French armed forces will be heavily in demand - President
New Year greetings to the armed forces – Speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic (excerpts)
Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan, 14 January 2016
In 2016 – I’m not going to hide the truth from you – we still face a very serious threat. We’ve got to thwart attacks and fight terrorism, here and in external theatres. We’ve got to fulfil our missions throughout the world. So the armed forces will be heavily in demand.
In the Middle East with the naval strike group, 3,800 service personnel are taking part in Operation Chammal. It’s a significant effort which is going to last a long time, but it’s necessary if France wants to fight the terrorist group Daesh [so-called ISIL], the very same one which committed the attacks in Paris and Saint-Denis. It’s a role that’s necessary if France wants to play its part, and it must do so to encourage a political transition in Syria. Our diplomacy is also dependent on our defence capability.
In the Sahel, we aren’t through with things. The Barkhane force is having great success, but, at the same time, it must continue to neutralize the armed groups, the very ones occupying northern Mali before I decided to intervene.
Thanks to the Europeans’ solidarity effort, we’ll be able to free ourselves from a number of tasks in that part of Africa. But we’ll also have to continue other operations.
In the Central African Republic, as I’ve mentioned, the Sangaris force – it should be proud of this – has helped bring stability after preventing massacres. Elections have taken place and so we’ll now be able to make a swift withdrawal.
France is also – and the country forgets this – engaged in other theatres. In Lebanon, as part of UNIFIL; in the Mediterranean, saving lives and fighting the heinous trafficking of the people-smugglers; in the Gulf of Guinea we’re taking action against maritime piracy, in the Indian Ocean too; and our special forces are also in the places we send them to, and I want to tell them that I admire what they’re doing.
So to respond to all these demands, which I ask you to fulfil for the sake of our fellow citizens’ security but also to make France’s presence felt, I’ve had to make some choices.
First of all, to revise the military estimates act: to set the nation’s resources at a level reflecting the scale and diversity of the missions I entrust you with.
I’ve also decided to stop all reductions in staff numbers; even better, in 2016, this year, a total of 2,300 posts will be created in our armed forces, enabling the operational ground force to be strengthened. There were years when no posts were created in our armed forces. On the contrary, staff numbers were constantly cut.
The defence budget – despite all the constraints you’re aware of – will increase in 2016 compared with the initial trend set by the military estimates act, with an additional €700 million in funding. And the defence budget will exceed €32 billion.
That’s a lot – for many even this isn’t enough – and it’s necessary. And so I’ve made that choice.
This effort will also be made in terms of procurement. For example, 11 Tigre and NH90 helicopters, nine Rafales, three A400Ms, a multi-purpose frigate and more will be delivered in 2016.
The bulk of these are manufactured in France. They’re also products for export. Whenever he travels, the Defence Minister praises the calibre of our armed forces. He’s right, because without our armed forces, the equipment we can offer friendly countries, through our manufacturers, couldn’t be promoted to that extent. And our commercial success – I’m thinking of the Rafale but not only that – is down to you, and I want to thank you for it, because you know how to use this equipment and show its effectiveness, and you thus help create jobs and promote French technology.
I also want to pay tribute to the arms manufacturers and engineers who play a role in this success, because it’s action by everyone that enables us to obtain these results.
I want to conclude by mentioning the major commemorations in 2016. 2016 will be the centenary of Verdun. For many families, Verdun still remains in their memories: the reality of that hell on earth is passed down from generation to generation. The Battle of the Somme will also be commemorated. The First World War, then. Most of the young men who fought in that war had no choice. They were mobilized and they encountered unimaginable horror. (…)./.