President Hollande’s speech to UK’s French community

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Visit to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – Speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, to the French community (excerpts)

London, 10 July 2012

(…)

I have come with a compact delegation for reasons not to do with budget savings – I wouldn’t want to give that impression – but out of a desire to be effective, and I wanted to be accompanied by Mme Hélène Conway, Minister for French Nationals Abroad, who is here, at my side. So I have come to London to meet, on his invitation, Prime Minister David Cameron and I shall have the honour of an audience with the Queen.

I well appreciate what a year this is, not just that of my election, but above all the year of that wonderful ceremony of the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s accession to the throne and then also of these Olympic and Paralympic Games opening at the end of the month, on 27 July.

Moreover, I shall have the opportunity to come for the occasion – it’s scheduled for 30 July – to see how our athletes, swimmers and sportsmen and women have fared in this major competition, but I don’t want to put more pressure on them.

(…)

France/UK

I have come to affirm once again the strength of relations between France and Britain. These are tied up with history, and I want to pay tribute – I know they have a number of representatives here – to the associations of veterans and former Resistance fighters which help remind us that they were here in London in 1940, and about the 18 June appeal [by General de Gaulle] which has echoed down the years. Moving on from history, I wanted here today to remind you of the strength of our ties and particularly of the good relations we have established for a long time now between our two countries’ successive leaders. There may be changeovers of political power between parties in France, and in Britain, but they don’t impair the quality of our relations.

Defence/nuclear electricity/space

I want as well to underline the fact that the British Prime Minister and I will be further intensifying, improving and deepening our relations, particularly in defence. This is significant cooperation which has been sealed by several successive agreements: what is known as the Saint-Malo agreement and then the Lancaster House Treaty; this, I might add was ratified virtually unanimously in 2011, which makes it even simpler for me to pursue its application.

Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is coming on 24 July to deepen our relations still further and set up projects for future military cooperation, particularly in the sphere of what are called UAVs, surveillance aircraft. We also have to deepen relations in the energy field: the British have initiated a civil nuclear energy programme and we need to ensure that our companies are present in these markets, with this meaning not only more jobs for the industry here in Britain, but also more jobs in France, since we will be contributing our know-how.

I remind you that EDF-Energy already supplies 95% of the nuclear-generated electricity produced for the British.

There is also promising cooperation in the space sector and, as British Prime Minister and President of the French Republic, it’s our joint responsibility to ensure that we can take it still further. I thank all of you executives working in the energy, military and space sectors for contributing your expertise and knowledge.

International affairs/Libya/Syria/nuclear proliferation

We British and French also have common positions in very many spheres, not in all of them, we still have some slight differences of approach – particularly on taxation as I heard a few weeks ago – but we have much in common particularly in foreign policy, and I’m not referring just to the past few weeks. On Libya, it was French president Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron who took the initiative in the demonstration of solidarity with the Libyan people, which created the conditions, we now know, not just for ending Gaddafi’s dictatorship, but also for organizing a democratic process which was concretely manifested in the past few days.

On Syria, whilst, as we know too, the Russians and Chinese are still reticent about the United Nations facing up to all its responsibilities, thanks to the British initiative and ours, common positions have allowed us, for example, to convene this week in Paris a meeting of those known as the “Friends of Syria” and, here too, get some appreciable results.

We have common positions too in the fight against nuclear proliferation, particularly as regards what Iran would like to do, and we’re deterring her from setting in train, i.e. acquiring nuclear weapons, and here too in the negotiations the British and French carry weight in the effort to get Iran to change her position and honour her international obligations in full.

EU/growth pact/banking supervision

We also had a European Council, a little over a week ago, during which the British and French, with our partners, got the adoption of a growth pact to add to the fiscal compact. And even on banking supervision, where our British friends arrived with a more prudent and precautionary approach, we were able to concur, because when you look at things, including what’s happening now here in Britain, there’s a need to regulate finance and avoid some scandals.

So we have a lot in common, a lot of common interests making for similar views and a lot of positions which France and Britain share in the international sphere. Admittedly, on Economic and Monetary Union we have, let’s say, nuanced positions. Let me add that I respect the wish of the British to remain outside the Euro Area.

But that won’t make it any less necessary for us to discuss together what the Economic and Monetary Union’s future should be. It’s in the interest of both the British and those who have opted for a single currency to determine what we can do together to promote stability. And if the Euro Area experiences turmoil, that won’t be good for Britain and she’s perfectly aware of this.

So it is to our advantage to create a stable environment so that operators regain confidence both in the single currency and Europe.

I acceded to my responsibilities just two months ago and, over the past few weeks, what has stood out for me is Europe’s will both to defend itself more than it had done up to now and safeguard what is our common asset (at any rate for the 17 countries which have opted for it) – the euro – and to present to the world, which sometimes looks at us sympathetically, a picture of a continent which wants not only to exist – that’s what we all want as a union – but also to safeguard its interests.

We don’t just need a kind of sympathy; we need confidence in us, and [this is] what we Europeans must assert both vis-à-vis the emerging countries and also the biggest powers which we know and which are conscious too that they can’t have growth in the United States and even China unless there’s a Europe which is again confident in itself and stable.

And we, Britain and France, can adopt similar approaches on this.

UK French community/France-UK trade/education

But I wanted – I thank the Ambassador for this – to seize the opportunity presented by my visit to Britain to meet you, the French community in the United Kingdom. You are one of the largest communities in the world. 118,000 people are registered with the Consulate-General in London and these figures keep on growing. This has nothing to do with my election – I immediately checked up on this with the Ambassador, there haven’t been greater numbers of people registering –, although it’s a positive development: it’s good that there are French people choosing to settle [in the UK] for what may be a few months, a few years, sometimes longer, to extend France’s reach, and wherever I go, I offer this community every encouragement, it does France a service; through your initiative, your investment and your commitments you allow us – French people both in France and abroad – to be stronger. You also have responsibilities, since you’ll develop the image of our country that we want to present here in the United Kingdom: an image of openness, dynamism and diversity, and one which contributes to the prosperity of France and Britain. (…)

I also want to stress the importance of the economic and trade relations between our two countries (…).

Britons have made France the number one destination for their foreign investment, with 20% of their total foreign investment – representing 260,000 jobs for 2,200 businesses. And we invest a great deal in Britain as well: 460,000 jobs are, at the end of the day, linked to our presence here. Our biggest trade surplus is with the United Kingdom: €6 billion when we’ve got a €70 billion [trade] deficit. So thank you all for this result – let’s not say this too loudly – which allows us to reduce our deficit but have a surplus here; it’s the fruit of work conducted in many sectors, from banking to manufacturing, from services to the catering industry, and I want to pay tribute to the efforts made by the Franco-British Chamber of Commerce, this country’s largest foreign chamber of commerce, with over 600 members. I also want to praise the work of the foreign trade advisers.

But relations between France and the United Kingdom aren’t just economic, they cover human exchanges too. This is the number one destination for French students [studying overseas], with 14,000 young people learning not only English but also about British culture and knowledge, which British universities can provide for these students who choose to spend several years in the United Kingdom. (…)

That, ladies and gentlemen, dear compatriots, is what I came to tell you today. You, like all the French are going to participate in the economic recovery, i.e. the effort which is going to make our country stronger – it isn’t a punishment (…). All we have to do is to make our country more competitive, better able to take up the challenges of globalization and we’re going to do it on the basis of fair taxation. Oh, the word has been uttered. Fair taxation, this means ensuring that those with the highest incomes contribute more without any need for confiscatory mechanisms. It isn’t a matter of punishing people or stripping them of their possessions, still less of pointing the finger at those who, through their abilities, talents and initiative, have succeeded in accruing a number of assets. But at the time when we’re calling for a collective effort to reduce our deficits, control our debt and improve our competitiveness – and at this moment a social conference is taking place with all the social partners involved in businesses, i.e. both employers and unions – we need to call for a form of patriotism.

I’m here in Britain and I know that patriotism means something here, the British – and they are absolutely right – have a noble idea of their nation; sometimes we criticize them for it. We don’t think they are European enough. We ourselves took the view that our patriotism didn’t prevent us from choosing a European future and that there was even a way of rediscovering this patriotism though a stronger commitment to solidarity in Europe. But we also have to say what we expect from our country: that it be stronger, fairer, more mutually supportive and more competitive. But for this, we need to do our bit. When we are leaders, whether political or business leaders, we have to set the example. When we are employees we must ensure not only that our labour is rewarded, but also that we give the best of ourselves, and when we are taxpayers, without it being necessary to go and seek what we don’t need, we have to show that we are ready to participate in the collective effort.

But I haven’t come here to lecture you, because I believe that we all have to set an example. Above all, I have come to express the President of the French Republic’s gratitude to a great community established in the United Kingdom, a fine community determined to play its full role here in Britain and in France.

I was very happy, thanks to the Ambassador and his wife’s hospitality, to come here and spend a little time with you, meet you, hear too what you have to say and set out what lies ahead of us in the next few months and years.

I myself have confidence in our country, in its abilities, assets and diversity; I have confidence too in what we’ll be able to decide together – the social partners are in the process of discussing this – what we’ll have to do at state level and what we’ll have to do with businesses. In France, we have a lot of great businesses; many of you here represent them. We have to enable these companies to be even stronger, lead other companies to come and set up abroad and add to our export trade. And then we are proud to be French because of our language, which we must speak and spread through our culture, which is an asset for our international influence, and because of our economy which has to become stronger than it is today.

So thank you everyone for contributing to this.

Long live the Republic and long live France!./.

Published on 18/07/2012

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