Foreign Minister sets out France’s goals for 2019
Foreign policy – New Year greetings to the diplomatic corps by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs (excerpt)
Paris, 4 February 2019
The year is already well under way… And if there’s still time, allow me to wish you every happiness and success in 2019, both in your personal lives and in the tasks you carry out to serve your respective countries.
I’m very happy to see you again at the Quai d’Orsay for this ceremony. In a world which, in the past year, has lost none of its complexity, I strongly believe that diplomacy today is an invaluable bulwark against the outbreaks of chaos that threaten us. We’re living in a troubled and volatile international environment. The assertion of power too often follows the path of confrontation. The rise of populism renders only more arduous the task of those who intend to offer real responses to the challenges we now all face, be they economic, climatic or migratory.
In this worrying climate, France calls on people not to fall for these trends but uphold, against all odds if necessary, the choices and values that make it an open and stable power. That’s the course set by the French President, and that’s the ambition our diplomacy will pursue in 2019.
2018 frequently showed that many of us share this vision and this project. As we take stock, a few images come back to me: 70 heads of state gathered in Paris for the centenary of the Armistice of 11 November 1918; thousands of global governance players meeting shortly afterwards in the Grande Halle de la Villette for the first Paris Peace Forum; the adoption of a Paris Call for digital peace; the launch of an initiative against impunity for the use of chemical weapons; and the Citizens’ Consultations on Europe. Those were all major engagements which many of your countries attended, and I’d like to thank you for that here.
If France has demonstrated an ability to carry others along with it, it’s probably because President Macron’s election in the spring of 2017, and the huge project of modernizing the country that he launched when he arrived in the Elysée Palace, created a genuine “France moment” on the international stage. I’ve seen it myself during my many visits to your capitals. From being expected to speak out, France has once again become, over the months, listened to. At home, this renewed interest has helped revive the internationalist spirit, which is excellent news for our country. Thanks to this commitment, our country is again regarded as a land of opportunity where it’s good to do business.
The success of the second Choose France summit, hosted by the President on 21 January, testifies to our country’s renewed attractiveness to international economic decision-makers.
Situation in France
Ladies and gentlemen,
In recent weeks, however, an expression of deep-seated malaise has shaken our country and, I know, worried some of our friends around the world. I want to emphasize that we won’t let these events destroy the impetus driving us. We’re being especially vigilant as to their impact on the dynamism of our economy and our tourism sector. The President announced significant measures at the end of December. Little by little, they’re enabling us to return to the peaceful climate we need to continue transforming this country. The great national debate we’ve embarked on will allow us to better define our collective project, and our national contract will enable us to come together more effectively and allow the President, when the time comes, to take the important decisions he announced.
Ladies and gentlemen ambassadors,
In 2019 we want to continue every aspect of our active diplomacy. Our top priority will be to take action for French people’s security and our collective security. That’s what we’ll do in March via the French presidency of the United Nations Security Council and throughout the year, seeking paths everywhere to resolve crises. As the President emphasized in his New Year greetings to the armed forces, we’ll pursue our commitment to fighting the terrorist groups which are rife on our continent’s doorstep and still pose a terrible threat to our fellow citizens.
To extinguish these sources of conflict for good, we must carry out, alongside our military operations, ambitious efforts to support those regions’ development and political stabilization: it’s the ultimate mission for our diplomacy and an integral part of our security policy, and we’re applying it to each theatre of crisis.
Middle East and Sahel
In Libya, we’re at the forefront in supporting the efforts of the United Nations and the Secretary-General’s special envoy, and in helping implement the road map decided upon, first in Paris and then in Palermo, and ensuring the Libyans embark on this route as soon as possible.
In the Levant, we’re conducting resolute action to combat the terrorist threat, stabilize the liberated areas with our forces’ support and also provide the countries weakened by the crisis – like Jordan, which I visited recently – with the means to ensure their stability.
As you know, the situation isn’t the same in Iraq and Syria.
In Iraq, the terrorist threat has become more diffuse, more asymmetrical. The stamp of Daesh [so-called ISIL] has given way to a resilient presence at certain points in the country and to clandestine activities.
In Syria, on the other hand, Daesh hasn’t yet been fully defeated on the battlefield. The jihadists’ fierce resistance in their final enclaves testifies to this, as do the attacks, which are increasing in number both in the area under the regime’s control and in the areas liberated by the Syrian Democratic Forces.
Moreover, our determination to combat Daesh and its metastases mustn’t make us forget how dangerous al-Qaeda is, particularly in Idlib Province, which is a veritable humanitarian and security time bomb and therefore requires very close attention and coordination by all players.
In both Iraq and Syria, there will be no long-term victory against Daesh without political consolidation.
In Iraq, reconciliation and reconstruction must be carried out inclusively, with due respect for all minorities, and the new Iraq authorities I met a few days ago assured me that this is indeed their goal. We’re going to support them in this undertaking, on which our own security also depends.
In Syria, it’s more necessary than ever to set in motion a negotiated political solution. A new United Nations representative, Mr Pedersen, has been appointed. I’ll be hosting a meeting with him very soon. The search for a political solution, however, doesn’t mean impunity for the crimes committed in that country, whoever the perpetrators may have been. With our allies, we’re also remaining especially vigilant about the risk of a new chemical attack. And if such an attack occurred and were verified and lethal, rest assured that we’re fully determined to respond to it.
In the Sahel, Operation Barkhane will continue as long as necessary. Thanks to our efforts, we’re making sure the international community is spurred into action to support the Sahel forces grouped together in the Joint Force, and also to support a sustainable development agenda thanks to the Sahel Alliance.
And to address all these challenges, particularly in the most vulnerable regions, we’re preparing to strengthen and update our development tool.
The French President has made official development assistance one of the priorities of his five-year term. After a long period of diminution, he’s pledged to reverse the trend and ensure that our official development assistance reaches 0.55% of gross national income by 2022. We’re currently on target, because the 2019 budget includes €1 billion of additional commitments in donations to our partners in the South. I’ll soon be bringing before our Parliament a new framework and estimates act, to specify the various stages of this new pathway.
2019 will also see us manoeuvring and taking action to defend and strengthen the multilateral system, on which our very collective security depends, as does our ability to tackle the major challenges we have to take up together. Whether it be the new threats emerging in cyberspace, the regulation of international trade, or climate and environmental issues, what these challenges have in common is that they call for concerted responses. In a world that is more interconnected than ever, we have to acknowledge that no genuine power exists which isn’t shared in a collective framework.
Climate challenges are a perfect illustration of this. Since 2017, we’ve collectively undertaken to tackle them head-on, on the basis of the foundations laid in December 2015 with the Paris Agreement. The COP in Katowice enabled us to implement these goals in practice, which is clearly a cause for satisfaction. We must resolutely continue this effort.
The French G7 presidency, which has just begun, gives us the opportunity to show that collective action can be effective. We intend to fully grasp this opportunity, without hesitating to show creativity and update the G7’s formats and ambition. For example, in the framework of coalitions on priority issues, we’ll seek to involve “willing countries”, as we call them, which share our democratic values and our commitment to international cooperation. But beyond formats, our commitment to multilateralism also reflects vision shared between states. Multilateralism is a political project based on the principle of equality between states and the desire to overcome individual interests by serving the general interest, through concerted collective action. So it’s not only a formal framework – far from it.
It must allow us to deal collectively with crises – security, health, humanitarian and ecological crises – as soon as they arise, but also confront the major global challenges which I was alluding to and regulate the effects of global inequalities in the medium and long terms. As the President announced before the United Nations General Assembly in September 2018, this goal to reduce inequalities will be at the heart of France’s G7 presidency, whose central objectives I presented to you in Biarritz in December last year. Our diplomacy will work to make concrete progress on this vision of a world where growth, resources and wealth are better shared out. There’s a huge amount to do to ensure greater fairness when it comes to taxation, the digital economy, equality between women and men, and equality in education and healthcare. And I think this is an urgent task, because if regulation doesn’t temper the excesses of global inequality, if justice isn’t brought to bear when pure power relations predominate, ours will be a time of descent into the chaos which is always created by injustice.
We also expect our G7 presidency to enable us to inject momentum into the reform of the WTO decided in Buenos Aires; make progress on combating climate change and protecting biodiversity, which a session at the One Planet Summit in Biarritz will focus on; deal with digital issues and the defence of democracy; and lastly, forge a strengthened partnership with Africa.
Defending human rights, as the Nuncio recalled earlier, also comes under this aspect of our diplomacy. It is up to us individually but also collectively to resolutely champion the idea that certain universal rights are guaranteed to men and women of all nationalities.
This isn’t about us wanting to foist concepts on everyone which are seemingly specific to the West; quite simply, all states have subscribed to obligations, those of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of the 1966 covenants.
We shall implement this policy in a very practical way. We shall implement it in a very practical way in particular by supporting the International Criminal Court, in response to the attacks it endures, or by financing NGOs, the international organizations active in this field, beginning with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The overhaul of the European project will also, of course, be at the heart of our project for 2019 and the next few years. For this to happen there has to be a renewal of legitimacy, which must be sought at the ballot boxes this coming May; there has to be a strengthening of European sovereignty in every sphere. The President’s speech at the Sorbonne in September 2017 is still, for us, the road map. I realize that the debates today across Europe are raising many questions in our countries; centrifugal forces are at work, of which Brexit is the prime example. The efforts to undermine made by some movements, which present simple ideas but never truly viable solutions, creates illusions. If it’s not the timid nature of some solutions and the divisions cutting across the 28 which are weakening Europe’s voice, it’s Europe’s closest allies challenging the very principle of it.
So a burst of momentum seems to us necessary and, frankly, vital. In this respect 2019 will be a moment of truth. There are solid foundations on which to build: the unity of the 27, which has never failed, even during the toughest negotiations. This unity is increasingly evident in new spheres of international relations such as climate and the digital economy.
The Europe we want is a united Europe, a Europe which protects.
To this end, we’ll continue to make headway on deepening the Euro Area and creating a dedicated budget. We’ll negotiate a new financial framework which will set new priorities – defence, innovation and mobility. We’ll seek an agreement on taxing the digital economy to put an end to the genuine tax injustice constituted by the situation with certain Internet giants.
We’ll continue to put forward an ambitious European trade policy –without being naive about unilateral actions and threats to our economy –, but one which is also able to promote our economic interests at the same time as new social and environmental imperatives.
We’ll also make headway towards a genuine European defence policy, whose various components are gradually falling into place, be it in terms of finance, with the European Defence Fund; in the capabilities sphere, with the initiatives on the intervention capabilities we’ve started to promote; in the operational sphere, with the strengthening of operational planning and preparation resources; or in the political sphere, as shown recently by what’s in the treaty signed with Germany, which includes a mutual defence clause, unprecedented in our two countries’ relations.
Those are a few of the priorities and main themes which will structure our foreign policy this year. Once again, I wish you all the best for 2019. (…)./.