EU must ensure its own defence more in future - President

Italy/Ventotene – European Union/economic policy – Statements made by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, during his joint press briefing with Mrs Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, and Mr Matteo Renzi, Prime Minister of Italy (excerpts)

Garibaldi aircraft carrier, 22 August 2016

I’d like to begin by thanking Matteo Renzi for inviting Angela and me to be here in this exceptional setting and in a doubly symbolic place. Firstly, we’re on an aircraft carrier, as part of Operation Sophia, which is – as far as possible – ensuring control of the border, but also doing humanitarian work, taking on board people who have been lost at sea and generally led there by traffickers. Europe is honour-bound both to protect itself and welcome those who have been forced into exile, sometimes at risk to their lives. I’d like to pay tribute to the crew doing this job, on the European Union’s behalf.

It is symbolic, too, because, as Matteo said, we’re next to somewhere [Ventotene], a prison, where political figures – Spinelli, among others – were locked up for their ideas and, utterly destitute, in their despair, they had this determination – which seemed excessive back then – to create [a united] Europe as Europe was tearing itself apart. It’s thanks to men – and women –, such as Altiero Spinelli, that there was this European idea, right after the Second World War, which produced the EU we know today, with its shortcomings, admittedly, but with its greatness too, i.e. the ability to ensure peace and harmony between peoples.

Spinelli also had a very strong intuition: for its peoples to genuinely want Europe, it had to address both the demand for prosperity and, at the same time, security. And he launched the idea of a Defence Europe, which didn’t have much luck (i.e. meet with very great success) at the time he expressed it, but today is becoming absolutely essential given the threats, wars and terrorism. If there’s one thing we must all be determined about, it’s that Europe must ensure its own defence more than it does today. France is playing its part in this.

But Europe must also have substance. It’s an ideal but it must be reflected in Europeans’ daily lives. This is why Angela, Matteo and I wanted to come here – we’ve already met in Berlin – to prepare the Bratislava summit, following Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, so that we can inject new momentum. This momentum must take on three dimensions.

The first is a security dimension; Europe must be a framework for protection. In order for there to be security, there must be borders that can be guarded. That’s why we’ve worked – and we’re going to continue doing so – to further strengthen the border guards and coastguards for the European Union. We also want there to be more, even though significant steps have been taken, with coordination in the fight against terrorism and particularly checks on certain individuals inside the Schengen Area itself; [we want] to ensure our databases can be used by everyone and to do more monitoring of certain communications that concern operators – it’s the whole encryption issue, because we want there to be access to monitor people who are using certain operators or sites to engage in jihadist propaganda and radicalization.

I also emphasized defence, because we want there to be more coordination there too, more additional capabilities and projection forces. But it’s not only defence that guarantees our own security, it’s also development. We’d like, we want Europe to be more active vis-à-vis Africa. Our countries must themselves set an example by means of funding mechanisms and policies we can conduct, particularly with regard to the Sahel countries, which are most affected by emigration.

The second dimension is the economic dimension. It’s true that Brexit is creating uncertainty; it’s true there was a slowdown in growth in the second quarter, and we must remove all uncertainties as far as possible and provide extra impetus. That’s why investment programmes – the Juncker Plan for us – are a good benchmark and must be not only continued but extended. We must increase the amount of private investment, and public investment through appropriate financing for the digital sector, for new technologies, because it’s essential, and of course I haven’t forgotten the energy transition.

Finally, the third dimension is young people. Matteo spoke earlier about what the future could be for this site, a former prison. The future is a European centre for culture and young people. What we must do, here too, is expand the Erasmus programmes and enable more mobility, more discovery. Europeans must get to know one another even more than today, and also give a greater role to our cultural investments. That’s why we want young people, who still have very high expectations of Europe, to get answers, including after the Bratislava summit – I’m also thinking of the Youth Guarantee and everything that helps integrate them into society and the workplace.

That’s the purpose of this meeting. It’s not aimed at deciding for others but at making us shoulder our responsibilities. We’re the major countries of the European Union. We don’t have to decide for the others, but we have to commit ourselves, and by committing ourselves more we’ll be able to lead Europe towards a future that can be one of unity and cohesion. The major risk – this is true of Europe and of [other] nations too – is dislocation, fragmentation, egotism, withdrawal, retreat. So we have this responsibility, and we’ll be taking it on today thanks to Matteo’s invitation. (…)./.

Published on 26/08/2016

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