President calls for clarity and unity over Brexit process

European Union – British referendum/economic policy/migration/Euro Area/Defence Europe – Interview given by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, to the daily newspaper Les Echos

Paris, 30 June 2016

Brexit

Q. – How did you react to the shock of the Brexit announcement?

THE PRESIDENT – The shock was all the stronger because it hadn’t really been anticipated, including by the British leaders who triggered the referendum, and above all by those who had called for Brexit. There’s always a form of naivety that consists in thinking, despite the lessons of history, that everything will end up sorting itself out and that reason and the European spirit will prevail over nationalism and extremism. The EU isn’t an irreversible process, and the British vote brings us back to the bare essentials. What Europe do we want? And who with? Since the ballot, everyone has realized how attached they are to Europe despite its shortcomings, and also how painful it is to leave it. The first victim of the divorce isn’t Europe, it’s the United Kingdom. And too often, we like Europe when we’re not there or when we’re no longer there. Well, it must be upheld for what it is: an area of peace, solidarity and the future – provided the EU protects people. A jolt is necessary. Inertia would lead, sooner or later, to breakup.

Q. – Is the UK really going to leave the EU?

THE PRESIDENT – Yes. That’s its decision. It must be implemented. There’s no time to lose. That’s what the European Council expressed yesterday with clarity and unity among the 27. The respect due to the British and to Europe justifies going ahead with the separation. Any other reaction would suggest that whenever a referendum gives a result that isn’t suitable, a second one must be organized post haste. Europe needs stability and security in order to concentrate better on its priorities. There will be negotiation with the UK only in the framework of the separation provided for by Article 50 of the treaty. And there will be access to the single market for the UK only if the freedom of movement of goods, services, capital and people is guaranteed. We can’t compromise on that. As for France, it will continue to have close relations with the UK, which is a great friend. We’ll maintain our cooperation on defence and the fight against terrorism, as well as our action to control illegal immigration.

Q. – London won’t trigger Article 50 on the request to leave the EU until the beginning of September…

THE PRESIDENT – I’d have preferred it to be immediate, but I’ve agreed to that timetable, given that it’s known and non-negotiable.

Q. – Is Brexit a victory for the people or for lies?

THE PRESIDENT – The British people may have been misled by lies. It will be their responsibility, when the time comes, to act accordingly towards the leaders who led them astray. But their choice is irrevocable. Democracy isn’t a poker game, especially when those playing take on partners who aren’t around the table.

Euroscepticism/EU response/reforms

Q. – How can this Eurosceptic trend which is threatening to weaken the EU be halted?

THE PRESIDENT – This rise of populism in Europe has been spreading continuously for a decade. Europe must face up to this reality. At the European Council, I asked Europe to concentrate on security, control of the external borders, the fight against terrorism and the defence of our continent, because citizens primarily want to be protected. We must also build a powerful Europe based on growth, investment and employment, of which young people must be the first beneficiaries. On the Euro Area, I want to embark on social and tax harmonization, particularly with Germany. Finally, the way Europe functions must change, without it being necessary to overturn the treaties. That’s the condition for Europe regaining confidence in its future and inspiring hope again.

Q. – The feeling is that Germany has neither the same ambitions nor the same pace in mind…

THE PRESIDENT – Angela Merkel is aware that new impetus is necessary. She’s very committed to the Franco-German partnership. It’s proven itself in recent years on the resolution of the banking crisis, on Greece, on Ukraine and even on refugees. We’re not going to wait for next year’s elections to take initiatives. Those dates – in May [2017] in France, in September 2017 in Germany – will nevertheless provide an opportunity to get our people to validate the reforms which seem to us desirable in Europe and which we’ll present to them.

Q. – Does France have the clout to give impetus to the reforms? “The France of François Hollande is an example to no one,” says Alain Juppé…

THE PRESIDENT – Fortunately, France had the political clout in 2012 to prevent Europe further extending the austerity that had been established two years earlier, particularly on the initiative of the government Alain Juppé was an important member of. Fortunately too, France managed to push through banking union, despite German reluctance, and encourage a more accommodating monetary policy, on the Central Bank’s initiative. Fortunately, France managed to put all its weight behind keeping Greece in the Euro Area, when a sector of the right here was calling on us to exclude it.

Fortunately France managed to be convincing enough to obtain Europe’s solidarity following the terrorist attacks in November [2015] and the member countries’ support for our interventions in Africa. Fortunately Mrs Merkel and I managed to restore the Schengen principles, which had been suspended for a few months. And I support the agreement with Turkey, whereas 11 chapters of negotiation were opened from 2007 to 2012 without anything in return!

Euro Area

Q. – What precisely do you suggest regarding the Euro Area?

THE PRESIDENT – First of all the distortion of competition must be ended, beginning with corporation tax. Secondly, a Euro Area budget must be created to finance investments in strategic sectors (digital technology, the energy transition etc.). And finally, economic governance must be provided for, under the control of a Euro Area parliament.

Q. – Is a Euro Area budget truly realistic?

THE PRESIDENT – The Euro Area can’t be a sum of rules and disciplines, it must relate to common policies to prepare for the future. It’s not about creating an additional tax. Transfers are possible. It must be possible to combine our defence efforts with respect for the essential fiscal discipline.

Q. – According to what timetable?

THE PRESIDENT – On Wednesday the 27 set the rules that must govern the UK’s departure. No informal negotiation or discussion will take place with London until the formal divorce application has been submitted to us – the procedure known under the name of Article 50. Then, in September, there will be a special summit in Bratislava to make progress on Europe’s future. Concrete decisions will also have to be taken for security, growth and young people. I want to move quickly. To wait is to give up. The 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome next March will provide an opportunity to show Europeans’ unity on this new impetus. To want a democratic debate on the EU’s priorities seems to me a necessity. But I rule out shams. Proposing a new treaty between now and 2017 is an illusion and a dead end.

Movement of labour

Q. – On labour migration, what must be changed?

THE PRESIDENT – But who negotiated that directive? The liberals, and first and foremost the British! Who wanted cheap labour from Eastern Europe? The European right, and primarily the British Conservatives. They’re paying the price for that today. France isn’t asking for the free movement of people to be called into question, but for abuses to be ended by means of strict regulation of “postings” and sanctions against dishonest employers. It’s a difficult discussion because the eastern countries are hostile. We must achieve it. Otherwise, abuses of posted labour will erode Europe.

France/EU referendum

Q. – What do you say to those people in France calling for a referendum on Europe?

THE PRESIDENT – Why organize such turmoil, such a confrontation, if you don’t want to leave the European Union? Aren’t the lies, the over-simplifications, the extreme language and even the violence we saw during the referendum campaign in the UK enough for these people wanting to open a Pandora’s box? It’s clearly not a question of distrusting the people. But the date with democracy on Europe will take place in France during the next presidential election. The National Front, which up to now has wanted to abandon the euro, is now announcing that it will campaign for our country to leave the European Union, as the UK has done today. So in 2017, responsibility will have to be taken for this debate. And the British experience will serve as an example, or rather a counter-example.

European defence

Q. – What Defence Europe would you like to see?

THE PRESIDENT – European defence has been delegated to NATO. France has made sure it still keeps its own decision-making autonomy. Yet a continent can be respected only if it is powerful, economically but also politically – i.e. it’s able to protect, defend and project itself. Defence efforts in Europe are inadequate, save that of France. This situation is no longer acceptable. Everyone must make a greater contribution to Europe’s security. Germany is shifting its position on this. I’m studying with interest Thierry Breton’s proposals to create a European defence fund. The idea is to pool investment, including money linked to the security of borders. (…)

UK/EU/finance

Q. – The Paris financial market thinks the City must lose its European passport, which allows a bank set up in London to operate on all Euro Area markets…

THE PRESIDENT – That’s non-negotiable. With the UK becoming a third country again, the European financial passport will have to go, just as it will mean the end of the trade passport and the European passport full stop. Another key point: clearing operations in euros will no longer be able to be carried out in London. For too long the UK has benefited from special dispensations, even though it wasn’t in the Euro Area. It won’t be possible any more. It’s legitimate and logical for French banks to organize and prepare themselves accordingly. And we’ve got to adapt our rules, including tax ones, to make the Paris financial market more attractive.

Q. – Isn’t it contradictory to want to create a financial transaction tax?

THE PRESIDENT – We’re working with several countries, including Germany, on the draft FTT as part of enhanced cooperation. Some people were telling us that if we introduced this tax, business would go to London. That argument no longer holds.

BREXIT/FRENCH RECOVERY

Q. – Is Brexit going to hamper France’s recovery?

THE PRESIDENT – First of all, there’s clearly a recovery in France and unemployment is starting to come down. This is an indisputable fact. Our growth will be higher than 1.6% this year, which will allow us to create at least 200,000 jobs. Brexit will have an unfavourable impact on the UK above all, and a possible recession across the Channel could pose a risk to the Euro Area and France. We have to avert this by means of even more solid support for private and public investment, and a swift, clear European response. The shorter the period of uncertainty about the UK’s place in Europe, the more limited Brexit’s consequences will be on economic activity./.

European Union – British referendum/Le Touquet agreements/economic policy/migration/Euro Area – Press conference by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, following the informal meeting (excerpts)

Brussels, 29 June 2016

Ladies and gentlemen,

EU/Brexit process

Following the dinner yesterday evening in the presence of David Cameron, at which we went back over the British referendum and its consequences, it was necessary for us 27 to meet for a discussion which had to focus on two challenges: what relations to have with the United Kingdom in the period that has just begun, and secondly, what relations we must establish between the 27 to further a number of priorities, the ones I’d already recalled: protection, security/defence, growth/employment, social and tax harmonization, and finally priority given to young people.

So it was on those two challenges that the discussion began during the 27-strong European Council, which isn’t formally a European Council but a meeting, which indeed anticipates what the European Union could be tomorrow, with the UK leaving.

The two principles I spoke about were clarity, first of all, and unity. Clarity means ensuring we can learn every lesson from the British choice. Clarity means letting the British government – the one that will be formed once the Conservative leader has been chosen – submit as soon as possible its formal request for notification of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. In other words, as soon as the government is formed, it must submit its notification, and this will then initiate the two-year negotiation period the treaties provide for.

Clarity means that no negotiation, no discussion, can begin before that notification. It’s notification by the government that begins the negotiation, and nothing about this notification, or about the conditions for this notification, must be argued with.

Clarity means ensuring that as soon as the UK’s formal request for withdrawal is made, the European Council adopts the guidelines for conducting the negotiation with the UK on what the UK’s relationship with the EU will be, with a view to withdrawal. In other words – if we want to continue using metaphors or comparisons –, the divorce settlement must be established by the European Council. And then, of course, the European Commission and the European Parliament will have their role to play.

Clarity means that the UK will, throughout the negotiation period, remain a fully-fledged member of the European Union, with its rights, with its obligations, with its contributions. Then, when the UK is no longer in the EU, at the end of the negotiation, the UK will remain a partner of the European Union and will have a status, which will no longer be that of an EU member but of a third country, a country outside the European Union.

UK/EU internal market

If the United Kingdom wants to have access to the internal market – which was the privilege of being an EU member and which was the major advantage the UK could seek in the European Union –, by being outside the EU, like Norway for example, it has the right of access to the European internal market. But then the UK will have to respect what we call the four freedoms: the free movement of goods, services, capital and people, and there can be no exemptions. You can’t take three freedoms and leave out the fourth, particularly the free movement of people.

Likewise, if in the framework of this negotiation and therefore at the end of it, the UK wanted to have access to the internal market, the UK would have to agree to all its rules, with all the obligations, and particularly one, namely to contribute financially to the workings of this internal market and to its organizational rules. Norway, for example, pays a certain sum for access to the internal market; the same would be true, at a much higher level, for the UK.

So clarity is essential to avoid any guesswork, any questioning, in the very brief period between now and the British government’s notification of its withdrawal, at the beginning of September. Clarity is essential to avoid any questioning, any speculation about what could happen during the negotiation period, which lasts a maximum of two years. Given that there could be a number of British wishes, clarity is imperative in order to know what the EU’s relationship with its friend the United Kingdom would be, particularly for access to the internal market.

France/UK/bilateral relations

At the same time, as I’ve emphasized several times since the British decision, France will maintain close relations with the UK, not only because of its historical ties – which will lead me to be present alongside David Cameron and some of the British Royal Family at the Battle of the Somme centenary; it’s true history binds us together – but also because France and the UK are very close – also linked by a tunnel –, with a very significant presence of French people in the UK and British people in France, with research we share at academic level, cultural policies that we also share, and academic policies that have also considerably increased in recent years. Finally, we have very close economic relations with the British; recently we’ve been talking a lot about Hinkley Point and energy, so all that will remain.

I’m not forgetting defence issues, because for several years agreements have been reached which have considerably broadened cooperation in the military sphere, including even in the area of the deterrent, in cooperation between the UK and France.

Brexit/impact on EU

Secondly, unity among the 27 is essential, not only to resolve the issue of negotiation with the British but, above all, to face up to the difficulties that exist, even though Brexit is primarily a problem for the UK. It’s also more of a problem – as we can clearly see today – than a solution, but ultimately it’s the solution that has been chosen by the British. Even so, we must limit and reduce as far as possible the impact of this Brexit on the European economy. So in order to dispel all the threats, the risks – which are, incidentally, limited – it’s very important for us to ensure Europe can respond, and also its institutions. I’m thinking in particular of the Central Bank, but there will be decisions to be taken in each country to support investment even more, both private and public, to overcome any influence the British decision has on the current European situation.

We also need unity to successfully complete the negotiation; that’s why the European Council has been enstrusted with this responsibility, together with the European Commission, obviously, as a support, and the European Parliament, because it too is a product of European legitimacy.

There must also be unity when it comes to the new impetus Europe must be given in view of the shortcomings, the remoteness, not to say the mistrust that have manifested themselves in recent years in relation to the European enterprise – not in relation to the European ideal but in relation to the way Europe could decide, or not decide, or took a long time to decide. Those shortcomings are linked to how cumbersome it is: it’s true that working as 28 isn’t simple, but ultimately it won’t be any easier as 27, even though sometimes one member can create more debate than others.

So we’re going to have to be able to address these concerns, fears, disputes, even in the European Union. So I wanted us – and Angela Merkel and Matteo Renzi shared this wish with me during Monday’s meeting – us to be able to set not just a road map and an agenda, but priorities too. The road map means there will be a discussion under way from today. There will be a summit in Bratislava in September to start taking decisions and begin a number of reforms, or at any rate new approaches, in the framework, moreover, of the strategic agenda adopted back in 2014, but we must also prepare these meetings and, among other things, call on experts so that we can make progress on a number of issues. Which ones?

Security/migration/defence

To begin with, issue number one is security, border protection and control, and defence – everything which enables Europeans to be protected. Protected in relation to what might happen outside [the EU] – we’ve seen the tragedy of terrorism in Turkey again –, protected also in relation to migration movements, even though we’ve got to shoulder our responsibilities towards refugees. Protected, also, in relation to a number of types of trafficking, or risks which may affect our countries. And protected in relation to existing wars, and conflicts which may affect us. People know what the Chancellor and I have done as regards Ukraine; people know what France is doing with the coalition as regards Syria, Iraq and the fight against Daesh [so-called ISIL], so Europe needs to organize itself in defence matters.

This will also be one of the subjects discussed at the NATO summit in Warsaw, because I don’t want Europe to delegate its responsibility completely to NATO. Of course, NATO is the Alliance, and it’s where there must be coordination, but Europe must make a greater effort for its defence. From that point of view, France has nothing to decide today because we make the biggest defence effort, one of the biggest in Europe, along with Greece. But we have to tell European countries that they’ve got to share this defence effort, pool it maybe; there are ideas which can be put forward on these matters. So that’s the first priority.

Growth/employment/investment

The second priority concerns the trio of growth, employment and investment. But equally, in order for our industries of the future to be more powerful than today – which will also presuppose that competition rules can of course be implemented and, above all, adapted – we need global leaders, and then we’ve also got to have further support for both private and public investment.

Young people

Finally, the third priority for the 27 – and I mean 27 – is how we can give young people more hope, particularly as regards their exchanges, their movement within the EU and also their training, their employment and as regards culture. A provision safeguarding copyright was adopted to this effect yesterday, because Europe is about culture.

Euro Area

If we’d been in a Euro Area meeting, I’d have reaffirmed France’s stance for having tax and social harmonization and also, ultimately – this is one of the things we’ve got to start thinking about – a Euro Area budget and better Euro Area governance, but there were 27 of us.

Europe/future

I’ll end by saying that we must prepare for the Bratislava summit properly because the next few weeks are going to be decisive. Europe must show its strength, that’s the first condition, but it must also show its ability to put forward initiatives, for Europeans and with Europeans, and in a relationship with citizens which probably differs from the past. It’s this ability, based on strength and solidarity, which will enable Europe to regain full confidence in itself and avoid breaking up.

In my view, nothing would be worse than the status quo, because the status quo would, after all, mean the populists continuing what they do, namely forever calling Europe into question on things over which it doesn’t necessarily have power, but so that they can show every time that it’s Europe which prevents us from taking action. We must prevent Europe from being a target and being regarded as the problem whereas in fact it may, here too, be a solution.

This is why nothing should prevent Europe from making progress, certainly not the decision the British have taken, which must be respected and, rather than hindering us, rather than stopping us, must spur us on and give us the essential jolt. (…)./.

European Union – British referendum – Speech by M. Manuel Valls, Prime Minister, during the National Assembly debate on the consequences of the British referendum and the preparations for the European Council

Paris, 28 June 2016

Mr President, ministers, ladies and gentlemen deputies, the shock is considerable and, as everyone fully understands, historic: for the first time since the European enterprise began, a people – the British people – has decided to leave the EU. We often take things for granted, and what’s been done can’t be undone. How many times have we heard people talk about the irreversibility of the European enterprise?

That was to overlook history. History invites itself in when it wants – and especially when people decide it, when people remind everyone who tells them “You have no choice” and “There’s no Plan B” that they alone are sovereign. The British people have spoken. We must respect this democratic decision. It must be accepted by all of us.

The choice is therefore simple: either we do as we’ve always done, closing our eyes to the facts and merely trying to plug the gaps, through small adjustments, or we finally take the bull by the horns, get to the bottom of things and treat this shock as a jolt and an opportunity, because it would be a historic mistake to believe that this referendum only concerns the British people. No! The future of every EU people is at stake here, and therefore also, and above all, the French people. That’s why the government wanted to come and speak to you, in full agreement with you, Mr President of the National Assembly, and at your request.

Because I believe deeply in Europe, through my roots, my origins and my convictions, I refuse to let this grand design go adrift. I refuse to let it capsize and sink, dragged down by the growing weight of populism. I refuse to let us give in to fatalism and pessimism. I refuse to let us be passive. To that end, everyone – and I’m playing my role in this – must re-examine their certainties and question themselves once again.

I’m well aware that some people will say the result of this referendum comes as no surprise. After all, the United Kingdom has always had a “distinctive” relationship with Europe: one foot in and the other out, as people tend to say. That analysis would be fatal. Last Thursday’s vote reveals something much deeper. The time for diplomatic caution is over. We must – if you’ll allow me the expression – clear the air.

This vote shows, in a way, people’s malaise. For a long time they’ve doubted Europe. They don’t understand what it does, don’t see what it brings them. For them, Europe is invasive when it comes to what’s secondary, and absent when it comes to what’s essential. Even worse, they have the feeling that it imposes its decisions and systematically works against their interests. The Brexiteers’ slogan, “take back control” puts things very clearly. We can’t ignore it. Europe will be made with the people. Otherwise it will come apart.

Once this observation has been made, what must we do? I’m convinced that this crisis, like all crises, provides an opportunity for a major transformation. As over recent years, whenever the essentials of Europe are at stake, France has a duty to step up to the plate. It was true a year ago, when we had to rescue Greece and persuade our partners that it must remain in the Euro Area.

I haven’t forgotten that some people wanted to seal that great country’s destiny with a sweep of the hand. Some people wanted to make a Euro Area member country leave, forgetting the very principle of solidarity. The outcome of events has proven them wrong. Even though not everything has been resolved, the country is in better shape today and is grateful to France for it. Rescuing Greece in itself meant rescuing Europe.

A year ago, France, through the voice of the Head of State, played its role. It will do so again today – because we are France, a country that is respected, listened to and heard, because we’re a founding country, because – together with Germany, conscious of our responsibilities – we want to uphold and reinvent Europe, our common horizon, as the French President recalled yesterday evening with the German Chancellor and the Italian Prime Minister, because we know it’s the EU that strengthens us and disunity that weakens us.

I also have a warning for those who believe we’ll strengthen our national sovereignty by scrapping Europe, those who think that we’ll cope better in globalization, that we’ll deal better with the migration crisis, that we’ll combat terrorism more effectively by acting alone, by depriving ourselves of support, solely in the framework of our national borders. Nothing could be more wrong.

But to be European, today and tomorrow, means respecting people’s choices. It means wanting to influence the course of things. We all remember these words uttered by François Mitterrand: “France is our homeland, but Europe is our future”. Being European does not mean betraying France. On the contrary, it means loving and protecting it.

For several days, President François Hollande has been taking the initiative. He wanted, first of all, to meet the presidents of both assemblies, then the party leaders. He then had meetings with the presidents of the European Council and the European Parliament. He spoke to the German Chancellor, the Italian Prime Minister and many of his counterparts. Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of State for European Affairs Harlem Désir and Finance Minister Michel Sapin have been in touch with many people.

Today and tomorrow, the Head of State will be at the European Council, where he’ll send a firm message to the British. Not that we’d like to punish them. That would be absurd, because the UK is and will continue to be a great friend, to which we owe so much. In three days’ time, we’ll be celebrating the Battle of the Somme together. And of course we’ll continue to cooperate, particularly on defence, on migration management and economically.

But Europe needs clarity. Either we leave or we remain in the EU. I understand that the UK wants to defend its interests, but Europe must also fight for its own interests. Since January 2013 it’s been hanging on the British decision. We’ve shown patience and understanding. From now on, ambivalence and ambiguity are no longer possible, because we need stability, and not only for the financial markets. It’s not the British Conservative Party that must impose its agenda.

Let’s be clear. As the European Parliament demanded this morning, the UK must activate as soon as possible the withdrawal clause from the European Union, stipulated in the Lisbon Treaty, to save everyone from an uncertainty that would be damaging, and to protect the EU’s integrity. There’s no time to lose. There will be no negotiations until Article 50 is triggered. If the British want to keep access to the single currency, then they’ll have to respect the rules in their entirety. France will speak firmly, but it must also speak truthfully.

We must invent a new Europe. Inventing means taking a major new step. There was reconstruction after the Second World War and then, during the Cold War, consolidation and enlargement. We welcomed young democracies: Greece, Spain and Portugal. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, we worked for the continent’s reunification.

The historic achievements of the European enterprise, in which France has always played a key role, are irreplaceable. And France guarantees these achievements will be kept. Despite peace, despite tremendous trade and cultural exchanges, despite the creation of a single currency to which the French people are committed, despite Airbus, Ariane and Erasmus, despite all that, a crack has opened up and been constantly growing.

This crack has deep-rooted causes. It is not just a question of pernickety norms, but also of democratic sovereignty and identity. Identity, because people have got the impression that Europe wants to dilute who they are and what centuries of history have shaped. But a Europe that were to turn its back on the individual nations – Philippe Séguin clearly foresaw this – would simply pave the way for nationalism. Such a model putting itself before nations and dismissing what makes each of them unique would fail, and yet some people have led them to believe this is the only possible model.

It’s a matter of identity, but also of sovereignty and democracy. We thought we could force ourselves to grow and enlarge, that when people said “no” it would be forgotten thanks to “more Europe”, that referendums could be bypassed and that the growing rejection of Europe could be treated solely through explanation.

Let’s admit it: since 2005, we’ve avoided the real debates. And we’ve let populism spread its lies and establish the idea that the European enterprise and national sovereignty are incompatible. So we must regain control, reconnect with the motivations for joining the European project, and above all reinvent the reasons for joining, by answering these questions: “Why are we European? What’s our collective project? What interest do we have in being together? To defend what values?

Europe – I believe, ladies and gentlemen deputies, that we share this strong belief – is a culture, a shared history, democracy, the continent where freedoms have been won. It’s about shared values: gender equality and strict standards of human dignity. It’s the aspiration to universality, to protecting nature and the planet. In a word, Europe is a civilization, a centuries-old identity, with deep philosophical, spiritual and religious roots. This identity is not monolithic; it is diverse. Each of our countries has its own characteristics.

Only a Union can protect these in the face of competition from continent-sized countries. Europe is our interface with the world. It must give protection when we need it. It must also greatly increase our strength, enable us to carry more weight than if we were alone. All this lies behind the initiatives France wants to promote.

First of all, it’s about putting security challenges at the heart of the EU. The terrorist threat and the migration crisis are putting the Schengen Area to the test, and we must regain control. In a dangerous, unstable, sometimes chaotic world, Europe is nothing unless it protects itself. Thanks to France, much has already been achieved: the European Passenger Name Record – PNR – and controls on the movement of weapons. We need to go further by exerting genuine control over our external borders, not by leaving Schengen but by profoundly reforming it and working to ensure that the rules governing this area are firmly implemented. Yes, Europe has borders. A border isn’t just a symbolic reality which defines us, which says what we are and what we’re not, which says where Europe begins and where it ends. Europe isn’t an indefinite entity, exposed to the four winds.

Europe must also make a defence effort worthy of the name and be capable of intervening abroad – as France does, sometimes alone, especially because, increasingly, the United States is disengaging. We must no longer hesitate. That’s the principal message France wants to get across to its partners: tomorrow’s Europe must be protective.

And Europe must also exert influence – and no doubt the word is weak – more effectively, by protecting Europeans’ interests. There too, let’s stop being naïve. Third countries like China, India and the United States defend their interests tooth and nail all over the world; and are we not supposed to? Let us adopt a new mindset, in all areas: economic, industrial, financial, commercial, agricultural – the dairy industry in particular – as well as cultural, environmental and social! Europe must no longer be perceived as the Trojan Horse –not to mention the fall guy – of globalization. It must protect its interests, its workers and its businesses. And since it is in the news right now, I’m thinking in particular of the steel industry, which employs thousands of people in France.

We must show the same firmness in negotiating the transatlantic treaty, TTIP. We must state the facts: this text – in which not a single one of our requests has been granted, whether in terms of public procurement contract access or geographical indications – is unacceptable. We cannot open our market up more widely to US businesses while they continue to bar access to ours. Europe is only 8% of the world’s population, but it’s an economic and trading power.

To maintain its ranking, make its voice heard, carry weight with the major blocs, build a strong and strategic relationship with that continent of the future, Africa, and defend its cultural exception, it must assert itself as the power it is, and give itself every means to do so. As the President said very powerfully on Friday, Europe must be a sovereign power taking its own destiny in hand. With this in mind, it must invest heavily for the sake of growth and jobs and develop an industrial strategy in new technologies, the digital revolution and the energy transition. The Juncker Plan is already a success. In France alone, €14.5 billion-worth of projects have been funded through it. We need to go further, more quickly, double this plan and step up investment to support growth, because it’s a matter of urgency. We must continue tax and social harmonization – and from the top down! – to give our economies rules and our fellow citizens safeguards.

Some people say this is impossible, but what we’ve achieved when it comes to [combating] banking secrecy, when it comes to a common set of social rights, we can also do when it comes to fighting all forms of dumping which are undermining the European project from within. With the establishment of a minimum wage, with the fight against fraud regarding the posting of workers. This fraud, to take but one example, rides roughshod over the most basic rules regarding workers’ rights: pay, working hours and housing. And should Europe remain somehow powerless? No. If we don’t act on this, one of the pillars of the Treaty of Rome – the free movement of workers – will be swept aside. This is why the 1996 directive must be thoroughly modified. The Commission has proposed this; it’s up to us to adopt it without ignoring the obstacles. Otherwise we shall have to shoulder our responsibilities.

Finally, we’ll have to strengthen the Euro Area and its democratic governance. In my general policy speech, back in April 2014, I asked for a more active European Central Bank. A great deal has been done, on our initiative more often than not: the Euro Area is more powerful and resilient than it was in 2008. But there must be greater convergence between member states and greater legitimacy in the decisions taken. This is why there needs to be both a Euro Area budget and parliament.

So we’ve got to reinvent Europe, but there also needs to be a new way of building Europe. By giving the impression that it intervenes everywhere, all the time, Europe has grown weaker. Europe must be proactive when it can be usefully effective, but it must be able to step aside when powers have to remain at national and even regional level. This is what President Juncker firmly believes, but this new philosophy is far from getting through to everyone in Brussels and elsewhere. It’s high time we overcame pointless opposition. Europe does not signal the end of states, rather the shared exercising of national sovereignties when this proves more effective, when the people choose it. As Jacques Delors has already said, it’s a federation of nation states. And the role of France is to give a lead to the nations. One example: France fought for border guards to be swiftly deployed because we know that our country’s sovereignty, that the operational control of our borders must start in Lesbos and Lampedusa.

We also need a Europe that comes to decisions quickly. It can do this, as shown by the negotiations conducted in record time for the Juncker Plan. And if a few have to pursue what the 27 aren’t ready for, well let’s do it! Let’s leave rigid ways of thinking behind! Europe is not about being uniform; there are differences.

Finally, the European democratic debate absolutely must be of a higher calibre and more thorough. It’s also something the British ballot has taught us: if we don’t talk about Europe, the populists have no difficulty making things up, getting things wrong, and I think the British are realizing this today. It’s serious for Europe and fatal for democracy. Europe can’t be confined to states reporting back on the management of their budgets. There must, of course, be rules, and France respects them; but let’s be wary of this image of a punitive Europe, advocating an ultra-free market and budgetary austerity. Our fellow citizens reject this too, and they wouldn’t understand if the European Commission’s sole message in the next few days was to punish Spain and Portugal. We don’t want that any more. (…)

So I would like the European bodies to have much more opportunity to report on their action before national MPs, and you should also make full use of the powers of scrutiny that Europe has made available to you. I welcome the formation, on the initiative of President [of the National Assembly] Claude Bartolone, of a fact-finding mission, which he will chair, on the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union. The government would obviously like to involve Parliament as much as possible in these matters and is at the disposal of both the National Assembly and the Senate. There needs to be a change of culture: European matters are domestic matters. Many proposals are on the table today. Some suggest a new convention, a committee or work to be done with experts. No doubt we’ll have to choose one of these paths.

Others talk only of a referendum. We must, of course, give the people the opportunity to have their say! But let’s be clear, let’s not mislead the French people: a referendum can’t be used to get rid of a problem. Even less can it be used as a roundabout way of resolving problems of domestic politics: we’ve seen what comes of opening Pandora’s box. I want to be even more clear. Through a referendum, the National Front is pursuing basically only one objective, which has now been laid bare: to make France leave the European Union and thus consign it to the history books. What a strange ambition for our country and what a warped view of patriotism. Our role as politicians isn’t to follow but to illuminate, to show the way forward and be equal to the task. Yes, to be equal to the task. The issue France faces isn’t about leaving Europe, leaving the European Union, but about radically reforming the European project. The presidential election will also provide an opportunity to settle these debates. I personally think at the moment that we also have to find new solutions for co-building with the people, centring on projects and proposals. I’m thinking of the example of COP21, which was interesting. We must be able to get citizens regularly involved. The European and national parliaments have a full role to play, of course.

Let’s take a concrete example: national parliaments – and so you yourselves – will have to express their views on the free-trade treaty between the European Union and Canada. The European Commission must understand this. On these issues, the decision taken by the nation you represent can’t be ignored. Strengthening the nation means being stronger to promote and reinvent the European project.

Ladies and gentlemen deputies, there’s an urgency which Europe must address right now: the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union; security, with the protection of our borders; and growth and support for investment, of course. There’s also the long time [things will take]. It must be said: the process of radically reforming Europe will take time. The next chapter of history is unwritten. Europe has a choice. Either it refuses to completely change and its people will continue to shun it, thus consigning Europe to the history books, or it is prepared to reform, to act for its people, with due regard for everyone and the interests of all; it will then be able to win back the hearts of Europeans.

Change in order to radically reform, to open up a new horizon for our children: this task is our responsibility, it must be that of Parliament and this country’s political forces, working as one and in unity and looking at the big picture in order to confront the real challenges ahead of us. We owe this to France, to its profoundly European people and to the new generations. This is the choice we face. It’s our responsibility to know how to make it./.

Published on 14/07/2016

top of the page