Minister praises US and EU solidarity over terrorism

Fight against terrorism – European Union – Speech by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (excerpts)

Washington, 21 July 2016


Fight against terrorism

As you recalled, a week ago terrorism struck France once again, in Nice, on the day when liberty, equality and fraternity were being celebrated. My colleague and friend John Kerry had stood beside me that very morning in the Place de la Concorde, to share a moment of communion focusing on the values that unite us. A few hours later we heard the terrible news. The attack, which took such a heavy toll on people of every origin, reminds us that we can’t take those values for granted if we don’t defend them ourselves.

In order to defend them, France relies firstly on what it is: an open society, a Republic determined to enable its citizens, wherever they come from, to live together. This system is being put to the test. Since the end of the Second World War, terrorism has undoubtedly been the most difficult of those tests. But believe me, we are utterly determined to protect what we are. Despite the efforts of Daesh [so-called ISIL] and al-Qaeda to divide us, this system stands firm. France will continue to be an open society; in the battle it’s fighting against this scourge, it will also continue to be a country where the rule of law applies.

In order that we may prevail, this battle is taking place in our countries but also abroad, where the hotbeds of radicalization in the Middle East and Africa must be eradicated. It’s not possible to tolerate people in all four corners of the world continuing to be tortured, or our young people in both America and Europe being targeted by deadly propaganda leading to mass crimes. France is making active efforts with its allies and partners. It’s counting on their solidarity, because the challenge of terrorism concerns us all.

This solidarity works in both directions. It’s reflected, for example, in France’s support for African countries’ efforts against Boko Haram or jihadist groups in the Sahel, where, in 2013, our soldiers enabled an entire country, Mali, to be prevented from falling into the hands of terrorism. It’s leading us to intervene against Daesh, with the United States and all our coalition partners, in Iraq and Syria. It’s the reason why I’m here in Washington today. This solidarity also inspires our initiatives to find a solution to the crises in the Middle East, particularly the Israeli-Palestinian issue – for which France is striving to mobilize the international community again – but also, and above all, the Syria tragedy.

We enjoy the same solidarity from the United States, our oldest ally, which has always stood alongside us at difficult times. I must say that the Franco-American alliance has never been closer, in Africa, in the Middle East, but also in New York at the Security Council, and of course in the exchanges of intelligence that are so important to our shared battle against terrorism. The growth of these exchanges is essential if we want to prevent these tragedies –such as those in Nice, San Bernardino and Orlando – from recurring.

This solidarity also comes from European Union member states. It was expressed unequivocally when, after the attacks of 13 November, France invoked the solidarity clause of the Treaty on European Union. It was a first, and our European partners rose to the occasion by lending political and military support, which is again being confirmed today, following the attack in Nice.

To face up to the terrorist threat, our countries need to be strong. They need to cooperate more together. On the other side of the Atlantic, Europe is an essential framework for France in that solidarity. So France needs a strong Europe. (…)

European Union

“Brussels” is often criticized, just as Washington DC is in the United States, but the EU remains strong, whatever all the Eurosceptics may say – as you know, there are a lot of them, and not only in Europe, doing their best to exploit the British voters’ choice, although I’m convinced it’s in vain. Moreover, the vote caused shockwaves, not only in Britain – where the very people who advocated Brexit didn’t believe in it, although it happened after all – but also in the rest of Europe.

Instead, the polls are showing a rise in pro-European feeling – at any rate, so far – in the main member states, particularly because Europeans saw clearly that the Brexiteers were the first to shirk their responsibilities in the wake of 23 June. Basically, after conducting a partly populist campaign, they hadn’t thought about the subsequent days and what they’d have to do if Brexit prevailed. The public felt this very strongly; it’s an important point. That’s why we must make no mistakes now in the way this is followed up, and it’s why I’ve also been clear about how, in my opinion, we must face up to the negotiation in a spirit of responsibility and clarity.

The terrorist threat and Brexit clearly can’t be put on the same level. But they bring with them the same danger: erosion, the temptation towards self-absorption, and an introverted Europe too focused on resolving its own problems to be interested in world affairs. That’s the danger for us: of spending several years focusing on these Brexit negotiations and not thinking about what we can subsequently do for Europe, in the interest of Europeans.

We must fight this temptation, which goes against Europeans’ interests. The fight against terrorism demands increased international efforts. Protecting our fellow citizens is all the more effective when it’s part of a collective effort by the international community. You can count on France to ensure the European Union remains fully engaged, particularly in coordination with Germany.

For France, Germany is the partner we’re moving Europe forward with. It’s an historic responsibility and it’s my priority; you mentioned the beginnings of when I took office, and it’s true that from the outset I wanted to signal the need to strengthen the relationship between our two countries.

We must increase this dynamism and, above all, make it benefit the European project. It was in this spirit that, very soon after the British referendum, my colleague Frank-Walter Steinmeier and I set out common proposals we’d worked on for several months for consolidating and revitalizing the EU, with concrete projects in the fields of security, the economy and migration in particular. Those proposals are a contribution – nothing more, but a contribution – to enriching the discussion that is necessary with our 27 partners, so that in Bratislava on 16 September the heads of state and government can send a message of confidence to the European people, a message of confidence from Europe to the world. (…)

Finally, the European Union is still a global power, regardless of Brexit. Admittedly, it isn’t a state; Jacques Delors talked about a federation of nation-states. The old European nations exist and will exist for a long time. It isn’t a question of creating a federal system which would wipe out each of our nations; it’s an original structure, the only one in the world, which brings together these old nations which, for such a long time, did nothing but wage war against each other.

Today we still form a coherent whole with 450 million inhabitants, and we’re the world’s leading trading power and the leading provider of development aid. For the United States the European Union will still be tomorrow, as it is today, the single market in which American businesses will seize opportunities. It will still be an area of rights and freedoms, a benchmark when it comes to economic regulation, with the aim of creating fair conditions for all businesses – the level playing field referred to so often.

The European Union will also remain a key player as regards stabilization and development in an increasingly chaotic world. As for NATO, in which France has taken its full place again, it obviously isn’t affected by the United Kingdom leaving the European Union. (…)./.

Published on 12/08/2016

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