France to finance projects in Burma, says Foreign Minister
Burma/Myanmar – Bilateral relations – Statements by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, during his press conference with Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, his Burmese counterpart
Nay Pyi Taw, 17 June 2016
I’ve come here to Asia, devoting my visit mainly to Burma. It’s a great honour to be at your side today, because you rekindled in your country an immense hope. France and the French, who have always supported you, for a long time, are happy that democracy has returned to Burma. For years, you were a bright light seen from afar, a Nobel Peace Prizewinner and, in our country, an honorary citizen of the city of Paris. Many of those with you paid for this resistance with their freedom or their lives. Today, you are here at the head of this government and I’ve come to lend you the support of France and the French people.
Burma’s greatest strength is its people – the dignified, brave Burmese people. We have very great confidence in you and your government. I’ve come – going beyond words and symbols – to lend you France’s concrete support.
The French Development Agency is going to respond quickly to your government’s request by financing several projects to do with the urban development of the city of Yangon, energy and health. Our development assistance is very rapidly going to increase, reaching €200 million by 2018. We will also respond to the humanitarian emergency by doubling in 2016 our contributions through French NGOs working on the ground, for example with farmers in the delta and in Chin State, or with the Buddhist and Muslim populations of Rakhine [State].
Beyond development assistance and humanitarian assistance, we want trade to increase between our citizens and our businesses. Cultural relations between France and Burma started 55 years ago; they must continue.
We would like Yangon’s French school to gradually change to a lycée to help make Burma more attractive for investment and expatriates of every nationality. I think it’s important for all French companies. More and more of these French companies are setting up here to contribute to the country’s economic development in every sphere, paying particular attention – the French government is ensuring this – to their social and environmental responsibility.
At a historic moment, you are at the head of Burma; France is at your side. We have every confidence in you to succeed, and you can count on our support and friendship.
Q. – In which economic sectors would you like to cooperate with Burma?
THE MINISTER – We’d like to cooperate in every field: energy, infrastructure, transport. But we also want to support projects in the health field and of course in the urban planning field – housing, the environment, transport, water and sanitation networks –, with a special commitment for large cities and in particular the city of Yangon.
Q. – You’re having a meeting with the head of the armed forces this afternoon. What are you going to say to him? What is France’s point of view on the role of the army in Burma’s democratic transition?
THE MINISTER – France respects Burma’s institutions. So it’s holding dialogue with all the members of those institutions, which are provided for by the constitution. The Burmese army supported the electoral process and accepted the results. We’d like to encourage the reconciliation process. The Burmese army’s dialogue with a country like France, whose army is fully democratic, may be useful. But we’re very careful to respect the civilian authorities’ decisions because, as you know, in a democracy it’s the civilian authorities that lead all the institutions, including the army. That process is under way here and will of course be continuing.
Q. – Is France ready to engage, to take an active part in the peace process in Burma?
THE MINISTER – We respect the role and action of the Burmese authorities and of Ms Aung San Suu Kyi. We’re too respectful of the process initiated here to say what must or mustn’t be done. You’re aware of France’s commitment, the support we’re lending to the government and to the transition that is under way. It demands time – we talked about this together – and a lot of patience, but I believe patience and determination are central to our action, and we have full confidence. You’ve also embarked on a reconciliation process, which is difficult, which demands time.
Whatever help you ask us for, we’ll be at your side. We respect what you’ve embarked on with great courage and great dignity. We’re also aware of the effort you’re making to create the conditions for greater fairness, greater justice, and also respect for your people’s diversity and for minorities. It’s a lengthy task, we know – you’ve told me about it – but you’re determined to carry it out. You’ve also emphasized the importance you attach to the international community recognizing – France will play its role in this – respect for the human rights to which you’ve devoted your whole life./.