed totally unattainable. Since March we’ve been working with eight countries, trying to further this Franco-German dialogue. The Germans started from a very distant position; they weren’t in this position from the outset. I think this crisis has shown them two things: firstly, that Germany basically depends on its neighbours, its suppliers...
Of course German businesses know that their suppliers, their customers, are everywhere in Europe, including France, that Germany can’t restart alone and that however big they are, the recovery can’t work [solely] with a German plan because if Germany’s suppliers and customers themselves don’t restart, it doesn’t work. So I think this interdependence can be seen. What Germany has also seen is that, like the other European countries, it’s dependent on China and other countries for its masks and medical equipment. And so this interdependence we have means that we want and need to restart together.
Together of course, of course that’s very laudable, and of course it’s the first time and it’s a massive transfer of resources from the strongest economies to the most affected areas, of course. But are we still going to have to overcome the reservations, particularly from some countries in the north, for example?
What’s certain is that when France and Germany reach agreement, it doesn’t mean the other 27 agree immediately agree. However, what is certain is that unless you have agreement between France and Germany, you can’t move Europe forward.
That’s the starting point.
That’s why it’s decisive; that’s why it’s a starting point. We’ve really built a lot of alliances around us, and so it’s not only France and Germany that agree on this. You’ll see in the coming days that the various players are going to lend their support. The proposal...
What point will France not negotiate on? Because there will be a lag period, obviously, but what won’t we negotiate on, for example?
What’s key for us today is that there must indeed be transfers between countries. The European Union isn’t just a bank that makes loans, where everyone gets back what they previously gave it. It’s genuine, concrete solidarity - like in a country, in fact. Today in France, we’re helping the most affected sectors and regions. Well, at European level we must do the same thing: pool resources and really enter into this spirit of concrete solidarity. We won’t let go of that. And we won’t let go of this idea of sovereignty, either. Today we can’t take on board being European and let ourselves be buffeted between the United States and China. We need, in certain industrial sectors - health of course - to assert what we are, the technologies we want to choose, and to produce at home things that are essential.
But how? Of course we’d love to have industrial sovereignty and also be independent in terms of health, but how can we make the European Union self-sufficient?
There are several things: first of all we must have research, we ourselves must have the innovation enabling us to be in the vanguard and not depend on others. That’s the first building block. The second block is being capable of bringing production back to Europe; that means we must look at taxation, we must look at the ability to help businesses set up in Europe, and that requires money. And part of the €500-billion plan we’re talking about will be used to fund that return. Next, there are also issues around protecting our investments; that means we mustn’t let companies - especially key ones for health or for certain technologies - be bought by American or Chinese or I don’t know what other [companies?]. So we must protect our strategic investments, we must bring back production, and we must have research and innovation.
We’ve seen the example, you’re referring to Sanofi. We saw what happened all last week: a great deal has been said about Sanofi, a French company from the start, with more and more shareholders, which tipped the balance in the end.
In the Franco-German agreement, there’s this idea that a "Health Europe" must exist; in other words, we want certain treatments, certain vaccines to be outside the laws of the market. It’s a global public good; together with the President we’re fighting on this, along with many non-European partners too, to say that in certain areas, yes, public money is needed, so that capital-intensive rationales, rationales based on speculation no longer apply. And so this Franco-German initiative also exists to make it known that at the heart of Europe, the two largest countries are saying we’re willing to put money on the table...
Exactly, Angela Merkel spoke about changing certain treaties. What could that mean, for example? We haven’t heard Emmanuel Macron being very clear about this. What could that mean, what could that cover?
There are issues to do with health, today, this doesn’t come within Europe’s remit, so it’s true that if we want Europe to do more, we also need to give it the means to do so. I don’t know if we should start with the idea that we’re going straightaway to change the treaties. What’s already certain is: "what can we do right now with the treaties we’ve got", looking as far ahead as possible to see where we can go, and if the treaties are an obstacle, well, in that case, we’ve got to ask ourselves questions. We’ve got to be clear, we’ve got to be honest, I think there are things we haven’t done well in this crisis and that we’ve got to do a lot better in terms of reaction, prevention and preparedness. There are also things which have worked well, because, given the scale of the challenges, we reacted - I’m thinking particularly economically, with the ECB, with many useful things; it means we’ve got to build, and perhaps in the treaties, we’ll have to go further to reinforce what has worked well and change what has prevented us from acting as quickly as we needed to.
Did we flirt with the worst-case scenario? From that I take it that the EU risked breaking up had there not been, in the end, this COVID-19 crisis which perhaps brought to light rather too much indifference from Germany, and risked bringing down partners which its economy needs the most. We saw that, it was blindingly obvious.
There was a very powerful moment of truth, in that it was perhaps the first time in years when we were all affected by something we weren’t responsible for. No one is responsible, no bad policy accounts for one country catching the virus more virulently than others. And so what matters for me is that the moment of truth isn’t about whether Europe exists or not, above all it’s about whether it’s useful. Is it capable of doing things which are useful for citizens, useful for employment, useful for businesses, useful for our health? The battle we’ve been waging alongside the President for three years now is really a battle about usefulness. When we talk about sovereignty, we aren’t being theoretical, we’re dealing with something concrete - how we produce in Europe, how Europeans can use European goods, and how we don’t allow ourselves to be buffeted between China and the United States.
It is very helpful to be able to once again publicly express our condemnation of the illegal annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol by Russia in 2014. This annexation was and continues to be a violation of international law, in particular the United Nations Charter and the Budapest Memorandum and by which Russia undertook in 1994 to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine, as my German colleague just said. France does not and will not recognize this annexation. We support the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and full sovereignty within its internationally recognized borders. This is the EU position as well.
I take note of the personal opinion expressed by the speakers at this meeting. For my part, I recall the concerns expressed at the meeting on 6 March about the deteriorating human rights situation in the peninsula. These concerns had been expressed by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, who reported about cases of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, ill-treatment, torture and lack of medical assistance in prison in particular. This picture had been drawn up on the basis of a remote assessment, as the Office of the High Commissioner still does not have unconditional access to the territory, and we urge Russia to grant this access. Two representatives of civil society also described the consequences of the illegal annexation of the Crimea for the human rights of the inhabitants of the peninsula.
The annexation of Crimea also led to an increased militarization of the peninsula. This is an additional and worrying source of tension. The deployment of Russian troops and armaments on that territory destabilizes the region. The serious naval incident of 25 November 2018 underlines the need for safe, free and unimpeded passage for both commercial and military vessels through the Sea of Azov and the Strait of Kerch, in accordance with international law. In his last report, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights also reported that nearly 21,000 Crimean conscripts were enlisted into the Russian armed forces and sent to military bases in the Russian Federation since 2014, in violation of international humanitarian law. We call on the Russian Federation to stop illegal conscription in Crimea and to comply with international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
I wish to recall that France, together with Germany, continues to step up efforts to inject new momentum into the political resolution of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis. During a summit of the Normandy format in Paris on December 9, Heads of State and Government, meaning President of Ukraine, President Putin, Chancellor Merkel and President Macron, agreed on conclusions that draw a clear, progressive and pragmatic line. We will continue to mobilize for the implementation of these conclusions: our Ministers of Foreign Affairs gathered on April 30 to take stock of the application of the immediate measures needed on the ground, in particular with regards to the ceasefire and humanitarian issues. This is all the more important in a context where civilian populations are suffering even more as a result of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dear colleagues, in conclusion, we have to recall that it is not Ukraine that has violated Russian sovereignty, nor is it Ukraine that has illegally annexed Russian territory. It is therefore up to Russia to take the first step. In this regard I would like to ask our Russian colleagues whether Russia, for example, could allow international human rights protection mechanisms unhindered access to the Crimean Peninsula in accordance with the resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly?
I thank you.
I would like to thank our briefers for their useful presentations and highlight three points regarding the situation in Somalia.
First of all, France is concerned by the expansion of COVID-19 in Somalia and across the region. We welcome the measures taken by the Somali authorities to combat the spread of the COVID-19 with the support of UNSOM and other partners.
France is also mobilized, in coordination with the European Union and the African Union, to support our African partners in their response to the pandemic.
The EU has thus dedicated around €27 million to Somalia and is also implementing a humanitarian air bridge to Africa that France fully supports.
Moreover, France has strongly advocated for a collective effort to consider a moratorium on the service payments of the debt of African countries.
France has also mobilized €1.2 billion to support our African partners in four priority areas: health, economic recovery, humanitarian assistance, and scientific research.
Secondly, France considers that Somalia is now at a critical juncture, both regarding its political situation and the process of preparation of its security architecture post-2021.
On the political front, all Somali actors must continue to work for the preparation of peaceful, inclusive, transparent and "one person, one vote" presidential and legislative elections in late 2020 or early 2021.
This requires a broad consensus on the electoral framework and we therefore encourage the Somali authorities to address remaining issues regarding the electoral law with the assistance of UNSOM.
In this context, France also calls on the Federal Government of Somalia and all Federal member States to urgently resume their dialogue. This dialogue will be key for the holding of the upcoming elections but also for other critical reforms, especially in the security sector. In this context, we strongly condemn clashes in the Gedo region that are guided by political interests at the expense of the security transition.
Somalia is also at a critical juncture on the security front, as Somali institutions are set to take the lead of the security responsibility by 2021.
In this context, we welcome the resumption of joint operations led by AMISOM and the Somali national army against Al-Shabaab in the Lower Shabelle. We call on Somali authorities to extend these operations to other areas, to update the Transition plan, and to accelerate the establishment of a plan for the generation of new Somali forces and the integration of regional forces into the national army. The latest report of the Secretary-General shows that more progress is urgently needed on this front.
Lastly, France thinks that Somali authorities and their key partners, including the European Union, the African Union and AMISOM troop contributing countries, must now seriously engage in the discussions on international support to the security sector in Somalia after 2021.
The European Union has shown its readiness to actively participate in these discussions and is in favor of a more transactional approach. In this context, we think that the current model of international security support to Somalia cannot be taken for granted and that all options must be put on the table, including alternative options to AMISOM.
In particular, we want to make clear that the current model of the financing of AMISOM by the European Union is not sustainable. If the European Union will continue to support the security sector in Somalia, this support will be dependent on the establishment of accountability mechanisms, the participation of the European Union in strategic decisions, and the financial contribution of other partners. More generally, the European Union has also initiated a brainstorming process on its broader cooperation with Somalia, including through the strategic reviews of its three missions: Atalanta, EUTM Somalia and EUCAP Somalia.
I thank you.
As members of the Security Council, we have the responsibility to contribute constructively to political and peaceful solutions to political crisis. It is in that spirit that we approach today’s discussion on the situation in Venezuela.
I wish first to reaffirm that the solution to the Venezuelan crisis can only be found in full compliance with international law and the Venezuelan constitution.
The use of force must be strongly condemned, without exception.
Respect for international law naturally also applies to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. And Venezuela has an obligation to guarantee the normal functioning of all foreign embassies in Caracas.
In response to the Venezuelan political crisis, France, together with its partners in the European Union and Latin America, has engaged in diplomatic efforts with the creation of the International Contact Group to promote a resolution of the crisis through dialogue, by taking into account the results of the Oslo/Barbados process among other elements. Inclusive and good-faith dialogue is indeed the only way forward, with a view to the organization of free, transparent and credible elections.
Venezuelans must be able to freely choose their future, and the prerogatives of the National Assembly must be respected, in accordance with the Venezuelan Constitution.
Venezuelans are the first victims of the current crisis, which has lasted too long.
- Millions had to flee their country and we pay tribute to the generosity that many neighboring countries have demonstrated in welcoming and protecting them. The European Union has shown its readiness to support these countries and will hold on May 26 a donors’ conference together with UN agencies in the wake of the solidarity conference that was held in Brussels in October 2019. Our response to this crisis must be inclusive and collective, under the leadership of the UN, and must take into account the dangerous spread of the COVID-19 pandemic whose humanitarian and socio-economical impacts in the region could be terrible.
- The Venezuelans are also suffering from the economic consequences of the political crisis. We call on all actors to ensure safe and unhindered humanitarian access and to reject any politicization of humanitarian aid. This is all the more necessary in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. I recall that France has been increasing its financial contribution over the last years; in total, the European Union provides more than half of the humanitarian aid to Venezuelans.
- Finally, the Venezuelans are suffering from serious and repeated human rights violations. France calls on Venezuela to implement all of the recommendations of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, particularly with regard to the release of political prisoners. We recall that European Union sanctions are individual measures adopted in response to these human rights violations and that they are designed not to affect the population and the response to the pandemic.
As you can see, France, together with its European partners, is committed to all aspects of the Venezuelan issue: political, humanitarian and human rights. We call on all parties to resume dialogue, which is the only way out of the crisis.