French PM calls for vigilance during presidential election
United Kingdom – Attack in London/French victims – Statement by M. Bernard Cazeneuve, Prime Minister (excerpts)
Paris, 23 March 2017
(Check against delivery)
Ladies and gentlemen,
London was struck at its heart yesterday, in the vicinity of Parliament in Westminster, by a terrorist attack, one year to the day after the attacks that hit Brussels. Sadly, the toll today stands at three dead and 40 injured.
Those injured include three French lycée students who had come to discover London, that magnificent city, on a school trip, and who crossed the path of a fanaticized murderer. All our thoughts go out to them, their families and close friends, and to the other victims of that cowardly attack. The government and the state services were mobilized as soon as the tragedy was announced. The French Consul General in London went to the victims’ bedsides. The consular protection service in London is fully mobilized, and an information hotline for the families has been set up. A plane from our fleet was immediately made available to the families so that they could be with our injured young compatriots. They were therefore able to travel to the British capital yesterday evening. Since this morning, Jean-Marc Ayrault has been in London with the British authorities and the French community in London. He went to meet the injured lycée students in hospital and their classmates at their hotel, to express to them the government’s full support. (…)
Today I want to send Britain’s leaders and people – who are facing up to this ordeal with the courage and dignity that have always characterized them – a message of sympathy, friendship and unfailing solidarity on behalf of France. The French people haven’t forgotten the expressions of warmth they received from their British friends following the attacks in Paris, Saint-Denis and Nice. For my part, I’ll always be grateful for the words and gestures made by my colleague and friend Theresa May when we were both responsible for home affairs and my country was in mourning. As the French President had the opportunity to say yesterday, France today stands by the UK’s side, and our two countries have always stood side by side for more than a century, to ensure that their shared commitment to democracy, freedom and tolerance prevails. Together, as they always have done, they will defeat barbarism and their enemies.
France/terrorism threat/Orly attack
This morning I convened a meeting of the justice and interior ministers and Jean-Marc Todeschini, Minister of State for Veterans and Remembrance, for a precise update on the situation. I remind you that the threat level on French territory remains extremely high and that it’s this threat which justifies maintaining the state of emergency until 15 July.
Indeed, we must be vigilant at all times during the presidential election campaign, to protect our fellow citizens’ security and tranquillity in this crucial period for the nation’s democratic life. The attack that struck London yesterday, like the one prevented thanks to the bravery of our soldiers at Orly airport on Saturday, showed once again, sadly, how necessary this effort is.
I want to pay the tribute they deserve to the domestic security forces, the intelligence services, the soldiers in Operation Sentinelle, and the anti-terrorist judges for the effectiveness of their actions and investigations.
In the face of an unprecedented threat, I remind you that France has created powerful instruments over the past three years. The government has presented to Parliament three bills to strengthen the powers of the courts and investigators working under its authority. It has given the intelligence services legal tools adapted to the digital society. It has considerably increased human and material resources for the security forces and intelligence services.
Our armed forces are deployed on our soil, as they are in foreign theatres of operation – Mali, Chad, Syria etc. – to combat jihadist terrorism, and they’re making a major contribution to French people’s security with the Sentinelle force. Our European partners, too, have been mobilized to improve cooperation between their security services and give themselves the appropriate means to combat terrorism across the continent.
In this context of very high-level threats, the government is playing a fully active role. Ministers Jean-Marc Ayrault, Jean-Yves Le Drian, Jean-Jacques Urvoas and Matthias Fekl – each within their responsibilities and in coordinated fashion – are working tirelessly to protect French people. The level of the Vigipirate plan has been adapted to the electoral situation. Day in, day out, our services are fighting terrorism, arresting suspect individuals and thwarting attack plots. Thanks to their resolute action, 17 attacks were prevented in 2016 and five have been since the beginning of this year.
France today stands alongside the United Kingdom, just as it stood alongside Germany in December and Belgium a year ago, and just as it has shown its solidarity with all the victims of the barbarity of Daesh [so-called ISIL] in Syria, Iraq, Tunisia, Turkey, Egypt, Mali and elsewhere, because we’re more determined than ever to resist and defeat this adversary, which has no conscience, no mercy, and which attacked once again, in the heart of Westminster, the most innocent victims and the symbol of democracy./.