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Official speeches and statements - July 31, 2020

Published on August 3, 2020

1. European Union - Interview given by M. Clément Beaune, Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to France Inter (excerpts) (Paris, 29/07/2020)

(...)

EU/COVID-19

THE MINISTER - One of the reasons why there are sometimes different, sometimes contradictory measures is that there’s no common European approach for assessing the health situation, for saying that such an area is at risk or not at risk.

Should there be?

THE MINISTER - There should be, of course. It’s a form of Health Europe, which doesn’t exist and has to be built. There’s a paradox in Europe, so to speak, namely that we have methods thousands of pages long for calculating the deficit to the eighth decimal point and we don’t have the same methods for assessing the health risks. That must change. It’s one of the aspects of the Franco-German initiative of 18 May that may have been seen less, and I believe every country now recognizes that unfortunately it will be for the coming months, but we must have these common European approaches to ensure there are no European countries assessing the risks differently from the others.

Measures must subsequently be targeted, sometimes within a single country: in France we don’t apply exactly the same rules in Mayenne today as in the rest of the country, because we’re not going to restrict movement and freedoms where there’s no need to do so. (...)

Restrictions aren’t increasing only in Europe, they’re increasing all over the world. Morocco, for example, is imposing lockdown measures in all its cities. What is France advising its nationals to do? Come home? Is it advising people who had planned [to visit Morocco] not to go there? Are there any guidelines?

THE MINISTER - No, there again we’re regularly updating the travel advice. For the time being, Morocco isn’t one of the countries with which there are overall guidelines to shut down or not to go there.

Let me specify one thing, if I can take 15 seconds to explain it - I think it’s very important for holidays in particular: there are several categories.

In the Schengen Area, as you’ve recalled, it’s our living space, our central space, there’s freedom of movement except when there are targeted measures - Catalonia is one of them, where there’s advice not to travel. But the principle is freedom of movement.

Beyond the Schengen Area, the principle is that there’s currently no freedom of movement: you must have a justified, essential reason for making a journey. There are, nevertheless, some low-risk countries - Morocco is currently one of them - with which there’s no total restriction, no compulsory testing etc.

And there’s the opposite: some countries outside Schengen in which the health situation is especially worrying and the virus is circulating very quickly. These are the 16 countries the Prime Minister, Health Minister and Interior Minister mentioned at the end of last week: for example, the United States, for example the United Arab Emirates. (...)

EU RECOVERY PLAN/EDUCATION AND RESEARCH

Let me take the opportunity to lay to rest another idea you briefly mentioned which is wrong, very wrong: there are no cuts to the education or research budgets. There was a proposal by the European Commission - I won’t go into too much technical detail but it’s important - which was even more ambitious than what we finally obtained. We would have loved to have this level of ambition, and the European Parliament supported it, but we didn’t exactly get that.

But in relation to the current budget, in relation to what we currently spend - that’s what matters -, we’re going to increase Erasmus by 75%, we’re going to increase the research budget by 50% and we’re even going to slightly increase the agriculture budget; we’ve fought for two years to do that, when at the outset it was decreasing.

EUROPEAN TAXATION

There are currently people who profit from Europe and don’t pay. And it’s certainly not about increasing French people’s taxes, either for businesses or members of the public. I think that would send the wrong message for Europe. By contrast, for digital businesses that benefit from a European market of nearly 500 million consumers, for foreign - American, Chinese, Russian - businesses that don’t meet our environmental standards, our environmental rules, to export to Europe without paying... (...) That can bring in more than euro10 billion a year. It’s half the French contribution, so these aren’t anecdotal or negligible sums. And what we secured in the European agreement was that next year there should be a legislative text - so it’s very concrete - that will be discussed in the European Parliament itself, to introduce these new resources quickly.

But I very much emphasize there’s no plastics tax, there’s no new tax on French people or on businesses.

To get the green light from some countries, the European Union had to make concessions: no restrictions on the rule of law, for example. The result: Poland’s conservative, nationalist government intends to pull out of the Istanbul Convention, a convention signed in 2017 which aims at better protecting women from violence in the EU. Does that go a long way towards ending the rule of law?

THE MINISTER - Regarding the Istanbul Convention, the intention - I hope it won’t happen - which some Polish ministers have mentioned of pulling out of the convention is obviously very serious. You were talking a few minutes ago about Gisèle Halimi, about her battle for women’s rights. We have a debt, a duty not to let this happen. And I also think that MEPs - French ones, moreover -, the French Government has voiced its opinion on this. What’s more, Poland has started saying, through other ministers, that it’s in two minds about taking the step. I hope it won’t.

But if it does, are there conditions for us to go back on things, or is it too late? In the end, the agreement has been signed.

THE MINISTER - Firstly, there are a few European countries, unfortunately, which aren’t yet part of the Istanbul Convention. It will be a setback if Poland pulls out; I hope it won’t. There will be consequences if it does. (...)./.


2. India - Delivery of five Rafale aircraft and medical cooperation with India - Communiqué issued by the Ministry for the Armed Forces (Paris, 27/07/2020)

On Monday 27 July, the first five Rafale aircraft purchased by India took off from Mérignac for India.

These five Rafales will be accompanied by two A330 Phoenix MRTT, one of which will carry medical aid to help fight COVID-19. This aid comprises test equipment and ventilators, together with a detachment of experts.

Florence Parly, Minister for the Armed Forces, welcomes this dual-purpose mission: “France is actively engaged alongside India. I’m proud that the Rafale deliveries have started, reflecting the strength of our strategic partnership. Moreover, the exchange of best practice between armed forces on managing COVID-19 will benefit everyone."

The French forces are supporting the conveyance of five Rafale aircraft from France to India. This is the delivery of the first five Rafales provided for in the contract India and France signed in 2016 for the delivery of 36 Rafales. The five aircraft are refuelled in flight by an A330 Phoenix.

This mission will be used to provide India with medical assistance to help fight COVID-19, in coordination with the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, by:

  • transporting all equipment and dedicated personnel by means of an A330 Phoenix (MRTT): 70 ventilators and 100,000 test kits.
  • supplying part of the medical expert team: 10 SSA [Armed Forces Health Service] and service personnel.
  • presenting capabilities and modus operandi which the armed forces can implement in this type of crisis in support of the civilian health authorities and to ensure the continuity of their operations. Lessons Learned (“RETEX") undertaken by the Ministry for the Armed Forces will therefore be shared with our Indian partner./.

3. European Union - Cyber-attacks/European Union imposes the first ever sanctions against cyber-attacks - Press release issued by the Council of the European Union (Brussels, 30/07/2020)

The Council today decided to impose restrictive measures against six individuals and three entities responsible for or involved in various cyber-attacks. These include the attempted cyber-attack against the OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) and those publicly known as “WannaCry", “NotPetya", and “Operation Cloud Hopper".

The sanctions imposed include a travel ban and an asset freeze. In addition, EU persons and entities are forbidden from making funds available to those listed.

Sanctions are one of the options available in the EU’s cyber diplomacy toolbox to prevent, deter and respond to malicious cyber activities directed against the EU or its member states, and today is the first time the EU has used this tool. The legal framework for targeted restrictive measures against cyber-attacks was adopted in May 2019 and recently renewed.

Background

In recent years, the EU has scaled up its resilience and its ability to prevent, discourage, deter and respond to cyber threats and malicious cyber activities in order to safeguard European security and interests.

In June 2017, the EU stepped up its response by establishing a Framework for a Joint EU Diplomatic Response to Malicious Cyber Activities (the “cyber diplomacy toolbox"). The framework allows the EU and its member States to use all CFSP measures, including restrictive measures if necessary, to prevent, discourage, deter and respond to malicious cyber activities targeting the integrity and security of the EU and its member States.

Targeted restrictive measures have a deterrent and dissuasive effect and should be distinguished from attribution of responsibility to a third State.

The EU remains committed to a global, open, stable, peaceful and secure cyberspace and therefore reiterates the need to strengthen international cooperation in order to promote the rules-based order in this area.

(Source of English text: European Council website)


4. European Union - North Korea: EU confirms autonomous sanctions for a year - Press release issued by the Council of the EU (Brussels, 30/07/2020)

The Council today confirmed the list of individuals and entities subject to the EU’s autonomous sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

As a consequence, the existing restrictive measures - travel ban and asset freeze - imposed on the listed persons and entities will continue to apply for one year, until the next annual review.

The 57 listed individuals and 9 listed entities are subject to the above sanctions for contributing to the DPRK’s nuclear-related, ballistic-missile-related or other weapons of mass destruction-related programmes or for sanctions evasion.

The EU’s sanctions against the DPRK are the toughest against any country. They were adopted in response to the country’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile development activities, which are in breach of numerous UNSC resolutions. The EU has transposed all relevant UN Security Council resolutions and has in place its own autonomous sanctions regime with regard to the DPRK, which complements and reinforces the sanctions adopted by the UN. The UN has imposed sanctions on 80 persons and 75 entities.

The EU has repeatedly expressed its strong conviction that lasting peace and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula must be achieved by peaceful means, and that the diplomatic process must be continued as the only way towards realizing that goal.

The legal acts will be published in the Official Journal on 31 July 2020./.

(Source of English text: Council of the EU website)

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