EU stronger together, says French President on anniversary
European Union – 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaty – Statement to the press by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic
Rome, 25 March 2017
EU’s future/60th anniversary of Rome Treaty
THE PRESIDENT – This ceremony wasn’t simply retrospective, it wasn’t just to emphasize what Europe had brought: peace, prosperity for many, the reunification of the continent, the ability to create a single currency, the opening of a great market, the world’s leading economic power. No, this ceremony had a special meaning in relation to the challenges and threats we’re facing.
Are we stronger together or would we be better divided and separated? Well, that’s the answer that had to be provided. We’ll be stronger together in order to face terrorism, avert the conflicts on our doorstep and send a message of openness to the world by means of trade which must be regulated.
We’ll be stronger together so that the planet can be protected, so that we can protect our environment. We’ll be stronger together to guarantee the industries of the future, we’ll be stronger together also to combat the return of empires, of the temptations of influence and pressures from outside. We’ll be stronger together to combat nationalism, extremism and everything that takes us back to what was the cause of so much sorrow, so much separation and war. Yes, we’re determined to be stronger together!
And this message will be valid for the years beginning now, and the fact that all the countries – even if they’re not necessarily in agreement on everything – have signed this declaration, with the idea that those countries which want to go faster can do so, that Europe can remain united but with different speeds, was also an idea which I was championing and which was kept in the declaration.
That’s why it’s not an anniversary like others, because life doesn’t stop at anniversaries. Life goes on, life is a process, and today French people must know that with Europe they can be greater, they can be stronger and they can be listened to more.
Response to Eurosceptics
Q. – Europe is at the centre of several candidates’ programmes: some are in favour, others are in favour of leaving it. Which ones do you feel closest to, and which are capable of best upholding this message in Rome today?
THE PRESIDENT – There are some who want to leave Europe. Well, let them show the French people they’d be better off all alone! That we could fight terrorism without the essential Europe-wide coordination! That we could protect our borders without having coastguards where migrants or refugees arrive! Let them show that without the single currency, without the single market, there would be more jobs, more economic activity and better purchasing power!
They won’t be able to show this, because it’s impossible, because returning to a national currency would bring about a devaluation and a loss of purchasing power; because closing the borders would lead to a loss of jobs; because nationalism would bring about a resurgence of conflicts; and because protectionism would be a further cause of difficulties for many of our compatriots. We can see this from what’s being experienced in a country on the other side of the Atlantic.
So yes! I’m in favour of this debate being started. And for the past five years I’ve been conducting a policy that meant Europe had to change; it has changed. That Europe had to move forward; it has moved forward. It had to resolve its problems, had to keep Greece in the Euro Area, had to be capable of revitalizing the economy through an investment plan; we created banking union.
There you are: Europe is making progress, and it must make progress even faster, because the problems are there and we can’t resolve them simply by imagining that by putting up barbed wire, walls and borders with watchtowers we’ll be able to protect ourselves from everything coming from the rest of the world. No! If we want the world to change, Europe must be stronger, and France must play its full role in that Europe.
Q. – Did you miss Theresa May?
THE PRESIDENT – It was she who chose not to be here. By that I mean it was she, it was the British, who chose. They’re no longer in this adventure, they chose another path, but we must maintain good relations.
France is very closely bound to the United Kingdom: we have agreements, particularly on defence, and we have a lot of French nationals living in the UK. So it’s a sovereign decision, but at the same time we’ll ensure that it’s not to the detriment of Europe and that the UK remains a partner of the EU, but it will necessarily pay the consequences because that’s the decision that was made.