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Official speeches and statements - October 28, 2020

Published on October 29, 2020

1. International Criminal Justice - Transfer of Félicien Kabuga to The Hague - Press briefing by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs Spokesperson (excerpt) (Paris, 27/10/2020)

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France transferred Félicien Kabuga to The Hague on 26 October 2020, following the decision by the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT). This transfer reflects France’s ongoing commitment to international criminal justice and confirms the effectiveness of cooperation between French and international judges, between police forces in Europe and with the IRMCT.

This is a crucial moment for the victims and survivors of the genocide against the Tutsi and for international criminal justice. It gives concrete expression to the efforts highlighted by President Macron at the 25th anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsi to combat impunity for Rwandan genocide suspects, in full cooperation with the Rwandan authorities.

France reaffirms its attachment to ensuring that States cooperate without hindrance with the IRMCT, in accordance with their international obligations, and reaffirms its commitment to the fight against impunity. (...)./.


2. European Union - Brexit/recovery plan - Interview given by M. Clément Beaune, Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to BFM Business (excerpts) (Paris, 22/10/2020)

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If there’s no deal within two weeks, there will never be a deal. Do we agree?

THE MINISTER - Yes, that’s roughly the deadline by which things will be clarified - at last, you might say, because I think that whatever the result, for the sake of our businesses and citizens we have to know what’s happening.

I remind you that the change is taking place on the night of 31 December to 1 January, and I say straight off that in every case, whether or not there’s an agreement, there will be significant changes, particularly at the economic level. We must foresee them.

Because I believe if there’s no bilateral approval, the United Kingdom will leave 600 agreements. Just think what that means in terms of paperwork. Why do we say in two weeks’ time? In two weeks’ time it isn’t 31 December.

THE MINISTER - No, of course, but you still have to prepare, and so if there’s an agreement, as we hope - Michel Barnier resumed the negotiations only today in London - it’ll have to be analysed and implemented. And I remind you, even if there’s an agreement, there will be customs checks and there will be sanitary and phytosanitary checks in the agrifood sector, for example. We’ve already recruited and deployed vets and customs officers in the regions concerned, particularly Hauts-de-France, to ensure this provision.

If there’s no agreement, we must prepare even more, because there will be an additional difficulty, particularly the customs tariffs that will be applied to all goods arriving from the UK and our goods heading to the UK.

All this is being organized; our businesses in particular and our fishermen, for example, need to know exactly what the situation is. That’s why we’re saying, and we also thought, that the right deadline was the end of October. We’re giving a few more days to give the negotiations a chance, but we have to know quite quickly.

Yes, but even so, it’s clear that we’re heading - I don’t know if it’s slowly, but we’re heading for a no-deal. What’s the likelihood? 80%?

THE MINISTER - I can’t say; there’s a serious risk of a no-deal, we mustn’t conceal that, but as I’ve told you, Michel Barnier is resuming the negotiations today.

Yes, [British] calm has changed sides, as people are now saying.

THE MINISTER - Yes, the calm has changed sides; it’s always been more on our side, actually. (...) I think it changed sides some time ago. In this regard, Michel Barnier is doing an outstanding job; he’s our negotiator for the 27. It’s no mean feat to have kept the 27 united throughout the negotiations for three years now. He’s doing it, we’re doing it, firmly and in unison; our priorities are clear, that’s known. They are fair competition conditions, and also fisheries in particular.

Let’s take fisheries. Fisheries is very important; I love fish, the issue is important, but at the same time shoals of fish move around, as one fisherman said. Is it just to annoy the British? Compared to the stakes involved in the automotive and aviation industries, fisheries isn’t huge!

THE MINISTER - I don’t want to simplify things, it’s not merely about whether you or I are happy to have fish on our plates to eat. It’s a major sector for some regions, it’s about direct and indirect jobs, particularly in Hauts-de-France, Brittany and Normandy. So it’s a major economic issue, it’s a major issue for individuals who make a living from fishing, our fishermen, often in small-scale fishing, who didn’t ask for Brexit. So it’s also a moral and regional issue. There’s no reason for us to sacrifice them on the grounds that it’s no big deal and that we’re looking at things in a macro-economic way; it doesn’t work like that.

It’s important for the British; there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be important for us.

Yes, but at the same time it generated a turnover of euro171 million, that’s 98,000 tonnes of fish, between 2011 and 2015; those are the latest figures we’ve found. Is it equally important for the British? Is the issue more important for the British, even?

THE MINISTER - They’ve made it into a symbolic and political issue.

That’s it, it’s symbolic.

THE MINISTER - For us it’s concrete, political in the noble and broad sense of the term, and also regional because if you go to Boulogne - I was also in Normandy, in Port-en-Bessin, the other day - or if you go to Brittany, there are places, there are departments that live off this economic activity; it’s also an industry, it’s processing, it’s logistics. So it’s very important. And once again, we’re talking about a few thousand direct jobs, about many more indirect jobs, but above all there’s no reason for explaining to our fishermen that we’re not interested in their fate; on the contrary, it’s a key issue.

But does that warrant blocking a deal?

THE MINISTER - Well, it warrants demonstrating great firmness, yes.

Firmness for you warrants blocking a deal. Either there’s an agreement on fisheries or there’s no deal.

THE MINISTER - We’ve always said this to the fishermen - I mean, we’ve always said it publicly, we’ve been open: it’s one of the issues on which there’s got to be an agreement. If there’s an agreement without fisheries, it won’t work, and we don’t want to make the issue separate in the negotiations with the British. That’s very important.

In the end, a no-deal may be the best solution - is that what we can say this evening?

THE MINISTER - No, I don’t think so.

Why not? Everyone’s fed up, to be blunt.

THE MINISTER - Yes, true; but as you said, precisely, we’ve got to keep our cool and remain calm in a negotiation, that’s part of the sense of responsibility we Europeans expect from political leaders, Michel Barnier in particular.

I’ll take fisheries as an example, but other sectors could be cited too. We want a good agreement and we don’t want to sacrifice their interests. But if there’s no deal, it’s also a major problem because there’ll no longer be access to British waters. And so we’re fighting to avoid that without giving up on our fundamental principles. If there’s no deal, as I was saying about every other sector, there’ll be customs duties. This slows down the way some sectors operate.

Take, as a final example, the aerospace industry - Airbus, for example, or others; it’s an integrated company, an integrated industry. It’s in our interest for trade to remain very smooth between us and the UK, but we won’t, if I may say, be put under pressure or intimidated on this. So we’re negotiating in good faith. I think we’ve sent all the right signals for being constructive, but there comes a time when we’ve got to know how things stand. So if it’s a no-deal, it’s better than uncertainty.

Who’s going to decide?

THE MINISTER - We’re going to assess it.

According to a study by Euler Hermes, this is likely to cost roughly euro33 billion, including euro3.6 billion for France, a bit more for Germany, but who, when the time comes, will say "that’s it" and stop the clock?

THE MINISTER - We’re going to assess this; we renewed the mandate of Michel Barnier, our negotiator, and our trust in him last week, so there was a meeting on the subject mainly of European heads of State and government. So it’s obviously being followed at a very high level because it’s important. Michel Barnier has a few days ahead of him when he’s going to negotiate. And he’s going to say to us - we have discussions almost daily -, he’s going to say to the heads of State and government of the 27 European Union countries: "I’m proposing an agreement to you and I think it’s good" and we’ll assess it, or, "I don’t think the British have shifted their position enough for us to accept an agreement which safeguards our interests", in which case it’s no deal.

We can see - and this is what’s being said at any rate, and you’re better informed about this than we are, which is why I’m asking you the question - that Emmanuel Macron is taking quite a hard position and that [for] Angela Merkel, for the Germans there’s more at stake, as the figures show. Is it a case of the deadline being extended so that the Germans are still involved in the negotiations?

THE MINISTER - No. Obviously the 27 have different economies, different approaches, but the miracle we and Michel Barnier have worked is that we’ve managed to maintain this unity.

Yes but with the Germans, only just.

THE MINISTER - No, I don’t think so. The Germans are very firm as well on all these issues, particularly on what I call "a condition of fair competition", so the British don’t have access to our market without complying with our rules.

So I think France has been very firm, the President has been very much involved in these negotiations, because they’re very important for our economy. And also politically in showing that, in the European Union, we’ve got a number of rights and duties; if you leave, you lose a number of advantages - that’s natural.

There’s a very symbolic aspect, as you say. We need to show others who might be tempted: look how complicated it is...

THE MINISTER - Yes, because that’s how it is. If the British thought that living freely with a no-deal, as they say, outside the European Union, was so easy and comfortable, they would have already left a long time ago without a deal. So it isn’t quite as easy or comfortable. (...)./.

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