EU must bring hope amid crisis, says French President
European Union – Meeting with Mrs Angela Merkel – Statement by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic
Paris, 15 September 2016
Bratislava summit preparations
I’m very pleased to welcome Angela Merkel here, to Paris, on the eve of the Bratislava summit. Angela Merkel and I agreed to prepare the summit given that it’s taken on the importance we’re aware of, with the British decision to leave the European Union.
So the Chancellor and I have increased the number of meetings. First of all we got Matteo Renzi involved, and together we agreed to make Bratislava a useful summit for Europe. And we also had meetings with all the heads of state and government of the 27.
We also sought to have the best relations with Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker, so that together we could uphold the same priorities and set the same challenges.
I believe we must be clear-sighted about the situation Europe is experiencing. As I’ve often pointed out, it’s not just another crisis: it may be the crisis of its existence, of its very foundations, and that’s why our minds must be focused on giving Europeans a clear vision of what the future will be.
What I want, with the Chancellor, is for us to face up to the reasons that led the United Kingdom to leave the EU, and be aware of the concerns existing in Europe. This applies to the EU’s ability to protect its borders and control immigration. It’s also true given the threats we must forestall outside Europe. You’re aware of the work I’m doing with the Chancellor on Ukraine. You’re also aware of what we’re doing on Syria and Iraq, as far as France is concerned, to bring about a political solution.
In short, we’re experiencing challenges. We know what’s at stake. But we must also emphasize what Europe represents, what Europe is: namely values, an approach and considerable strengths. I’m not talking only about economic power – I remind you that Europe is the world’s leading economic power: I’m thinking about our way of life, our social model, the power of our industries, our culture, which we share and also make even richer by using our diversity.
That’s what Europe is, and it must always bring hope to the young generations, knowing how we can live together, given past history but also the goals we may set ourselves for the world’s destiny, and we showed this in particular here in Paris with the climate agreement. And I’d like Europe to ratify the Paris Agreement as quickly as possible, because we must set an example there too.
So we acknowledged that the Bratislava summit must concentrate on three major priorities. The first priority is security. We must protect Europeans and guarantee border security. We must also be mindful of security when it comes to threats from outside – the fight against terrorism. Our two – French and German – interior ministers produced a document that was later used by all the EU member countries.
And we must also protect by means of fresh impetus for Defence Europe.
New defence capabilities, and also forces that can be projected outside Europe. Let me remind you that Germany lent us its solidarity – as did all the European countries, incidentally – after the terrorist attacks, so that the burden on us could be eased when it came to our presence in one or another part of the African continent. So the first priority is to protect.
The second priority is to prepare the future. Europe must represent – in terms of new industries, what we know to be the technologies of the future, the energy transition and what we can also do in the digital sector, in space – a great project to make us stronger together and make jobs and growth the consequences of it. And here again we’ve seen, in what Jean-Claude Juncker said yesterday, all the conditions enabling us to give the Juncker Plan its full role, its full power and its breadth.
The third priority is perhaps the most essential, if we want to be a continent of the future: it’s about being able to promote values, an approach and a culture, and for young people to be the first beneficiaries of this, but also the first to be affected by it. Here we’ve got a programme we’ll be able to develop on mobility, exchanges, universities, research – everything which, precisely, can give European culture this vision which we must share with the rest of the world and which makes it possible to forge links between people rather than divide them.
I’ll end by saying that what we want to do today, what we want to do tomorrow in particular, in Bratislava, is to establish a Bratislava Plan, which would include an agenda, i.e. a work programme, with stages and a road map. We must unite behind this idea of a Bratislava Plan, a road map, an agenda, and this is what justified our meeting today. I know it’s always difficult for Angela to spare time on the eve of a major summit, but the fact that she’s here – as I was in Berlin a few weeks ago – shows the strength and quality of our relations, as well as the friendship between France and Germany./.