President Hollande focuses on EU talks in Malta

European Union – Malta summit/Carrousel du Louvre attack/migration/Libya/United States/Russia/Brexit – Press conference by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, at the informal European Union summit (excerpts)

Valletta, 3 February 2017

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EU/migration/Libya

Now for the issues that were discussed at the summit. The first one – which was also its main focus – was migration.

Much as migration in the eastern Mediterranean has been brought under control in recent months, particularly through a number of measures we put in place – coastguards, hot spots and also cooperation with Turkey, with an agreement which was reached and has been honoured –, migration in the central Mediterranean has continued to occur, with victims, albeit fewer than in the eastern Mediterranean. Thousands of people have lost their lives over the space of several months now in the central Mediterranean.

There are also people who attempt by every means to get across, through trafficking organized by networks. Last year, 180,000 people crossed the Mediterranean, the bulk of them coming from Libya. So it was necessary – and we’d already been doing this for several months – to initiate a mechanism enabling us, first of all, to ensure that migrants don’t lose their lives, and therefore go and rescue them, and secondly to prevent a certain amount of migration. We took an additional step today, because an agreement has been reached with Libya – Italy and Libya initially but also the European Union and Libya – enabling coastguards to be trained in greater numbers, who can therefore prevent migration flows.

Likewise, Operation Sophia has been stepped up. I remind you that Operation Sophia is a European operation enabling us to ensure – for the time being outside Libya’s territorial waters – that monitoring can take place and lives can be saved, although the goal is also to combat people-smuggling rings.

In the decisions taken today, there’s also a desire shared with the Libyan government to help the humanitarian organizations on the ground in Libya, so that repatriations can be organized and people can be treated decently, because all the accounts we have show that when those migrants are in Libya, they’re subjected to all kinds of trafficking and, sadly, all kinds of violence, and that it’s therefore necessary to prevent those acts and ensure that the migrants don’t come as far as Libya or, when they are there, that they can be treated decently. To ensure that migrants don’t come as far as Libya, we must work with the transit countries, particularly Niger, and that’s also one of the measures planned.

Finally, we should conduct development policies. I remind you that some decisions were taken right here, in Valletta, with Europe taking part directly in financing investment in cooperation and development operations in order to dry up sources of migration and also help countries face up to these serious issues.

I can add two or three things, and it’s France speaking here. We must do everything to ensure that the political process in Libya can enable these measures to be effective. A Government of National Accord exists, led by Prime Minister Sarraj, but there’s also General Haftar, and it’s very important that there can be reconciliation, recomposition and thus a reaffirmation of the state’s political authority in Libya. We must all contribute to this; France is playing its part.

This political process is essential in order to restore authority and therefore implement the measures, particularly border control measures, if only through the deployment of either humanitarian operations or coastguard operations.

The second observation I’d like to make is that when that authority is strengthened, we’ll have to take action in Libyan territorial waters, either by the Libyan government doing so itself or by its giving consent. That’s also the development stage of Operation Sophia that was provided for. France would like us to go as far as possible in the deployment of this operation, because on it depends the success of what we want to do for Libya – namely, to restore authority as far as possible, ensure the Government of National Accord can take in all sectors [of society] and have effective control over migration.

I remind you that what we’re doing is in keeping with our values and principles, because we can also enable those eligible for asylum to obtain it wherever they have the right, and to be able to flee and be protected.

EU/US/Trump/NATO/trade

Then there was a discussion – that was also the purpose of this meeting and this summit here in Valletta – about the new situation, that of the Trump administration, whose first decisions we now know and whose intentions we also know from a number of conversations that have taken place, including the one I myself had with President Trump.

There may be different opinions among the 28 [EU member states], even different shades of judgment among us about the Trump administration, but the EU is united in fully realizing what’s currently happening.

The first conclusion that should be drawn is that even though Atlantic solidarity is recalled in the NATO framework, Europe must organize its own defence as part of the Alliance.

That’s what we began doing in December at the European Council and must continue carrying through and declaring as the outlook for the EU. This will also be the case in Rome for the treaty’s 60th anniversary. So we must strengthen our capabilities, coordinate our programmes, have planning instruments and put more financial resources into each country at European level by means of a fund, and there too we must also, ultimately, have strategic autonomy – firstly because it’s in Europe’s interest, because we must also be determined to ensure our security, our protection through our own resources in the framework of an alliance, but also because it’s what we must show the world. And while the relationship with the United States may change, while there may be discussions on budgetary contributions, there must be a unanimous desire on Europe’s part – and it exists – to ensure this defence as part of the Alliance.

The second conclusion that must be drawn is that Europe is an economic power, and the leading power in the world – a trading, exporting power. It must promote its interests, and while trade talks do take place, they must be conducted by Europe with other major countries, including the United States. It’s up to Europe to do this. Europe can’t agree to the principles of trade being called into question. Even though there are rules that may be valid, standards that must of course be respected, we must have an organized framework for our trade. That is Europe’s mission too. It’s the mission which the European Commission was entrusted with, in order to conduct these trade talks and promote its interests. That’s even more true when a country, the United States in this case, wants to change the scenario and take unilateral and sometimes (…) protectionist measures.

Russia/Ukraine

The third conclusion, on the relationship with Russia: Europe is talking to Russia, France is talking to Russia, and the United States, with the new administration, is again going to talk to Russia. But we still have to be able to consult each other on this too. Firstly, the European Union, then the European Union with its partners, particularly the United States. In the case of Ukraine, Europe’s position – which is mine too, and I’ve repeated it several times – is that sanctions are tied to the implementation of the Minsk agreements. What’s happening in Ukraine at the moment doesn’t comply with the objectives we had when we took part, in the framework of the Normandy format, in the negotiation which resulted in the Minsk agreements.

UN/US/multilateralism

The final subject which is going to mobilize us concerns everything to do with multilateralism: the implementation of the climate agreement, and the major international organizations – starting with the UN. It seems that the American administration isn’t necessarily driven by this kind of principle. Let’s wait and see, but Europe must reaffirm its commitment both to enforcing and implementing the climate agreement and to how we see the world and how it’s organized – particularly the role of the United Nations, including when it comes to dealing with the major conflicts we’re familiar with. I’m thinking of Syria and the discussions due to take place in Geneva. We must work on the basis of the United Nations principles.

So, given this situation, given these challenges posed by the American administration and Donald Trump’s election, given the initial decisions which have been taken, putting aside any opinions we might have – and I’ve had the opportunity to form some –, we’ve above all got to devise a European response and decide common ways forward on the main issues. The European Union stands by these objectives. We’re going to continue working on this, and this is what must be done in particular as part of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome.

EU/future

It’s Europe which is at stake today – its destiny. It isn’t up to others to shape it, it’s up to the Europeans themselves to know what they want and why they formed a union which will have 27 members tomorrow. What do they want to do together? How can they protect themselves more against potential threats? How can they make their borders secure without undermining essential values? How can they promote their economic and trade interests? How can they carry weight in the main global conflicts in order to resolve them?

Europe isn’t just an organization which will have 27 members tomorrow, and has 28 today; it’s also a power which furthers development, peace and a number of principles. Europe is facing up to its future. It’s up to Europe itself to organize, conceive and build it. It isn’t just the Europeans who expect this, but also the great peoples in the world who look to Europe, perhaps because they no longer necessarily look to the United States as much as in the past. When I say the past, I mean up until only a few months ago.

Europe is also a political will, which must translate into an improved standard of living for the peoples concerned, and this is why France will attach importance – it won’t be alone – to ensuring that in the ways forward which we’re going to map out in Rome in March, the issues of growth, employment, sustainable development, the energy transition and the digital revolution are also essential priorities for the European Union, including in the aspects of Economic and Monetary Union, which must also be deepened.

That, ladies and gentlemen, was the first stage – it was important – here, in Malta, for addressing the most pressing issues – immigration –, but also for putting together a common strategy for a world which is changing, and in which there are threats and challenges which affect us all equally.

European countries won’t be able to respond separately, even though each may have its own diplomacy and its own wish to have dealings with the United States or other countries. It’s together that we’ll be able to have the necessary strength and ability to assert our interests and advance our values. (…)./.

Published on 14/02/2017

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