President sets out diplomatic priorities for 2016
New Year greetings to the diplomatic corps – Speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic
Paris, 21 January 2016
Thank you for the New Year greetings that you sent to France and its representatives.
It is true that last year France suffered the worst kind of ordeal on its soil: terrorism. But it also hosted a conference that will go down in history, because it decided the future of our planet.
There are always paradoxes and contradictions. The worst is found alongside the best.
After the attacks on Paris, the entire world, represented by you here, rose up in an exceptional outpouring of solidarity. In January and November, many heads of state and government came to Paris and were keen to show, yet again, the relationship that they wanted to maintain with France, by taking part in a march, on 11 January, and a conference, on 30 November.
I would like to express my gratitude to your countries for their many gestures of support. These gestures touched the hearts of the French people and were a form of response, the best possible, to the terrorists’ death instinct.
In December, therefore, the adoption of the global climate agreement gave us all reason to hope. The international community showed that it was capable of taking charge of its destiny and making serious, credible commitments for future generations. I would like to commend Laurent Fabius on his remarkable work to achieve this outcome.
As we enter 2016, the world faces major threats. Unfortunately, the scourge of terrorism continues to strike many countries. In the last few days, Indonesia, Burkina Faso and Pakistan have fallen victim to it once again. The tension in the Middle East is rising dangerously. Wars and atrocities are driving countless people from their homes, many of whom seek refuge in Europe, which is becoming increasingly difficult to provide.
The global economy, meanwhile, is turbulent due to the uncertain growth of some emerging countries and the fall in the prices of oil and raw materials.
Lastly, there is Europe, which will need to make decisions throughout this year that will most likely determine its future.
So in this context, France will shoulder all of its responsibilities during 2016, because that is its role and its destiny. To bring about what others cannot achieve.
France will take action for peace and against terrorism.
France is not an enemy of any nation. Of any religion, or any civilization. But it has an adversary, one we all share, and that is jihadist terrorism, which aligns itself with a god only to trample on that god’s name, and seeks only destruction.
France, alongside the United States and other countries, was one of the first nations to take action in Iraq, then Syria, against Daesh [so-called ISIL].
Day by day, thanks to our joint action, this terrorist army is growing weaker as it loses ground, resources and people. But it is laying into civilians with increasing barbarism and stirring up attacks. Its weakness is actually leading to even greater aggression.
Yesterday, the seven main contributors to the coalition held a meeting in Paris, led by the French Minister of Defence, Jean-Yves Le Drian, and reaffirmed our strategy. It involves liberating the cities of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq. Because that is where Islamic State has its command centres.
We reaffirmed our desire to support the Arab and Kurdish forces combating Daesh on the ground. That is necessary if we want these cities, then the whole of Syrian and Iraqi territory, to be liberated.
We will step up the pace of our action and France will play its full part. We will also strengthen the coordination of our action. Regular meetings will be held, starting next month in Brussels.
After the acts of war committed by Daesh on our soil, in France, on 13 November, our European partners responded to my appeal. Germany took significant measures to support the operations. I would like to thank the Chancellor and the Bundestag once again for taking this initiative and shouldering this responsibility.
The United Kingdom decided to start carrying out strikes on Syria, not just Iraq. I also welcome the efforts made by other European countries. I cannot name them all – Belgium, the Netherlands, and others who increased their commitment.
I wanted to strengthen our cooperation and coordination with Russia to combat Daesh and only Daesh, for that is our enemy. I made it clear to Vladimir Putin that we should exchange information and we agreed to go down that route and make sure that we could strike the heart of the terrorist organization, without having to cause problems for the moderate opposition.
Unfortunately, the fight against terrorism is not focused solely on the Middle East. Africa has long been a victim. We must take action there too. The attacks carried out in recent weeks in Bamako and Ouagadougou showed that the Sahel region remains fragile. This justifies France’s presence via Operation Barkhane to support the efforts of countries in the region, which need to be able to maintain control over their territory.
A peace agreement has been reached under the aegis of our Algerian friends, enabling Mali to regain its full integrity. But, as we know, there is still work to be done.
There is also the organization Boko Haram, which is striking countries around Lake Chad. That is why I called a meeting in Paris in May 2014 of the countries facing this terrorist threat posed by Boko Haram, which slaughters, kills, and kidnaps girls.
Nigeria took the initiative of holding another summit this year. I will therefore travel to Abuja in May for a meeting of the countries concerned and to take fully coordinated action.
Terrorism has also taken root in Somalia, in East Africa. It has also found its way into the disorder, not to say chaos, in Libya. It has found a haven there. That is why the decision that has been made to establish a national unity government is very important.
It is a decisive step – if, and only if, the Libyan Parliament meets as soon as possible and ensures that this government can make decisions.
France is ready to help the new government, by supporting it, training its staff and security forces, and thus restoring its authority throughout the territory. This is in the interests of Libya, of the countries of Africa, and of Europe. Let us not forget that Libya is where smugglers are taking advantage of people’s distress to transport a whole population to Europe.
Combating terrorism requires the use of force. Engaging our armed forces is always a very tough decision. I have made it in certain circumstances and our forces are currently active in many theatres. At the same time as acting in the framework of the United Nations to combat terrorism by force, we need to search tirelessly for political solutions.
In Syria, we need to make 2016 the year of the transition. The aim is to reach an agreement between all components of the Syrian people. Let me remind you, and this has not been easy, even though a Security Council resolution of 18 December established this requirement: we need to unite all components of the Syrian people. We therefore have the basis, the framework for action. Negotiations with all the parties are scheduled for 25 January. The moderate opposition, whose coordinator I have received, is ready to commit itself, on certain conditions: respect for what it represents and security for the civilians who are being bombed.
The question remains as to who will govern Syria. This question cannot be avoided, but we know very well – as the unbearable images of the besieged town of Madaya showed – that Bashar al-Assad cannot be the future of Syria. But the discussions need to begin and we need to seek a solution. We need all countries in the region and all those who carry weight in the international community. France does not want to exclude anyone or turn away any support.
In a few days, I will receive the Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, here in Paris. It will be the first Iranian presidential visit to France in 17 years. I met President Rouhani the day after his election. I was the first Western head of state to do so, because I wanted to show that a new era could begin and that it was possible, with not only goodwill but also great determination and clear-sightedness, to reach an agreement on nuclear energy. This agreement was finally reached on 14 July 2015. And I would like to thank the negotiators for their desire to play a role in history. It took 10 years of discussions, but what counted were the last months, the last days, the last hours of the discussion. They were difficult, but a major agreement was reached and everything now hangs on its implementation.
It is now possible for Iran to return to the international stage, but it is up to that great country alone to succeed in doing so. And so it needs to provide proof. As I mentioned, the region is in a state of very high tension, especially between Iran and Saudi Arabia. De-escalation is necessary, crucial even. France is ready to play its full role for it is in a unique situation, as it has wanted to be since 2012: it is capable of talking to everyone, for everyone. Just as I am receiving the Iranian President, I also wish to have the best possible relations with the Gulf countries.
I was therefore the guest of honour in Riyadh at the Gulf Cooperation Council in 2015. Our partners can count on France and they know it. We need to do our utmost to ensure the stability of the region. With this in mind, I will shortly be visiting Egypt, Jordan and India. As well as the Syria issue, the Iraq issue and others, I will discuss the situation in Yemen. For it is urgent to move forward towards a political solution, as all the parties have in fact agreed in the framework of the United Nations resolutions. The chaos which has reigned in this country for too long, and which we hardly hear about despite the massacres that are taking place and the victims being claimed, is a threat to the entire region.
In the same way, I will push for a solution to be found to the institutional vacuum in Lebanon, which is infinitely regrettable and could ultimately prove dangerous. You know how closely France is bound to Lebanon. Again, we will need all countries in the region – Saudi Arabia, Iran and others – so that we can work together to ensure the peace, unity and integrity of this friend of France.
Lastly, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to be felt throughout the Middle East. It would be naive, dangerous even, to look the other way. Each day, we see the risk of a flare-up. Every missed deadline takes us further away from the two-state solution, which is nonetheless the solution backed by the international community. France has therefore once again taken the initiative, as announced by Laurent Fabius, of mobilizing the Arab actors and the European and American partners in the framework of an international support group and the Security Council. This proposal is still on the table and it is the only one, currently, that would enable the dialogue to be resumed.
So that is what we have to do, what France has to do in this world that is troubled by multiple tensions and too many conflicts. There we have what was achieved in 2015 – the agreement with Iran on nuclear energy – and what has not yet been achieved – the issue of Syria, for example. So we need to continue taking action and shouldering our responsibilities.
And then there is the hope that was raised by the Paris agreement for the future of our planet. When the heads of state and government met in December, I recalled a line spoken by Gandhi, who said that we needed to concern ourselves with the world that we would not see. That is what we did at COP21: we tried to look beyond ourselves, our own personal destinies, our own lives, and find out what traces we are leaving so that future generations can be proud of us.
It is an agreement that has been described as historic. And it is, undeniably, for it is the first of its kind and it brought together all the countries of the world. It is historic because we are making history, but also because it is opening the way towards a new low-carbon economy and towards renewable energy. A huge economic shift is about to take place. This success, we owe it, as I said, to France, in that it played its part. I would like to congratulate the whole team that supported Laurent Fabius, but we also owe this success to countries that showed resolute commitment: Peru, with which we worked in harmony and full confidence (I will be going there in a few weeks), India, which played a very constructive role, especially to ensure that climate justice was recognized (and I will be going there in a few days to launch the solar alliance), the United States, and China, with which we signed a declaration that prefigured the final agreement. And China will continue mobilizing all countries on climate issues throughout its G20 presidency.
I would also like to thank the heads of state and government whom I’ve called in the last few hours, and who set out not what I would call a condition but a new proposal. An agreement was reached because it was what all heads of state and government wanted. I would like to commend them here. Finally, there is the UN and its Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, who at the General Assembly, over several General Assemblies, ensured that things were set in motion. But as I was saying, we must now translate the agreement into action.
Along with many heads of state and government, I will therefore be in New York on 22 April to sign the Paris Agreement. Because for this agreement to enter into force, it must be ratified by 55 states, accounting for 55% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Through you, I am therefore making this appeal for your heads of state and government to be in New York themselves or to send a representative for the signature.
France’s work is far from over, as it holds the COP Presidency and is working in close collaboration with Morocco, which will host COP22. We will make sure that the financial commitments made are met: $100 billion per year must be raised after 2020. The commitment review mechanism, which has been included in the agreement, will take place every five years. This was what we had wanted.
France will look ahead, it will undergo the review before 2020 and will ask the European Union to also lead by example: to be able to look ahead in terms of what is set out in the agreement. Similarly, we will take many concrete actions before the agreement enters into force. I have mentioned the International Solar Alliance with Prime Minister Modi, but also the early warning mechanisms for the most vulnerable countries, which are awaiting them. There is also the initiative for renewable energies for electricity in Africa. We also want the momentum built by the Lima-Paris Action Agenda to be quickly translated into action.
France has specifically adjusted its development policy in order to align itself with the commitments made. This reform has now been launched: the French Development Agency will become part of the Caisse des Dépôts group (1). The Minister of Finance, Michel Sapin, is overseeing this transition. Its equity capital will be tripled. And by 2020, we will thus be able to increase our lending activities by 50% in developing countries. The aim is to increase our actions for development in Africa in order to raise them to €20 billion over five years. This target will be met.
In 2016, France will also maintain its financial contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and we remain UNITAID’s largest supporter. Finally, I have decided that part of the innovative financing which I hope will increase with the financial transaction tax should be allocated to development actions from 2016.
2016 is also a decisive year for Europe. Firstly, Europe must not allow war to break out in neighbouring states. Chancellor Merkel and I have taken on the responsibility of finding a solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The meeting in Minsk last year set out the roadmap for this. Along with Presidents Putin and Poroshenko, we agreed on a ceasefire. Thousands of lives have been saved, but we must act more quickly and fully implement the Minsk agreement.
A few days ago, along with Chancellor Merkel, I sent a joint mission to Moscow and Kiev and I can see that work remains to be done: on the Ukrainan side, so that the constitutional reform can be passed, which is the condition for the implementation of Minsk; on the Russian side, in order to increase the pressure for organizing indisputable elections in the east. We must move towards a conclusion, i.e. restore the border between Russia and Ukraine and lift European sanctions on Russia.
That is why we must exert as much influence as we possibly can. And alongside Chancellor Merkel (I discussed this with her a few days ago), we are ready to show our full commitment. Because there cannot be a Europe of peace if war is breaking out on its borders. And at the same time, Europe must face one of the most serious humanitarian crises in decades. As you reminded us, Papal Nuncio, the issue of refugees is one which affects the entire continent.
Europe must provide a response which is consonant with its principles of solidarity, while maintaining the Schengen rules as a foundation. The challenge is to strengthen Schengen, not to weaken it. Europe’s most urgent challenge is to regain control of its external borders. Several countries such as Germany, Austria and Sweden have made significant efforts to take in refugees. This cannot, however, continue without risks of further tensions and potentially serious consequences.
Solutions have been proposed by the European Union but they must be implemented and this is taking too long. France is taking in its share of refugees – that is a commitment which I am honouring. There are relocations from Greece and Italy, there are resettlements, i.e. there are currently refugees in countries neighbouring Syria whom we can take in, based on the limits which I myself have set, within the framework of the European plan. It is true that in the case of refugees from camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, resettlements means that people-smugglers cannot carry out their despicable work, thus avoiding more fatal sea crossings.
The challenge is also to reduce migratory flows, which is the aim of the hotspots, which must be strengthened in Greece and Italy. All people arriving in the Schengen Area must be registered and controlled. Security checks must be conducted in strict compliance with all the provisions which we have introduced and all technological devices. This is essential in order to avoid generalizations, confusion and an escalation of the situation which the populists could turn to their advantage.
France will provide every possible resource to support the European agencies. This is also the aim of the project for a European Border Guard Corps, and I would like an agreement to be reached on this new mechanism in the first half of this year. At the same time, we must help the countries outside Europe which are also taking in refugees. I am thinking of Turkey, which must implement the commitments made to combat criminal networks, put a stop to trafficking and protect its borders.
Europe must be capable of providing humanitarian assistance to the countries which are sheltering the vast majority of refugees. We must above all take action in Jordan and Lebanon. Once again with Chancellor Merkel, we will take the necessary initiatives to increase our support for these countries. But we must also work with Turkey and ensure that Greece has access to extra resources to address the issue of refugees.
Discussions on this issue will take place at the next European Council, not to create new procedures, but to implement them and ensure they are complied with.
Europe must also shoulder its responsibility in the fight against terrorism. Each state must of course ensure the security of its own territory, but Europe must also take action so that any suspicious movement can be detected: e.g. mandatory controls at external borders, resources for each state to fight document fraud, implementation of the Passenger Name Record (PNR) for air travel and cooperation between intelligence services. The future of Europe also depends on this, because if it cannot demonstrate its ability to protect itself against terrorism, it will not be equal to the situation which we are facing.
It is thus its strength which is at issue, its ability to make decisions while preserving its values and also to protect itself.
UK/future of Europe
There will be another major issue regarding the future of Europe: the United Kingdom’s place in the European Union, as a referendum is due to be held there. France wants the United Kingdom to remain in the European Union – it is in the interests of both Europe and the United Kingdom. David Cameron’s government has submitted several requests, which we have examined, and we have even discussed them at the European Council.
None of them will be insurmountable but our principles must not be compromised. It was these principles which were the foundation of the European Union and in particular free movement. The best outcome would be to reach an agreement at the European Council on 18-19 February. However, I’ll be keeping an especially close eye on making sure the Euro Area can continue to be deepened – this is the main issue for me. I can accept that the United Kingdom may want to go down a different road within the European Union. But this must not prevent countries which have chosen to move forward with integration, in particular monetary union, from doing so, in compliance with the rights of all.
It is thus time to give a new perspective to the whole of Europe, otherwise it will yield to the temptation to withdraw within national borders, with the risk of the European project falling apart. 2016 must be a productive year in terms of strengthening financial and investment mechanisms in the Euro Area and maintaining confidence in our currency. Here too, initiatives must be taken. Along with Germany, we will put forward new proposals by the end of the year. They will deal with the political and democratic framework, the institutions and the instruments of solidarity which will be required to ensure stability and growth in the Euro Area.
In 2016, France must send an even stronger cultural message, because it was culture, freedom and creation which the terrorists wanted to attack, both in January and November of last year. By standing together, we wanted to show our commitment to this idea of culture and dialogue, and this is what we will do once more on 27 January, during the “Night of Ideas”, organized by Laurent Fabius at the French Foreign Ministry.
Terrorism is not only attacking humans, but also the heritage of mankind. At UNESCO on 17 November last, four days after the acts of war, the attacks in Paris, I proposed setting up an international endowment fund for restoring the sites destroyed by these barbaric acts of fanatics. Between now and the end of the year, we will organize an international meeting bringing together the culture ministers, the major museums in the North and South, and sponsors from all backgrounds so that when the time comes for us to restore Palmyra or Aleppo, as we have done in Timbuktu, we will be able to provide financial resources and prepare reconstruction projects.
The cultural vitality and the influence of science, technology and Francophony provide irrefutable proof that the only possible future for humanity can be one of openness and sharing. We must stand firm against those whose sole ambition is to make us smaller, to make us withdraw behind borders which are only secure in appearance, and we must use our resolve to encourage all forms of mobility, such as economic, tourist, academic and cultural mobility, and to promote youth exchange programmes.
In 2015, France was the world’s third most popular destination for foreign students. Our ambition for 2016 is to do even better with the help of our cultural network and all those who help to welcome artists, researchers and intellectuals to France. Similarly, tourists from around the world are welcome in France, and their safety will be guaranteed.
Open Government Partnership
In 2016, France will also serve as Co-Chair of the Open Government Partnership. This is an organization which brings together 69 countries and several hundred associations, working for greater transparency, participation and democracy, and for better governance to fight corruption and trafficking. In December of this year, we will organize the Open Global Partnership Global Summit – not that we have specifically asked to organize a successful conference every December, but if this tradition can be established, then why not!
Global challenges/French diplomacy
Ambassadors, a demanding year is in store for us. The conflicts which have arisen in recent years have not been settled. Their impact is still being felt, particularly in the form of the fleeing populations. The tensions in the Middle East and Africa affect us all. It is a demanding year because it has begun with economic disorder which the markets always tend to increase, while the risk of climate disasters remains.
We have learnt in the last few days that according to the statistics, 2015 was the hottest year ever.
On top of all this is the cultural isolationism which can break up entire continents, as well as nation states. We must beware of this.
There are also, however, grounds for hope, the will to overcome the erratic market movements, the international community’s ability to secure agreements, as was finally seen at COP21, and then there is the inevitable, irreversible shift towards democracy and freedom.
France will use its diplomacy to serve this global consciousness, as there cannot be order or stability in any state in a world where crises and tragedy no longer have any borders. France will thus fully shoulder its responsibilities, taking action where it can and where it must. Because France’s vocation is to play a useful role in the world. This is also why we are doing our utmost to be a strong and powerful economy and why we always use our abilities and skills to serve the planet.
It is in this spirit that I would like to wish you the very best for 2016 – you, your countries and the passion which drives you, which is to strive for a more balanced, stable and peaceful world. Thank you./.
(1) State-owned financial institution which carries out public interest missions on behalf of French central, regional and local authorities.