France must be strong on terrorism and in Europe, says PM
Fight against terrorism/European Union/economy/Ambassadors’ Week – Speech by M. Manuel Valls, Prime Minister (excerpts)
Paris, 26 August 2015
Strong diplomacy, then, in the service of a strong France. That, in a few words, is the message I want to send you today.
And France is duty-bound to be strong, first of all – as the French President recalled yesterday – in the face of the global terrorist threat and radical jihadism. We must show the greatest vigilance, the greatest firmness and the greatest mobilization against this multiform, domestic and external enemy, whose modus operandi is constantly changing, as the events on the Amsterdam-Paris Thalys [train] a few days ago showed once again.
Above all, we must call a spade a spade. We’re at war against a new but equally bloodthirsty totalitarianism – a totalitarianism that wants to destroy civilization here in Europe, in Africa and in the Arab-Muslim world, to replace it with terror and tyranny. Combating this terrorist threat will take time. It’s a long-term battle. We owe it to our fellow citizens, our compatriots, to be truthful in our language.
But we’re not unarmed or powerless in the face of this threat, which can strike at any moment. Our strength is a conviction: first of all it’s the Republic, a Republic determined to provide itself with every means, in accordance with the law – that’s the weapon and pride of democracies – to fight implacably. Here in France, of course, but also in the Sahel and the Middle East, where our armed forces are deployed.
Following the January attacks in Paris, the government took the requisite decisions. We increased our intelligence services’ staffing and resources: a few weeks ago we got a very important intelligence bill adopted, giving our services a legal framework and providing them with the legal means to hunt down terrorists more effectively. And I ask you to go and explain to your interlocutors the measures being taken by France in its fight against terrorism.
But we can’t fight alone. International cooperation against terrorism is more of a necessity than ever. Moreover, it’s even a condition of its effectiveness. We must also closely follow the initiatives taken on the fight against radicalization. Our absolute priority, of course, is to arrest those individuals who could take action. It’s also to detect sufficiently early those who, particularly via the Internet, social networks, are about to switch to jihadism. Many of our partners have set up projects involving families, social actors and local authorities which could inspire what we ourselves are putting in place in France, and I ask you once again to be especially mindful of initiatives taken in your respective countries and inform your authorities of them.
Fighting terrorism also means protecting our interests abroad, because they’re under threat, because you yourselves may be under threat. I want to tell you that we’ll never compromise when it comes to the safety of French people abroad or the protection of the state’s representatives and our embassies. Laurent Fabius has rightly made this a priority for the Foreign Ministry’s budget. And whenever it’s necessary, the resources allocated to the state’s security abroad will be adapted.
A strong France is also a France that carries weight in Europe. Europe faces considerable challenges. There is, of course – and it’s the urgent priority – the migration challenge, with its daily tragedies. There’s also the challenge of growth and employment. Finally, there’s the growing challenge to a European project that no longer speaks to people’s hearts, no longer speaks to the young generation. Each of these challenges is huge in itself. Their combination places an historic responsibility on European leaders, on public officials.
Of course, people will say that Europe has always faced challenges since its beginnings, and that basically there’s nothing very new about that. After all, wasn’t it a challenge to have that wild dream, in the 1950s, of establishing lasting peace on a continent ravaged by war? A challenge to want to reconcile history and geography through enlargement? A challenge to throw ourselves into the creation of a single currency? The challenges have always been there, of course.
But today there’s something more – something more serious. The European project is no longer a clear requirement. We must fully grasp this situation, and it’s up to France, a founding country, to reaffirm this aspiration, the European enterprise. Not all alone, of course! Together with the others, starting with Germany. But I’m struck by the fact that, in all the discussions I have with European leaders, our country’s voice on Europe is irreplaceable. This does us credit. Above all, it imposes a duty on us.
Europe must resist the temptation, which still exists, to confront difficulties by centring on its national interests and questioning what has been so patiently built up by generations of visionary leaders.
The ambition must be to go further, to learn lessons from the repeated crises we’re experiencing, because when I see that the negotiations on the third programme of financial assistance to Greece ultimately went well in August, and that it now has the opportunity to turn a new page in its history, with new financial and economic resources, I can’t help thinking that we were 100% right to put all our country’s political might, on the President’s initiative, into keeping Greece in the Euro Area. Something crucial was played out in July which isn’t without consequences, either in the European debate or in the debate in France.
Going further for Europe first of all means making growth, investment and employment central to our policies. That’s the prerequisite. The Juncker Plan, in which France has been greatly involved, is being implemented. The initial funding is available and the first projects, including in France, are starting to be conducted – for example, in the field of renewable energy production, or to support innovative SMEs.
But it’s only a first stage. The investment needs in Europe are considerable. And we wanted this; the subject is now a central plank of the European Union’s economic strategy, alongside structural reforms and the necessary improvement of public accounts. Europe must also prepare the future, invest massively in its research capabilities, human capital and new technologies if it doesn’t want to be left behind by the big American and Asian blocs.
Going further for Europe means preparing the next stage: growing integration of the Euro Area, to make it more effective and, above all, more legitimate. Finally, it’s necessary –as the Head of State recalled yesterday – to provide the Euro Area with an economic government. The Euro Area must be able to build a genuine economic, financial, fiscal and social convergence policy. And as the President announced, France will make concrete proposals on all these subjects in the coming weeks.
Finally, going further on Europe means never hesitating to encourage European solutions wherever they’re necessary. Europe isn’t the solution to all our ills. It can’t do everything, and states must fully shoulder their responsibility in conducting public policy. But not making a full commitment at European level and doing things only by halves – because it would be politically sensitive or because the public wouldn’t understand – isn’t the solution either. Timidity never pays at European level. Only boldness will enable us to move forward.
This is why it’s essential to close the loopholes which end up working against the European project itself. I’ll take just one example, the one which obviously comes to mind: that of migration. It’s together, with a spirit of solidarity, firmness and also responsibility that we must move forward. Among other things, a European border-guard system must be created, a system which – let’s say it straight out – is essential for the Schengen Area’s very survival and credibility. And in this same spirit, the European Union must equip itself with an asylum policy fully consonant with the values Europe advances in the eyes of the world.
It’s in this way, by continuing to take the European enterprise forward, that the EU will be able to affirm its position as a major trading, industrial and cultural power. This requires energy, conviction and determination – and you’re in the vanguard for this. (…)./.