President on EU counter-terrorism and defence talks

European Council – European Union/fight against terrorism/Defence Europe – Press conference given by M. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic, following the first day’s work

Brussels, 22 June 2017

Good evening ladies and gentlemen.

European Union

I’m going to provide an update just after this European Council’s first working session and before the dinner where we’ll meet again in a few moments’ time – firstly to say how happy I am to be here at this, my first European Council, to discuss many subjects which are close to my heart and important for the destinies not only of our country but also of the European project, a project I championed throughout the French presidential election campaign, while many of my competitors were attacking it or at any rate attributing to it the bulk of the difficulties our country was experiencing.

The main purpose of this Council, if I had to give the gist of it, is to start defining or redefining this Europe which protects and which we need, which I talked about to the [German] Chancellor a few weeks ago now. Europe is a project of the future – and we’ll come back to this in the coming months – which requires changes, transformations, and also radical reforms in several member states, particularly France, which the government is currently setting in motion.

But Europe, amid increasingly deregulated globalization, in the face of profound risks that have further increased in recent years – I’m thinking in particular of terrorism –, in the face of transformations, great migrations, in the face of climate change, Europe today must protect our fellow citizens more. That’s what we talked about and what we’ll talk about broadly during this Council. The session that has just finished provided us with an opportunity to discuss the fight against terrorism and defence.

Fight against terrorism

As regards the fight against terrorism, we adopted ambitious conclusions which recalled the initiatives adopted recently, particularly the establishment of the PNR [Passenger Name Record], the need for enhanced counter-terrorism cooperation between member states, the establishment of controls at the external borders – a significant step forward which will lead in the coming weeks to the Schengen Code being changed to ensure more control over arrivals and departures, which is key to greater security. I also argued for this during the French presidential election campaign, while others were proposing simply to abolish the Schengen system in order to end up with national controls. I think we’re adopting a measure that is much more effective in terms of protecting our peoples.

We then had a lengthy discussion and adopted conclusions about the fight against online radicalization. In this regard, the Council was in keeping with the action plan I adopted a few days ago with Theresa May in Paris, following the Manchester and London attacks, which led to a strengthening of our instruments, our commitments in the fight against online terrorism – firstly by demanding the immediate withdrawal of illegal online content; we know several pledges have been made by the main Internet players, but they’re made under timescales and conditions that aren’t currently satisfactory.

In this respect, the Franco-British action plan identified the nature of this content and [stipulated] the immediate withdrawal of content inciting hatred or terrorism, through a reinforced code of conduct. We went further on this, because we opened up the possibility, if necessary, of adopting European legislation on the issue and therefore binding legislation on it. That’s a point I’m committed to and which is useful in order to be genuinely effective in combating terrorist messages online.

Secondly, the other important point is access to electronic evidence; there too, a lot of work was done but we must be even more pragmatic, and that’s what the conclusions of this Council advocate. And finally, regarding encryption, there was a desire, reaffirmed in great detail in our Franco-British action plan, which we discussed here and which consists in being able to locate or obtain what are called metadata for people using encrypted messaging, which means we totally respect individual freedoms and rules of confidentiality but we don’t disarm counter-terrorism services and states when that messaging is being used.

This central objective in the counter-terrorism plan is important following the attacks Britain has suffered, and opening up the possibility of legislating on the European plan is a step forward I’m fully satisfied with. Finally, we expressed our shared desire to step up the fight against terrorism financing, and in this regard some concrete initiatives will be taken on the sidelines and in the framework of the G20 in Hamburg at the beginning of July.

European defence

The second issue we talked about at length, and on which ambitious conclusions were adopted, was European defence. And in this regard I want to pay tribute above all to the two European members of staff who were cravenly killed in Bamako in last Sunday’s attack, because a Portuguese man and a Malian woman, both working for the European Union, lost their lives in that attack. The conclusions adopted on defence a few moments ago are, I have to say, commensurate with the challenge; we must fully appreciate their historic nature. And we owe them to the European Commission President – I want to pay tribute to him here. I haven’t come here to explain to you that it’s my work; not at all.

I think the European Commission President very bravely put forward a strong proposal on defence on 7 June; it was fully supported by France and Germany in the observations we made on the draft conclusions in the previous weeks; they enabled us to adopt a text which is a genuine step forward in terms of defence – firstly because we were able to adopt a comprehensive strategy and, in particular, broaden the scope of common costs for common operations and therefore make European interventions more practical and more effective. We also adopted a genuinely proactive approach in terms of European capabilities and procurement.

We noted structured, ongoing, ambitious cooperation, and in this respect we would like, in the Franco-German framework, to go further at the Franco-German Council of Ministers’ meeting on 13 July 2017. Finally – and, if I may say, above all –, these conclusions made it possible to officially endorse the creation of a European Defence Fund, which has been put together in an extremely short space of time – five months. The Commission’s proposals on the European Defence Fund really are on a totally new scale as regards the sums envisaged and the European Union defence budget’s scope of action.

In my view, this is a real step forward; the whole defence research and development phase, with the exception of production and procurement, could benefit from European funds, and this is going to allow us, in terms of the convergence of materiel and in terms of joint capabilities, to make real progress and speed up the improvement of our armed forces’ equipment and the strengthening of our defence industries, and have a genuine European ambition.

That’s mainly what I wanted to highlight at this stage, and thus provisionally, regarding the work done by the European Council, which is the subject of what you’ll understand are ambitious but effective discussions – and this has enabled us to be with you a little earlier than planned./.

Published on 05/07/2017

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