President’s New Year greetings to diplomatic corps
New Year greetings from M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, to the diplomatic corps (excerpts)
Paris, 17 January 2014
In that region, our greatest concern of course is Syria. I don’t accept the choice the world could be presented with, i.e. the perpetuation of a dictatorial regime – Bashar al-Assad’s – or Islamist extremism. I think the majority of people in Syria, from every faith and every community, want only one thing: reconciliation and democracy. This is why France wholeheartedly supports the negotiations under way to prepare the Geneva II conference.
But it must have a clear objective: to make the political transition possible. And all the states which share this goal, the political transition, will be welcome. But at the same time, the democratic opposition, the opposition which wants to play its part in the transition, will attend only if this agenda is accepted and no other. I know that Russia, which is a major player, is conscious of this challenge. (…).
France also intends to play its part in resolving crises. First of all in the Middle East. We’re encouraging the resumption of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. This was the purpose of my visit last November to both Israel and the Palestinian territories. Peace is always demanding, particularly in that region. Everyone knows that it requires and will require concessions, that it can’t comprise the position taken by one side or the other. But there’s an opportunity there, there’s a chance to seize.
I have confidence in the people currently engaged in this negotiation. We know its parameters, too, namely two states: the State of Israel, the State of Palestine, both having Jerusalem as their capital and able to coexist in full security.
What can France do? Encourage, support, talk to the different players. We have this opportunity. But France is also ready to organize, at the most appropriate time, a donors’ conference for Palestine. (…)
Syria conflict/neighbouring countries
The Syria conflict is having many consequences on the region: Jordan, which is seeing tens of thousands of refugees arriving, further complicating its task; and Lebanon, where at least a third of the population is now of Syrian origin. We must help those countries. Lebanon is even more in my thoughts; as we remember, it went through a terrible civil war not so long ago. We must therefore do everything to protect the unity and integrity of Lebanon, where communities of different religious faiths coexist in a democratic system that must be absolutely guaranteed.
I also know that the Gulf countries are making the necessary effort to facilitate these solutions. But there aren’t only continuing conflicts. There are others with a prospect of being resolved. I’m thinking about what is happening in Tunisia, because three years ago the Arab Spring was born there. Today a new constitution is about to be adopted, and new democratic elections will be held this year. This proves that the process can succeed, that it may be knocked off course, that sometimes it may even be interrupted – that’s happened – but that it can also be completed.
This example can inspire other countries – I’m thinking of Egypt, where violent events have taken place but where the goal must be the same: to seek a democratic path where everyone’s rights can be respected. There are interim authorities. They must demonstrate this, and the public consultations to be held soon will, I hope, be an opportunity for it. (…).
2015 Paris climate summit
France has taken on for 2014 a responsibility that will be completed in 2015, namely to organize the climate summit. As I often say, we volunteered to host it, and we didn’t have many competitors because there was the memory of Copenhagen. It was a resounding failure, not for the organizers but for the international community.
The conditions for 2015 seem difficult. But (…) it’s a challenge. The protection of the planet should bring us all together, because whatever our sensitivities, whatever our beliefs, we’ve inherited the world and we must ensure our children can live in a respected environment.
So we must set to work. We’ve done so. I’m going to tell you what makes me confident. Firstly, President Obama’s determination. I would add that in his speech when he was re-elected, he spoke in strong terms about the issue. I’ll have the opportunity to talk to him about it in February, during my state visit.
I also have confidence in the attitude of large countries like China. I’ll be meeting President Xi Jinping very soon, in the framework of the 50th anniversary of our establishing diplomatic relations. I know that in China, India and all those great emerging countries, people are becoming aware of this. The Africans, who may also be the first victims of climate change, are also playing an active role.
That leaves the Europeans. With the Europeans it’s the easiest part; we always agree, but it can take time! So we’ve taken our precautions. We’re going to start at the European Council in March, in order to take a united, firm position. As for the UN Secretary-General, he’s become personally involved and will organize a summit of heads of state and government in New York in September.
In addition to all the factors that make us confident, we’re working in close cooperation with Latin America, particularly Peru, because the next climate conference will be held [in Lima] in December 2014, before ours.
There you are: the timetable is known, the road map more or less, and there’s a great deal of goodwill. We must succeed! (…).
We can all, if we decide to, influence the world’s destiny. But Europe has a particular responsibility. Not because it’s made up of old nations… I won’t go back over this discussion: it’s not only in Europe that there are old nations! What’s important is always to look to the future, face up to one’s destiny, be confident in oneself. That is Europe’s responsibility.
Europe… When I spoke to you last year, I looked at your faces. Sometimes I saw compassion. Ah, this Europe, this poor Europe! What was going to become of the Euro Area? Wasn’t it going to shatter? And the recession that was undermining us, and the speculation that could bring down countries… What’s happened in the past year and a bit? And I don’t want to claim any credit here, because it’s been a collective effort. France, Germany, the big countries have been supportive of those who may have been most in difficulty, from whom a lot has been asked in terms of sacrifices and austerity.
What’s the result? Today the Euro Area has been stabilized. The level of the euro is particularly high. I’ll make no comment. We have solidarity mechanisms that have been put in place: a financial transaction tax has been introduced for volunteer countries, and above all we’ve reached an agreement on banking union, the most ambitious project since the single currency. From now on, we’ll monitor any failing bank, because a mechanism is envisaged to that end, and if, despite the checks, it does badly, it won’t be European taxpayers who are called upon but the financial system itself. So we’ve protected savers and taxpayers. There too, with Germany, we’ve reached the essential compromise, because this is always how Europe manages to move forward.
We also had other grounds for satisfaction, [including] having a European budget adopted. It’s never simple, no matter where – and especially in Europe, with 28 [countries], with countries that want to pay less and receive more. It’s very complicated! And yet that’s how Europe works. We’ve made sure that youth employment is regarded as the decisive priority. But we must also tell Europe that it can’t simply be a market, a currency, instruments, mechanisms… It must have an ambition. What ambition?
First, defence. We’ve started working on this, with the common desire to develop new capabilities, get our defence industry to cooperate more and include countries such as Poland, which wants to play its full part in this initiative.
Second goal: energy. I was talking about the climate, but I could also have said that, when it comes to competitiveness, we’ve got a great deal to do as regards energy: conduct a policy both of diversification of resources and network sharing, and get a genuine European energy community under way.
The digital economy. We’ve also got to master the technology, protect our personal data and make the most of all this stock of information. That’s a fine ambition for Europe.
A number of challenges also remain. We know what they are: among other things, the protection of our borders and immigration control, because, heaven forbid, we don’t want to relive what happened only recently on Lampedusa. What must be created? A comprehensive policy of prevention in the countries of origin, border protection and solidarity.
Finally, I don’t want Europe inevitably to have to go on extending its borders, but [rather it should] talk to major countries, Russia in particular, as part of a strategic relationship. (…)./.