President opens new Defence Ministry site in Paris
Defence/fight against terrorism/inauguration of the new Defence Ministry site – Speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic (excerpts)
Paris, 5 November 2015
Buried under these floors is the planning and operational command centre; I’ve just visited it. Balard is the command centre for our military operations. In my capacity as head of the armed forces, this aspect is essential. Indeed, operations are the very raison d’être of defence. The tragic events occurring in certain regions of the world today justify our armed forces’ missions. I make no distinction between external and internal security. They are two inseparable aspects of France’s defence. We must accept our role in the international arena, shoulder our responsibilities, as we are doing in Africa and the Middle East, to keep peace where necessary, ensure stability and also guarantee our own security. Without reliable military forces, we won’t be able to act politically. Without lasting political solutions, no military gains can be useful. That’s why our defence backs up France’s foreign policy, and that’s what enables our diplomacy to act in the general interest.
The fight against the terrorist threat, the protection of our country, is one of the priorities I’ve set our armed forces. After the terrible events of January, I decided to strengthen the land protection posture [posture de protection terrestre] in order to support our vigilance over national territory in the long term. Ten thousand army, navy and air force personnel will be deployed on this mission in metropolitan France and overseas – 7,000 for Operation Sentinel alone.
I also want to emphasize another mission of our armed forces: permanent deterrence. I’ve already had the opportunity, particularly in Istres, to reiterate its importance.
Likewise, I wanted us to take on board all the consequences of our commitments, both external operations and the necessary protection of our country, by securing the military estimates act and the defence budget for the period 2015-2019. The budget will be increased by €3.8 billion to give the Ministry the resources necessary to conduct external operations and strengthen our country’s protection. I’ve tasked Jean-Yves Le Drian with presenting this revised military estimates act. (…)
As I speak, France is engaged in several external theatres. In the Levant, we’re intervening against Daesh [ISIL] as part of Operation Chammal. In Iraq, in the international coalition, we’re helping that country’s forces restore their territorial sovereignty. I decided in September to authorize flights over Syria to improve our knowledge of the terrorist situation and strike training camps and all the places from where terrorism could threaten our country.
I also decided this morning to send the carrier battle group – i.e. the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle – to the region so that it can help us with the operations we’re conducting. It’s a considered choice. It’s an important choice. We’re conducting operations in Iraq and Syria, and the aircraft carrier will enable us to be more effective, in coordination with our allies.
Nor do I want to forget the [rest of the] Middle East, still tormented today by the conflicts we know about with the refugees which, sadly, are on the increase. We’re present in Lebanon as part of UNIFIL, and I want also to pay tribute to our soldiers dedicating themselves to it.
Further south, in Africa, the Barkhane force is intervening in the Sahel and Mali, in close partnership with the region’s countries, because we must, after what we’ve already achieved, ensure the stability and development of that part of Africa. In the Central African Republic, which is still tragically plagued by rivalries and a number of violent incidents, we’re in a transition phase and are supporting the United Nations mission, MINUSCA. The situation has been particularly fraught, especially these past few days, and our goal is to ensure free, transparent elections as soon as possible.
In the Mediterranean, we’re taking part, in the framework of the European Union’s Sophia initiative, in the fight against networks of people smugglers, criminals who exploit the misfortune of thousands of human beings and cause serious humanitarian crises. One way of preventing influxes of refugees is to enable them to stay where they are today, in the countries which have taken them in. Another way of stopping Europe experiencing humanitarian crises which would end up undermining the very values we uphold is to ensure our external borders are protected. (…)./.