Minister talks about EU’s role in fighting terrorism

Fight against terrorism/European Union/United States of America – Interview given by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, to France Inter

Seoul, 24 March 2016

Q. – Mrs Clinton had some fairly harsh, fairly critical words for the European Union after the Brussels attacks, in which several American nationals were wounded. Do you think this criticism – which focuses in particular on the lack of burden-sharing in confronting terrorism, on the porosity of borders and the lack of the EU’s responsiveness – is unfair?

THE MINISTER – As regards sharing the burden, I think it has to be remembered that Europe is in the front line. It’s Europe which is most affected, but we’re not having a competition on who’s been suffering the most. This is no time for reprovals; it’s a time, more than ever, for solidarity. And solidarity also means mobilization, a readiness to fight, determination. Moreover, it’s the message sent by the entire world which met in Paris on 11 January 2015 – with 150 heads of state and government representing their countries –, which stated: “we aren’t afraid; more than anything, we’re going to step up our efforts even further”.

If at every stage there are lessons to be learned, these lessons are that we must be even more rigorous and effective. To take an example: the European Parliament must now adopt the much talked-about PNR [Passenger Name Record], which has been announced time and again, to provide information about air passengers. Clearly there must be no further delay, no more explanations. In my opinion the vote has to be held in the next few days.

What’s also clear is that coordination between states – the exchange of information and intelligence – is more necessary than ever. If lessons are to be learned, these are the ones, but everyone must learn them – Europeans and Americans alike. I think the important thing is to be mobilized, stand together and be effective.

Q. – Mrs Clinton goes as far as accusing the European banks of financing terrorism…

THE MINISTER – Decisions were taken to combat the financing of terrorism. These decisions were taken at European level. They must be implemented worldwide too. Incidentally, this is one of the items on the agenda of the G7 ministerial meeting, to be held in Hiroshima some time in April. I also had a meeting with my Japanese counterpart a few days ago. This is part of the fight against terrorism.

Let me take an example: establishing a national government in Libya is more necessary than ever. What for? Among other things, to control the central bank and assets from oil production to make sure it doesn’t all go to financing Daesh [so-called ISIL].

So this isn’t just a battle for the Europeans or the Americans to fight; it’s a battle which must be fought by the whole of the free world, by all those who believe in freedom and democracy.

Where there are weaknesses, we must address them. Everyone has their own weaknesses and shortcomings, but what interests me is the goal. The goal is to go on fighting to protect our people in each of our countries, whatever continent we live on, and to do this we must continue to be uncompromising and resolved to fight all terrorism wherever it occurs – I’m thinking of Europe, but also other countries where it must be rooted out. This is the thrust of the battle against Daesh in Syria and Iraq.

Q. – Precisely, Mrs Clinton is asking the Europeans to bomb Syria and Iraq with their planes. This is already happening to combat Daesh in Syria and Iraq, so why this criticism, in your opinion? How can it be explained?

THE MINISTER – I don’t want to go into domestic policy considerations; every country has its elections. What I know is that France is committed, like many European countries. After 11 January and 13 November 2015, other countries made further commitments: I’m thinking of Germany, for example, of Britain and Belgium. We’re committed with our military forces in Syria and Iraq to fighting Daesh.

If more has to be done, let’s do it together, i.e. Europeans, Americans, Russians – in short, everyone who can take action with their military capabilities to destroy Daesh, because we must tackle the heart and roots of the problem. But we must also find political solutions in Syria. The ceasefire in Syria must now be permanent and, above all, we must find a political solution to restore Syrians’ unity and enable them to live freely in their country and so rebuild it. It’s one of our duties, as French, Europeans, Americans and Russians. And it’s this task we must devote all our energy to.

Q. – A final question: are the Americans, for their part, doing enough to help Europe fight terrorism?

THE MINISTER – I go by results. I think we can do better, all together, by committing ourselves even more. I think the best response will be to go one step further in strikes against Daesh.

Let me give you another example: do you think it’s acceptable for the conflict in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine to continue, for no initiative to be taken? France took one. I’d like the peace process to get under way again and the Americans to be involved in it. What interests me is concrete [action], the result.

Everyone has efforts and, no doubt, progress to make, but what interests me is the goal. We must share this goal, that is, defend freedom, peace and security throughout the world./.

Photo: Zinneke

Published on 05/07/2016

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