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Official speeches and statements - November 19, 2020

Published on November 19, 2020

1. Feminist diplomacy - Submission of the High Council for Gender Equality’s report on feminist diplomacy to Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian and Ms. Elisabeth Moreno - Press release (Paris - November 18, 2020)

On November 18, 2020, Ms. Brigitte Grésy, Chair of the High Council for Gender Equality, submitted the High Council’s report on France’s feminist diplomacy to Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, and Ms. Elisabeth Moreno, Minister Delegate for Gender Equality, Diversity and Equal Opportunities, attached to the Prime Minister.

The report takes stock of the implementation of the feminist diplomacy France has conducted since 2018 and proposes recommendations with a view to continuing and broadening this public policy. All France’s diplomatic actions contribute to defending and promoting, both on the international stage and domestically in the organization of the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, equality between women and men, which the French President made into a major national cause of the five-year term. This priority of the Government since 2017 will not be altered by the health and economic crisis, of which women are the first victims.

France’s feminist diplomacy, which is being rolled out in particular through France’s International Strategy for Gender Equality (2018-2022), promoted by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, will be showcased in Paris in June 2021 at the Generation Equality Forum, organized by France and Mexico under the aegis of UN Women, which will be next year’s most significant international meeting on gender equality.

Since the launch of this strategy and as part of the feminist diplomacy promoted by France, substantial progress has been made. Our financial commitments to equality are being significantly stepped up:

  • 97 million euros has been devoted to sexual and reproductive rights and health, a French priority of the Generation Equality Forum in 2019;
  • 320 million euros was used to fund projects dedicated to fighting gender inequalities in the Southern countries, through the French Development Agency in 2020;
  • France’s contribution to UN Women rose from 1.7 million euros in 2018 to 3.05 million euros in 2020, making France one of the 20 largest donors;
  • In 2019 France also launched the Support Fund for Feminist Organizations, which will devote 120 million euros over three years to feminist organizations in countries receiving Official Development Assistance.

Finally, on the gender parity front, the number of French women ambassadors has doubled in five years and the objective of having women make up 50% of first-time ambassadorial appointments should be achieved. Progress is also being made on training staff and raising their awareness about sexist behavior, and as part of its plan to raise awareness the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs has set itself the aim of having 7,000 trained staff, i.e. 60% of staff posted abroad.

More than ever, we are resolved to forge ahead in every area of our action in order to improve these results and fully implement France’s feminist diplomacy.

2. Nagorno-Karabakh - Reply by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to a question in the National Assembly (Paris - November 17, 2020)

I’d like to repeat to you here what I’ve said several times, including in this Assembly: I’ve told you several times that for the six weeks this serious crisis has been going on between Armenia and Azerbaijan, at every moment - several times a week - we’ve been in contact with the Armenian authorities. And the Armenian authorities, at the highest level, asked us to keep our place in the Minsk Group framework. I wanted to remind you of this because some people didn’t seem to know it.

I’d also like to tell you that you’re aware, like me, that firstly this ceasefire was essential to save thousands of lives; it was agreed by everyone, including the Armenian Prime Minister, who signed it himself.

Secondly, this ceasefire doesn’t resolve the underlying issue. And so the question arising is: how will the underlying problems be resolved in future? Well, the discussions have already begun, firstly between the French President and President Putin, and secondly between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and myself in Paris yesterday; and tomorrow we’ll be having a meeting in Moscow with the ambassadors responsible for the matter, to remove the ambiguities of the ceasefire. There are ambiguities in the ceasefire, about refugees, about the parameters of the ceasefire, about the presence of Turkey, about the return of fighters and about the start of negotiations on the Nagorno-Karabakh’s status. (...)

3. Situation of Mr. Julian Assange - Reply by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to a question in the National Assembly (Paris - November 17, 2020)

I’d like to say three things in answer to your question about the legal situation of Mr. Julian Assange, who, as you know, is an Australian national whose trial is still under way in the United Kingdom as we speak. The verdict is due to be issued in January.

First of all, as you know, your question isn’t a new one. The French authorities have had the opportunity to speak about this issue in the past; that was in 2015. France, which was asked back then, decided it was not appropriate to give a favorable response to any request for political asylum made by Mr Assange to the French authorities, due to factors linked to the legal situation and the actual situation of the person concerned.

Secondly, it doesn’t currently seem that the analysis of this case and Mr. Assange’s situation has changed. There are legal proceedings, and I’d like to remind you that we have confidence in the United Kingdom’s justice system, because it’s a country where the rule of law prevails. And the future status of the relationship between the UK and the European Union won’t change this fundamental historical reality. That’s worth saying, very clearly even, here in this Assembly.

And finally, thirdly, you referred to the mechanism concerning whistleblowers and included Mr. Assange in this category; it’s a French mechanism, which is a very advanced one at global level because it allows both the legal definition of a whistleblower and the reporting procedures and safeguards they can be given. But that’s not the case here, precisely because we’re talking about a trial in the UK, and for my part I have confidence in the justice system in the UK in this regard.

4. European Union - COVID-19 / European recovery plan / external border checks / Turkey - Excerpts from the interview given by Mr. Clément Beaune, Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to Europe 1, Les Echos and CNews (Paris - November 15, 2020)

The vaccine is on its way. Europe’s preparations seem uncoordinated; Germany, for example, already has a logistics strategy, storage centers, vaccination centers and mobile teams to distribute the vaccine to people. How about us, in France?

Since you mention this European issue, I’d like to say a few words because it’s a real matter of sovereignty, too, to be able to protect our populations in the face of a global pandemic. The vaccine - I’ll come to national strategies in a second - is currently being negotiated by the European Union. I think everyone needs to know this because we organized it, at France and Germany’s initiative, in the space of a few weeks; today we’ve got seven contracts with all the major international laboratories, not just European ones, which are researching the various vaccine solutions. We’ve got contracts financed by the European Union, negotiated by the European Union to ensure that every time there are between 200 and 400 million doses - i.e. almost equivalent to the population of Europe, who will be completely protected. It’s very important, because just imagine if Germany had the vaccine tomorrow but France didn’t, or vice versa. Health nationalism in Europe would be a disaster. So it’s very important. We sometimes talk about a Health Europe; we’ve got to be practical, this starts with the vaccine.

But that doesn’t prevent States too from directly negotiating other doses in addition, does it? That’s the risk.

It’s a risk, but for the time being, no, and Olivier Véran [French Health Minister] and I have been in contact with our German counterparts almost daily to ensure that we remain in a European framework. For the moment, that’s clearly the case.

Let me take as an example the vaccine which today seems - let’s be cautious - the most advanced, that of Pfizer and BioNTech - which, moreover, is a German company, therefore a European company whose research has been supported by the European Union; we probably wouldn’t be at such an advanced stage without European funding, and we’ve got a contract, the European Union has a contract for 200 to 300 million doses - that’s a considerable amount, covering a large part of the European population - for the vaccine. What will actually happen? Two things: first, each [country] will have the vaccine in proportion to its population. So there’ll be a clear rule which France is upholding. (...)

Why is very concrete action already being taken in Germany - storage centers, mobile teams being prepared?

No, I know this pessimistic French outlook, but we mustn’t have a kind of weak view of ourselves, we’re discussing it.

It’s a realistic one.

No, I don’t think it is; let me explain. We’re talking to our European partners, starting with Germany, so that by the end of November we’ll have defined the broad thrust of a vaccines strategy. It will be a joint one, this is also what the President wants, we’re in the process of talking about it - Olivier Véran at the helm, with the Germans - to define the same priorities: who will be vaccinated first? Because there needs to be an order; carers or the elderly or vulnerable people will probably take priority. Indeed, things have to be organized in the vaccination centers, logistics.

What will be done for storage at -80ºC? Have we got capabilities?

We’re assessing all that. In slightly mundane terms, there need to be very special refrigerators. No European country, to be very clear, currently has their whole plan set out. So let’s not say "Germany has done this and France hasn’t done that"; that’s not correct. We’re trying to define it together - probably with European funding, by the way. We’ll buy a certain amount of refrigeration and other equipment together. And so I think we’ve got an opportunity here - it isn’t a given, but we aren’t being defeatist, far from it. We’ve got a great opportunity to do something effective for Europe which protects French and European people.

You were talking about R&D investment. The American agency BARDA has already spent 14 billion [dollars] on research into vaccines and medicines. What’s Europe doing to pull itself up to that level?

For the moment, if we add up research carried out nationally, we can’t be very far off a figure of several billion euros. There’s a European plan for this vaccine and for the future to create, precisely, a health budget and a European health agency modelled on America’s BARDA.

But that isn’t yet the case.

It isn’t the case but it has been endorsed, the European Commission presented it this week. We’re actively supporting the initiative.

When will it come into being?

I hope it comes into being next year, but we aren’t hanging around because it’s nice to create agencies and "thingies", to quote General de Gaulle, but the goal is to be effective. On the vaccine, we haven’t waited for an agency; we’ve got European contracts and European funding which has already exceeded euro2 billion.

This week the European Parliament, negotiating, with our support, the European budget, tripled it for health, which will reach over 5 billion euros for the coming years.

So things still aren’t perfect, but for the first time we’ve got - and in the space of only a few months - a very concrete Health Europe which is being created, for the vaccine.

We hear you; Europe is in control, for its own sake but also for that of the poor countries, at least on the face of it. Europe and France have put several billion euros in the pot but there still isn’t enough to fund, precisely, possible vaccination programs in those countries. What can be done? Where can the money be found?

Firstly, we have indeed - first and foremost Europe, including France - been financing various initiatives since April, amounting to several billion euros moreover. I think a little over 10 [billion] has already been raised so that the Southern countries, the developing countries, the poorest countries have access to vaccination.

Let me say a word on this. This isn’t just - even though it’s important - about solidarity. That’s essential, but it’s more than that: it’s in our interest in terms of health too, because the pandemic will only be beaten, we’ll no longer have different waves like the ones we’ve got, if throughout the world we make efforts concerning health, and tomorrow the vaccine, which are equally ambitious. I think it’s a question of solidarity, but it’s also in our interest.

So the European Union is prepared to provide more funding. We mustn’t be the only ones, so I hope the American administration, by returning to the WHO, by rejoining various international efforts such as those on the vaccine, will provide more funding as well. We issued this appeal only this week.

Will the vaccine allow pharmaceutical companies to grow even richer?

No. We’re negotiating, and let me give an example because it’s a crucial point. We’ll very likely be paying a lower price for the Pfizer and BioNTech doses we announced this week - again, let’s be cautious, but it’s a wonderful step forward - than the one the American agency has negotiated. So again it’s a case of strength through unity, because when you negotiate 200, 300, 400 million doses in one go, as the European Union is doing for each contract, you’ve got a lower cost price.

Does the vaccine have "global public good" status?

Yes, we should spell things out clearly here as well for those listening to us: what is meant by "global public good"? It means exactly what you were talking about earlier: international solidarity. It must be accessible to everyone. European funding makes it possible to reduce the cost of the vaccine here.

And why not say at cost price?

That’s what we’re currently negotiating on a case-by-case basis. I’m being cautious because the contracts aren’t all finalized, but the goal is to bring down prices as far as possible.

It’s clear we must be clear and honest about this too: when it’s a start-up - for example a company like BioNTech, supported by the European Union - that finds a solution, it doesn’t have the same investments and they haven’t been absorbed over decades like a group like Pfizer or other major international laboratories. I think we must be pragmatic, [keep it] under public control; I’m in favor of parliaments, national and European, having access to these contracts when they’re ready, so that everything is transparent and there are no delusions and no problems. And we’ve said - to get back to the global public good - that we’re ready to reserve some of our vaccine purchases in Europe for developing countries. (...)

Following a meeting with other European leaders at the Elysée Palace at the beginning of the week, the President complained about the fact that migration policy in Europe has drifted off course; let’s watch and listen to him here:

ʺIn all our countries we’re witnessing a distortion of what the right to asylum is. What we want is to build our concerted, common response more effectively, better protect our shared borders, better tackle these contemporary phenomena, in order to keep the borders between us open.ʺ

Is there a problem of trust with the partners? Our correspondent in Brussels reminded us of it earlier: more than one in six people are not thoroughly checked when they enter the common area, according to a study by the Frontex agency. Is that going to change?

It’s already changed, it must change, we must step up the checks on our external borders. Again, as everyone can see, there’s no solution when it comes to border security over the migration issue without European action. Are we taking the right level of action? No, not yet. But we have one acquis we must protect. The President mentioned it: namely, that in Europe we move freely inside what’s called the Schengen Area. That’s very valuable, and I emphasize this, it’s not something we must disregard, and it’s not a luxury or a whim on the part of people who oppose borders on principle; not at all. We mustn’t be naïve at all. It’s very important; let me just take the example of France: we have 350,000 people who earn their living by crossing a European border - sometimes they don’t even realize how simple it is any more - every day, to Germany, Italy, Luxembourg etc. And our goods, our medicines also move around Europe.

However, we must be firmer and stricter about the control of our external borders. I don’t want people to think we don’t control our external borders today. (...) It’s not Italy’s fault that, because of its geography, it’s located closer to the African coast, to North Africa - hence the migratory flows. It’s not Spain’s fault there are currently a lot of migrants coming from Algeria and Morocco. So we have to help them through European actions: it’s known as Frontex, it’s a border protection agency, but today [it comprises] only 1,500 people; that’s very few, we must increase it to 10,000. That’s a very practical response. (...)

Today we have the budget to do this; we’ve decided on it. What the President said this week was that we must speed it up. I can tell you that when Turkey organized pressure at the Greek border in February, they tried - deliberately - to get migrants through to Greece to put pressure on the European Union and probably obtain money. We held the Greek border, I think we were right, and we did so with European and in particular French resources. That’s very important. Sorry, about asylum and immigration - because that’s also very important - sorry, asylum, immigration and terrorism: there’s no conflation. It would be madness - and wrong - or it would quite simply be a factual error to say immigration brings about terrorism. I remind you that out of 30 terrorist crimes that have been committed...

No, but terrorism can take advantage of migration...

Of course: as I said, out of 30 terrorist attacks that have taken place in France in recent years, 22 have been committed by people born in France, who lived in France. So you can bury your head in the sand and say, ʺno more immigration, no more terroristsʺ - it’s a lie. And so we’ll never fall into that conflation trap. On the other hand, it’s clear that borders are a means of limiting networks, people-smugglers, trafficking, which exploit human misery and poverty and the difficulties of migrants. And yes, it’s clear that amid these networks and this trafficking there may be confusion and some people who are a threat to our security may slip in. I never, ever, ever say a migrant equals a terrorist; the President will never say it. However, protecting our borders is a way of making our choices about immigration, at the same time as fighting various and varied trafficking: drugs, arms... and also terrorism.

But even if he said it cautiously, the political message was sent. At the same time, terrorism experts at European Union level...

A laissez-faire message would be destructive for Europe, so I have no problem with that.

There are also analyses by terrorism experts at European Union level who say that in reality, the threat is inside the Schengen Area, that it’s radicalized Europeans who are most dangerous. What is... How do you distinguish, and ultimately wasn’t it about Emmanuel Macron’s message being essentially political?

Every message is political, so I don’t think the President has any problem taking responsibility for it. But what is his message? A European solution. Even on what seem like very national, sovereign issues like the fight against terrorism, you need a European dimension. The President is true to his DNA, to the language he’s always used since the presidential campaign, in which he’s said that in every major crisis there’s also a European response. We’re doing that. We could have used very different language, that of the far right, which consists in saying let’s close everything; that’s not our language.

Secondly, it’s obvious that if you make do with talking about the external borders you’re not being effective about the terrorist threat! It’s also at home, it’s first and foremost within our countries. It requires education, it requires us to combat the separatism we’ve allowed to take root for too long. And the Government has also been very clear on this. We didn’t discover the fight against terrorism with the Schengen issue. But it’s one of the instruments. It’s one of the instruments we must take on board. Then we saw it with the Vienna attacks, etc. We must fight at home, against an enemy who is trying to kill our freedom, our values - to kill, full stop. And obviously this fight against radicalization also leads to our own countries!

Indeed, Gérald Darmanin has taken action to support the expulsion of radicalized foreigners. He made a tour of the Maghreb countries. It doesn’t seem to have proven very persuasive. Can’t we increase the power balance and have other ʺweaponsʺ to enable those expulsions?

What was the result of that round of visits?

You’re right, one of the issues is that - to explain to everyone, because everyone says, ʺwe must deport people who don’t have their papers in orderʺ and especially people who pose a threat to our security - the main obstacle to these deportations, these expulsions is that the countries of origin or transit are currently refusing. But you have to deport a person somewhere. And so I think, again, we have to overcome the naivety, require European action here too, because we’re stronger [together] under this pressure. We must tell those countries that they’ve got to take back people who are identified as their nationals and, as Gérald Darmanin said, we have levers to do so...

But what?

For example, visas.

Would you be prepared to limit the number of visas, for example for certain countries in the Mediterranean basin?

For example, for people: targeting people, political leaders, economic leaders. Yes, that’s one of the levers the President and the Interior Minister [have got]. (...)


Also regarding pressures and levers, sanctions against Turkey are to be considered at the European Council in December. How can we impose sanctions on Turkey?

A few sanctions already exist: they’re what we call individual sanctions - in other words, we tell an individual, a political leader for example...

They’re not effective...

No, it’s not very effective. It’s also generally a symbolic tool. But we have to go further. And so we’re looking at every option for the European Council in December. At the last European summit in October we gave a chance to Turkey, which had provided small conciliatory signs, withdrawing a vessel from Greek or Cypriot waters. Now it’s chosen the path, once again, of provocation and systematic aggression...

So what sanctions are there in this case?

It may be further individual sanctions. We’re looking again at every option. It may be so-called sectoral sanctions, i.e. economic ones in this or that sector. It’s still too early to take a decision because, again, we’ll do so with all our European partners. But France has, I believe, changed the European position on Turkey. And I’ll take one example - they aren’t only sanctions, they aren’t only direct sanctions; this summer, when there was an action by Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean, sometimes with warships, we sent our navy to show our presence and block the Turks. If we have to take those kinds of measures, we’ll do so again. So it’s a toolbox, a range of measures where we mustn’t rule out any option, including economic sanctions.

Despite your statements and your desire to provide reassurance in this way, the feeling is that France is nevertheless a bit isolated. With regard to Turkey, the other European partners are a lot more cautious. Germany has its priorities; the Maltese Government too has its priorities regarding Turkey. Ultimately, isn’t France on its own against Turkey ?

No, first of all France isn’t on its own against Turkey, and we’ve made the European consensus on the issue change. You’re right, for 10 or 15 years we thought Turkey was a friendly Eastern-style Christian democracy that would gradually modernize... It isn’t that. It’s about aggressive Islamism, culturally, geopolitically, in every field. We’ve seen this again in Nagorno-Karabakh in recent days. And so we mustn’t be naïve in any way. It was France that spoke out first: for example, we supported Greece in a very practical way against Turkey’s pressure in February. Now, even in Germany the view has changed; I think it was a necessary precondition for action. And today I don’t think any European country has any illusions any more about what Mr. Erdoğan and his regime are. And now we’re going to move to act; we’ve started: I was talking about our presence in the eastern Mediterranean this summer; that’s not negligible. As early as last year we imposed sanctions on Turkish leaders who were carrying out drilling in the eastern Mediterranean. And we’ll go further, undoubtedly...

The relationship with the customs union; there’s integration, there’s the modernization currently being negotiated...

There’s no magic wand, but all options are on the table; you mentioned the customs union; I don’t think that’s the most effective one, but I mentioned - after all, it’s very powerful - possible sanctions in some sectors of the economy. That’s a possibility, we must discuss it, but with our European partners I think the view has completely changed and the Europeans are finally ready for action. (...)

5. United Nations - Middle East - Statement by Mr. Nicolas de Rivière, permanent representative of France to the United Nations at the Security Council (New York - November 18, 2020)

[translation from French]

Madam President,

I thank the Special Coordinator for his briefing.

I, too, wish to express my condolences to the relatives of Saeb Erekat and to the Palestinian people and to pay tribute to the commitment of this tireless advocate of the Palestinian cause and ardent defender of peace.

We are at a pivotal point in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is more urgent than ever to relaunch a momentum towards peace.

The parameters of its settlement are well-known: two states, living in peace and security, within secure and recognized borders based on the 1967 lines, both with Jerusalem as their capital. They have been defined with the aim of bringing a fair and lasting peace to the region. They make it possible to guarantee the security of Israel and to respond to the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians, in accordance with international law.

It is now up to the parties to define the framework for their negotiations in order to resume their discussions with the support of the international community.

France stands ready to work to relaunch this process in close coordination with all its partners. It calls for an end to all unilateral measures jeopardizing the two-State solution.

We are concerned about the proliferation of settlement expansion projects and the record number of demolitions of Palestinian structures, including those financed by the European Union and its Member States. These measures come after the signing of the normalization agreements between Israel, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan, which could enable the beginning of a positive dynamic for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

France condemned new announcements concerning the building of more than 1,200 housing units in the Israeli settlement of Givat HaMatos in East Jerusalem. The expansion of this settlement undermines the viability of a future Palestinian state, as repeatedly recalled by the European Union. It also condemned the demolition on November 3 by the Israeli authorities of the Palestinian village of Khirbet Humsa in the West Bank.

We once again call on the Israeli authorities to reverse their decisions on settlements and to halt all demolitions, particularly the village of Khan al Ahmar and the school in Ras al Tin, in accordance with its obligations as an occupying Power.

The suspension of annexation projects must become a definitive measure and must not be replaced by annexation through increasing faits accomplis on the ground, which would be tantamount to a de facto annexation of Palestinian territories.

France calls on the parties to create conditions conducive to the resumption of discussions.

This is the point of the continued efforts of Minister Le Drian, in coordination with his German, Egyptian and Jordanian counterparts. Restoring confidence requires gradual commitments from both sides. We welcome the announcement of a resumption of coordination between Israelis and Palestinians, and in part the reaffirmation by Israel of its commitment to past bilateral agreements. This cooperation can lead to a better response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This requires a revival of inter-Palestinian reconciliation. It is important that the elections announced by President Abbas at the General Assembly in September are not postponed again. All parties must play their part to advance peace. The parties who must show courage, the United Nations and its agencies, including UNRWA, which must be supported politically and financially, and every member of the international community, which must play its part.

You can count on France to contribute tirelessly to this collective effort.

Thank you.