France urges Russia to engage in "strong multilateralism"

Russia – Speech by M. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic, at the International Economic Forum (excerpts)

St Petersburg, 25 May 2018

(Check against delivery)


Siege of Leningrad

Thank you, Mr President, for welcoming us to this forum, in a city that reminds us so very much that when trust is lost, it can lead to the worst things. (…)

This morning I was at the Piskarevskoye Memorial Cemetery to pay tribute to those who, just a few decades ago, endured one of the world’s longest sieges in this city, where millions of lives were lost – soldiers, inhabitants, children – and which, after having more than 3.5 million inhabitants at the beginning of the Second World War, emerged from it with barely 500,000.

I know, Mr President, that your own family experienced this history intensely.

I want to begin my remarks by referring to it, both to pay tribute to the history of this city and the people who underwent that siege and to say that when trust begins to be lost and we don’t pay attention to it, when we don’t understand that warning signs suggest something more serious is looming, we may be led to shoulder historic responsibilities without seeing the ill winds arising.

Trust in international relations

Indeed, the time we’re currently experiencing is a time in which trust at international level is being shaken by many geopolitical, sometimes military, and sometimes also economic phenomena that can lead to the worst things.

So the theme you’ve chosen for this year seems to me to be the right one. Trust isn’t simply formal respect for the rules, it isn’t the minimum degree of trust – no. It’s the ability to have trust in oneself in order to inspire trust in others. It’s the ability to build something long-term in a common spirit; ultimately it’s what is best expressed between Bezukhov and Karataev in War and Peace. (…)

So it takes time, respect for others, knowledge of our shared history, a dialectic in relations with others and with oneself, and that’s what we must build today.

Franco-Russian relations and trade

I believe very strongly that the relations between France and Russia today are enabling us to build trust, despite the very difficult situation we’re in, and I’d like to come back to this first point.

Trust – real trust – is built step by step, and that’s what we’re doing with Russia at the economic level. Together we’ve worked to master the civilian use of the atom, we’ve forged ties to ensure Europe’s energy supply, we’ve pushed further with the dream of space exploration and we’ve built and maintained – despite the ill winds – major projects in the energy field.

French businesses – as we were mentioning earlier – were there when Russia entered into recession in 2009, and then in 2014. They haven’t left, and they’ve kept their place in all the business sectors where they’ve invested. France is therefore currently one of the leading foreign employers, with nearly 170,000 jobs. We’re among the very top investors in terms of inflow. The European Union is Russia’s leading trading partner, accounting for 45% of its exports, far ahead of China. (…)

To continue in this direction, I’m also calling for us to go on working together – and I welcome the speech President Putin, cher Vladimir, has just delivered – to ensure that rules favourable to business are respected, to always react proportionately to sanctions, to refrain from any self-absorption, and to respect the multilateral commitments made at the World Trade Organization on tariff and non-tariff barriers.

We must lend clear support to the Franco-Russian strategic plan and renew our cooperation, in support of the diversification of the Russian economy, by developing it in new sectors that will be the drivers of tomorrow’s growth, new forms of mobility, cities, health, urban transport and digital technology. We must do so in a context all of whose difficulties we’re aware of, but precisely in order to overcome them.

Russia and Europe

I very strongly believe that Russia’s history and destiny lie in Europe, but in a partner Europe which – cher Shinzo, Minister – is destined to work with everyone and talk to both the Middle East and Asia. But our history, our roots are the same.

It’s just that these past 25 years have sometimes been built on misunderstandings and probably mistakes, which have sometimes fuelled tensions and may have made us diverge at the very time, over these past 25 years, when we should have, in a way, reconciled our histories, finished building a common history – the same one that our literary imaginations, histories, geographies and profound identities should have led us to create.

So I’d like us, in the coming decade, to succeed in working together to recreate this same European trust that is essential. This means sharing geostrategic decisions, it means being able to settle existing disputes and ongoing crises. I talked to President Putin about this yesterday; we’re aware of the framework, the format; we must now work and move forward. It means promoting new projects and a new philosophy for our Europe.

I’ve just heard you talk about your four priorities, Mr President. Bringing mankind – a new humanism and the determination to recognize and allow the expression of all mankind’s freedoms – into a society that has confidence in itself: that is Europe’s founding project.

So with this in mind, I’m convinced that it’s through these roots and this strong partnership with Europe that you can live better, build a stronger economic model and a social model in which – I heard you – your people will live better. This is what has fed, fuelled the history of Europe, the continent where democracy, the progression of the middle classes, the market economy and social equilibrium were invented. (…)

Together we must also manage to improve the workings of peace and security mechanisms on the European continent; it’s our responsibility. Reviewing this architecture is in our shared interest. So let’s get round the table and work. I’m ready to.

The window of opportunity exists: it’s now, and if it’s not grasped it could close again. That’s why I’m committed to Russia being anchored in Europe and with Europe. I’m committed to Russia’s presence in the Council of Europe, and I’d like our strategic dialogue on economic, strategic and defence issues for the coming decade to be given fresh momentum.

Globalization and mistrust

Because in fact – and this is the second point I’d like to stress – the issue of trust posed at global level puts us in an unprecedented situation. There are all the fears we’re aware of in the face of climate change, energy transformations and a digital world where everything is accelerating. There are current inequalities in the world, with our global organization experiencing a crisis which has made inequalities increase within countries and between countries and which has weakened, in a way, this consensus of the middle classes.

Yes, we’re experiencing – and have been for several years – a crisis of contemporary globalization that is sowing doubt among our peoples. It’s what has led to choices in recent years in places we thought they were impossible, from Brexit to the rise of so-called “illiberal” regimes; a crisis has taken hold today in much of the world.

But in the face of this crisis – whose causes, I believe very strongly, are our peoples’ mistrust and the lack of effectiveness and fairness of this development –, we see a response taking shape internationally, and you’ve complained of it: namely, the fragmentation of the world. It consists in playing on people’s fears, seeking to divide people and, in a way, to fuel this crisis of trust through even greater mistrust.

Whether it be trade, defence and collective security issues, or digital matters, division will only be the instrument of fear.

And Japan, Russia, France and, with them, China and all our partners have a common interest: namely to respond in this context by inventing a new approach and relying on a few simple principles, and this is the third point on which I’d like to conclude my remarks.

Strong multilateralism

In order to combat mistrust, we need to establish the terms of what I’ve called this strong multilateralism. For me, it requires three levers: properly-understood sovereignty, resolute cooperation and adherence to multilateralism, to which we must restore meaning and content.

The first thing is sovereignty; you can’t trust one another – as I was saying when I mentioned War and Peace – if you don’t have trust in yourself, don’t respect yourself and can’t command respect.

In this international context, I’m committed to sovereignty in all its forms. I’m committed to our respecting each other and to there being no interference of any kind whatever. When one of us takes a sovereign decision to adhere to an agreement, I’m committed to their being able to remain in it, even if another decides to leave it. It’s a sovereign choice. I’m committed to genuine sovereignty being upheld in every area. Why? Because that’s the precondition for respect, but it’s also the precondition for smooth interaction with the business world.

What are you asking of us? To be able to resolve problems, to enforce rules, sometimes to set limits; that’s the very principle of sovereignty. What are our fellow citizens asking of us? To be able to explain this. Who explains it, other than the leaders of states or structures in which they’ve decided to cooperate?

It’s for this reason that I’m committed to my country’s sovereignty and the choice we made to sign the Iran nuclear agreement, a sovereign choice to sign a treaty and thus comply with international law. Pacta sunt servanda: signed treaties are there to be honoured. (…)

I’m committed to my country’s sovereignty and want here to build a sovereign framework regarding cyberspace and the protection of all information given in it and of discussions carried out in it. (…)

European sovereignty

I’m also committed to European sovereignty, which, if these new global rules are to succeed, is necessary. This European sovereignty is what we’ve strengthened over the past few months by endorsing Defence Europe, which had been at a standstill since the mid-1950s and which is key to this sovereignty. (…)

I believe in this European sovereignty on the digital front; an unprecedented European regulation comes into force today which is going to protect our fellow citizens’ data and apply to all the major international players operating in Europe – that’s a sign of sovereignty. (…)

It’s also because I believe in European sovereignty that I want to reinforce our sovereignty when it comes to trade and finance. We must be able to be even stronger, not only to protect our strategic interests – we’ve begun doing this by taking unprecedented decisions – but also have financial sovereignty which leads Europe to make its own choices and depend on no one. So the cooperation and dialogue we and our financial players engage in is key to this strategy.

Cooperation/Iran/New Silk Road/Indo-Pacific area/Sahel

The second pillar which accompanies the building of these new international relations and this new world is cooperation. Sovereignty makes sense and is sustainable only if we cooperate, talk, have respect, express our views and strategy, and seek to work. I think that’s what we’ve been doing together from day one.

We have disagreements. But these disagreements happen, in a way, to be shared. They’re known, they’re visible and transparent. But we also agree on many points. We can make progress on these and I think we’ve each shared – again, in an unprecedented way – an extremely clear road map which, I’m sure, will allow us to go further.

This cooperation is what prompts us together, with our partners, with Japan and Russia, not only to uphold the Iran nuclear agreement we signed in 2015 but also to want to go further and, in order to prepare and stabilize the whole region, succeed precisely in having a dialogue with Iran about ballistic activities, activities in the region and, in the long term, nuclear activities beyond 2025. It’s because I believe in this spirit of cooperation that I wanted us to work with our Chinese partner on the New Silk Road initiative, which has the potential to be absolutely fundamental and which – as we know – aims to redefine multilateralism and do so in keeping with our climate commitments, respect for fair trade and respect for the sovereignty and stability of the countries it crosses.

It’s because I believe in cooperation that I wanted to work with Japan, Australia, New Zealand and India on an Indo-Pacific strategy to create the ways and means of achieving this freedom of our sovereignty in the Indo-Pacific area together.

It’s because I believe in this spirit of cooperation that France has pledged, with the Sahel countries and more broadly all the African Union’s member states, to work for a new stability, peacekeeping and counter-terrorism policy throughout Africa.

Multilateralism/international bodies

Finally, after sovereignty comes permanent cooperation; we’ve got to reconstruct, rebuild this strong multilateralism. Everything we were talking about earlier makes sense only if we’re able to safeguard the international framework which enables us to be here. Strong multilateralism allows us to get results, in order to protect our middle classes against jobs being destroyed and price rises which would trigger a trade war, to provide a genuine solution to global imbalances by stepping up our coordination at the G20 and WTO so that technology, finance and skills play a full part in the low-carbon economy, to halt the fiscal and social race to the bottom, develop and regulate the technological transformation and build instruments for peacekeeping and reducing conflict. That’s the aim of multilateralism.

We’ve got the instruments for it: the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund. We’ve got the consultation structures: the G7 and G20. We must work within these frameworks.

It happens that Russia and France are both permanent members of the Security Council. Let’s go further and strengthen the United Nations Security Council precisely to build together this strong multilateralism that will get results – it’s also one of the only means of leverage. It happens that China, at our side, also wants this. Let all three of us, with our two partners, Britain and America, work towards this and make the United Nations even stronger; let’s not allow it to be weakened.

In a few weeks, Prime Minister Abe and I will be at the G7; let’s make the G7 a useful body for bringing peace to trade and ensuring that our international rules and this essential cooperation are respected.

In a few months we’ll be together at the G20, making that forum also one which is useful for the multilateralism we believe in.

In this respect, Japan and France will have an important responsibility next year when they hold the G7 and G20 presidencies [respectively] in the same year. With this in mind I want us to make headway in the next few months and years on trying to rebuild this essential trust based on the triptych of sovereignty, cooperation and strong multilateralism.

As you’ll have understood, France and the European Union are ready for this. With our German partner, with whom we work hand in hand on these issues, constantly and with all the European countries, we promote this ambition and this strong agenda for Europe. (…)

The period we’re living in requires courage – not a courage that divides, not a swaggering courage which consists in setting out forms of sovereignty which amount to separatist self-absorption, non-cooperation and fragmentation. No. A courage buoyed by trust in oneself, ambition, wherever we are, for our country, our businesses and the organizations we lead. We’ve got a great deal of work, and rest assured that France is working to bring about this complete trust and complete optimism.

But this also means the courage to do things together, work together, act together.

Courage has returned to France. It has returned to Europe. It has returned to every country here, and we need it.

Mr President, cher Vladimir, we all know your love of judo. I know you appreciate the values of the Gentle Way, as those who practise that sport – which is also an art – call it. It relies on control of one’s own strength, tactics rather than brute force, and the qualities of determination and respect for one’s opponent. In those values lie many sources of inspiration for the links between peoples and nations.

I love football; it’s a collective sport, but it requires very much the same qualities.

So I’d like us to find in ourselves the strength to get involved together in a collective, cooperative game based on the values of respect and trust that we must more effectively protect. (…)./.

Russia – Statements by M. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic, at his joint press conference with Mr Vladimir Putin, President of Russia (excerpts)

St Petersburg, 24 May 2018


Bilateral and multilateral relations

First of all, I want to thank President Putin for his welcome, and as he’s just explained, we’ve just had a private meeting, then a lengthier discussion, which was – as is always the case between us – extremely direct and frank but, I have to say, longer than our teams had initially planned because it was very fruitful and also provided us with an opportunity, I think I can say, to share in depth the visions we have of our histories and our contemporary duties. (…)

We have a historic partnership, it’s there and it’s strong, and France and Russia have both inherited from their forebears’ struggles a special place, as permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. And this special place in the times we’re living in imposes duties on us, and I talked to President Putin about this. It imposes duties on us because I believe that today we both have no choice but to believe [in] and uphold what, a few weeks ago, I called strong multilateralism, i.e. a philosophy of our international relations that believes in cooperation, that believes in the rules we’ve created and wants to abide by them. (…)

This responsibility we have implies structured, constant dialogue and independence. And as President Putin knows, France’s foreign policy under my leadership is fully independent. We never align ourselves with anyone, we take our decisions by ourselves and for ourselves, we believe in Europe in order to increase its strength, and we’d also like these decisions, when taken, to be respected, taking into account our partners’ interests. And our dialogue with Russia is an element of this independence, as is our membership of a democratic and sovereign Europe, as is the relationship we also have with our ally the United States of America, and this makes up that strong multilateralism I was talking about.

We talk to everyone, and that’s the mark of our independence. We do so directly and frankly; that’s the mark of our reliability. I’m very clear-sighted about any misunderstandings that may have existed and taken root between us. Some of those misunderstandings – I have to say even the bulk of them – can’t be attributed to us, but they exist and so we must be able to re-examine them. (…)

This strong multilateralism, this independence of French foreign policy, also goes together with a few principles I believe in. I believe that we must work – that it’s in our joint interest – to defend our collective security, that we must also defend our values everywhere, but we must also respect the sovereignty of peoples everywhere, and I clearly oppose any attempt to usurp their choices. And in this area, I’ve been clear from day one that France takes stances, builds alliances and can intervene when non-respect is clear in terms of certain rules that have been promulgated with genuine international legitimacy, but never in order to usurp a people’s sovereignty.

I also respect the stronger role Russia is creating for itself in its regional environment and in the world, particularly in the Middle East. And with this regained role comes more responsibility too, and I’m fully aware [of this] and I know President Putin has it in mind. At the same time – and the President knows it – I expect Russia also to respect our interests and our sovereignty, and those of our European partners, with whom our solidarity will always be unfailing, and we also talked about this. I think we can make progress collectively.

Ultimately, what we need today – given our history, given the period we’re in, the rules we’ve set and the interests we have – [is] to continue building mutual trust, and for my part I’d like Russia to understand that France is its European partner, credible, open and reliable when it comes to preparing the future. And I believe our discussion tended towards that. I suggested to President Putin that he engage with France in defining this same strong multilateralism which should enable us to lay the foundations for the contemporary global system, a multilateralism which is no longer the empty shell of ideological clashes but which produces results on clear bases and makes it possible to obtain concrete solutions. That’s in our countries’ interest, and I believe it’s also what drives us.

Iran’s nuclear programme

Armed with these principles and in this spirit, we discussed the major international issues President Putin has just returned to. On the Iran issue, the three European signatory countries, as well as High Representative Mogherini, have said very clearly, since the American decision, that we’re remaining in the agreement and that the 14 July 2015 agreement was, for us, an agreement we’d signed and had to abide by. And I expressed the wish that all the signatories would remain in the agreement and protect it. We thus decided in Sofia last week, at European level, to equip ourselves with instruments and safeguards in relation to businesses, to ensure the agreement’s full effectiveness in every respect, including economically. But I’d also like us to work with all those who have an interest in it, to ensure that this effectiveness is full and complete and that our businesses can also have pragmatic solutions with other countries and other businesses that have an interest – as certain businesses have also done in recent days – in protecting their interests when they’re very exposed to the United States, to the American market, but to ensure we can guarantee Iran the viability of the projects launched.

At the same time, I’d like Iran to remain fully engaged in the nuclear agreement and not resume any activity. In this regard, I believe that the latest information passed on by the IAEA is a step in the right direction and is reassuring. I expressed this wish to President Putin, I believe we share it, and we both endorsed this shared desire to protect this framework, which seems to us to be a useful framework for regional security. I also told President Putin what our other concerns are, and there too I believe I can say we share them: post-2025 nuclear activity, ballistic activity and Iran’s regional activity. I’d like us to begin dialogue with Iran on these issues – I had the opportunity to say this twice to President Rouhani. But it’s clear this dialogue is possible only if we can collectively organize this credible framework of the 2015 agreement, which we’re in the process of doing.

And so I believe it’s coherent for us to work together with regard to Iran, to embark now on dialogue which is frank and sincere but essential for regional security and enables us to move forward on every issue. A few days ago you hosted a meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister; I think he talked to you about it too. We both know all the friendly, allied powers in the region that we respect. They don’t necessarily have the same interpretation of the situation as we do, but we can’t underestimate their concerns and interests. And so, to prevent any escalation, we’re determined to build this broader agreement in the region with Iran and work together to do so.

Syria conflict

In Syria, too, the heightening of tensions between Israel and Iran demonstrates the risk of a large-scale escalation. The time has clearly come to put all the powers concerned by the Syria crisis around the table to achieve a political settlement to the conflict. President Putin has said there are currently two existing formats: the Astana format and the so-called Small Group format, which we created a few months ago now. Those two formats are complementary, and on the Syria issue I’ve always been clear: our priority, our desire, is to eradicate terrorism and combat Islamist terrorism. And even though we’ve taken very clear decisions and have always had clear stances in relation to Bashar al-Assad and his policy, French policy isn’t to proceed from outside with any regime change whatsoever or any transition. Our policy hasn’t been this since May 2017: it’s been to build an inclusive political solution that will enable the constitutional framework to be drawn up which will allow the whole Syrian people – including Syrians who have had to flee – to vote and choose their rulers.

That’s the end point of our political process, and I think I can say our discussion on this was extremely instructive, at any rate for me. And so we expressed the wish, as President Putin said, to establish a coordination mechanism between the Astana group and the Small Group. For me, this is a very important step forward in terms of dealing with the Syria issue. We may have different views, of course, but we have the same desire for stabilization, the same respect for peoples’ sovereignty, the same desire to bring the issue to a conclusion whilst being inclusive and building long-term stability. And so our teams are going to build this coordination mechanism in the coming weeks, but its ultimate goal will be to have an agenda for parallel but common discussions for both groups and to build together – and this will be our responsibility too – the convergences that will, I hope, make this political solution possible. In any case, I very much believe in this option, which I’ve sincerely wanted to see for several months, and in this regard I must say that I’m extremely satisfied with the progress in our discussion.

I also suggested to President Putin that we could work together practically on the ground at humanitarian level. Indeed, I decided a few weeks ago now, at the end of April, to reinvest in terms of humanitarian commitment, and in particular reinvest €50 million to fund non-governmental organizations present on the ground in Syria. On this issue, we’re going to work with those organizations in the north-west and north-east, and I said I’d like us to do so in close coordination, including in the area under the Syrian regime’s control, and do so closely with Russia. I think that this is also what you’ve wanted to see for several months and that this step forward is also likely to make us useful collectively on the ground and enable those non-governmental organizations to work better and gain access to the people in the greatest need.

On the fight against terrorism in Syria, the coalition is completing its elimination of the last bastions of Daesh [so-called ISIL], and we agree that, in the decisions we take on Syria, the need to prevent any resurgence of that organization should be fully taken into account. On the chemical [weapons] issue we have disagreements, we’re aware of them, we shared them, but I’d like us to work internationally to establish a new, independent, impartial and permanent mechanism enabling us to attribute responsibility for the use of chemical weapons, and I’d like useful contributions to be made to this in the coming months.


Finally, on the situation in Ukraine, peacefully resolving the crisis in the Donbass region is key to the return of calm relations between Europe and Russia; this is in all our interests. I told President Putin that the coming months would be decisive if we want to end that conflict. As the President has just said, there’s no solution other than all parties implementing the Minsk agreements on the basis of the very concrete proposals we made with Germany. There will be a technical groups’ meeting in the next few weeks, then a meeting of the foreign ministers in the Normandy format, and I’d like us to be able to find practical ways of moving forward on this too.


As regards the bilateral relationship, we discussed – and President Putin also mentioned this – what is always a sensitive issue, that of activities in cyberspace and cyberattacks, and we were each keen to initiate a process – which hasn’t existed up to now, but which we’re going to implement – to exchange information and address situations in a very concrete way to build a common framework which allows us to start regulating cyberspace between our two countries, with the aim of trying to work with our partners on this absolutely decisive issue.

St Petersburg International Economic Forum

We have an extremely robust economic relationship, as the President said, making France one of the leading economic partners in terms of jobs and investment, and probably the most reliable economic partner over the long term, including at the toughest times. Tomorrow, at the St Petersburg [International Economic] Forum, there will be a very large French delegation, proof that our companies are here and would like to support Russia’s economic and social modernization, the diversification of its economy and its scientific and technological development, and go on playing the role of the country’s leading foreign employer. And despite the sanctions, despite the difficulties, our companies are present, as are our researchers, artists and thinkers, and I think it’s essential that they’re here.

Shared culture

We also noted the very good headway made on the work we began a year ago. We’ve made important progress. The Trianon Dialogue, which is the forum in which we wanted to bring together representatives of civil society, academia and the world of culture. Intellectuals and scientists have worked actively. It has renewed exchanges between our civil societies. (…)

Today and tomorrow, we’re enacting several agreements, around 50 framework agreements in total. And beyond the business agreements signed in front of us, agreements between our major players in the research field, regardless of the sector – space, civilian nuclear power, and energy are being given pride of place at the same time as science, research, culture, heritage and higher education, with the creation of new double-degree programmes for our students right here in St Petersburg. 2018 is also the Year of Language and Literature, a hallmark of which was the Paris Book Fair, which follows the Year of Cultural Tourism in 2017, with the huge success too of several exhibitions devoted to the Shchukin Collection in Paris, and St Louis and the Relics of the Sainte-Chappelle at the Kremlin museum in Moscow. (…)

On all these subjects, we’d like to continue working together, talking and making progress. (…) French children have learned about the vastness of Russia’s territory by reading Michael Strogoff, they’ve occasionally been frightened by listening to Peter and the Wolf and of course they’ve dreamed thanks to Marius Petipa’s ballets. (…)

All this cultural history places an obligation on us, because our imaginations are shared – they’re European. (…) And so I’d like the France and Russia of tomorrow to be equal to their histories so they can build their destiny, in this uncertain world. (…)./.

Published on 08/01/2020

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