Speech to the Diplomatic Corps on the occasion of the New Year, by Mr. Nicolas SARKOZY, President of the French Republic


JPEG

Elysée Palace, January18, 2008)

Prime Minister,

Minister of Foreign and European Affairs

Ministers,

Ambassadors,

I
would like to extend a very warm welcome to you. Please accept my sincere wishes
for yourselves and your families, and please also convey to your Heads of
States my very best wishes for them and for the countries you represent
with such distinction.

Papal
Nuncio,

Thank
you for your kind words. Please convey to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, whom
we shall have the honour of welcoming to France this year, my deep gratitude for
the very warm welcome he extended to me at the Vatican a month ago.

Ambassadors,

In
welcoming you here this afternoon I do not intend to return to the detailed
analysis of the state of the world and the description of the role of France
which I presented to the French Ambassadors on 27 August last year. You are
familiar with the contents. It remains valid. I think it would be more useful
today to begin by telling you about the convictions and thinking that underpin
my action in the international arena, and then to present the priorities for
action in 2008.

A
single conviction has inspired me throughout my political life and impelled me
since the French people entrusted me with the highest office of State: I was not
elected to bow to fate. Indeed, I do not believe in fate. I was elected to
create opportunities, to change France through a continuous process of
far-reaching reforms. I was elected with the conviction that France has an
important-perhaps even irreplaceable-role to play on the international
scene. I was elected with the resolve, with the utmost determination to act, to
pursue a coherent, ambitious, effective foreign policy.

*

My
second conviction is that this foreign policy must start from a lucid and
realistic analysis of the place of France in the world as it is today. Now,
while it is fairly easy to take the measure of what France represents, it is
harder to define the world at the start of the 21st century and
harder still to predict what it will look like over the decades to come.

 My profoundly held belief, as you know, is that two
challenges will contribute to shaping international society in the 21st
century, probably even more so than did ideologies in the 20 th century.

The
first challenge is climate change, which threatens the very future of our planet
and humanity as a whole. It raises the question of how to manage energy
resources, now these have become scarce and dear, and the still thornier
question of our capacity to come together to invent a new form of growth.

The
second challenge concerns the conditions for the return of the religious sphere
in most of our societies. In my Saint-Jean de Latran speech I spelled out my
conception of a secularism that defines the place of religion in more positive
terms. This week, in Riyadh, as I spoke before the Consultative Council of Saudi
Arabia, I echoed the wise words of King Abdullah and argued in favour of an
open, tolerant conception of religion. But some groups want to impose their
fundamentalist, hegemonic, intolerant views. The most extreme form is that of
the Al Qaeda-type global terrorist networks, which dream of bringing about a
clash between Islam and the West, the better to dictate their law to peoples who
simply aspire to live their faith in peace.

I
remain convinced that the world can face these two challenges successfully, but
only one condition: that it finds
the way to unite. That is the great question: will we be capable of uniting, and
how can we do so?

We
have left behind us the simple certainties of the bipolar world, stable but
unjust, that imposed its law on us between 1945 and 1990. We are no longer even
in the unipolar world that began to emerge between 1991 et 2001. Words that rang
true just a few years ago, such as “hyper-power”, no longer apply today.

For
the next three of four decades, probably, we have entered an era of relative
power. The economic and political emergence of China, India and Brazil, and
Russia’s return, are creating objective conditions for a new concert of the
great powers, of a multipolar world in which the European Union could
progressively come to be one of the most active poles, if it has the will to do
so.

It
now remains for us to invent the relations between these great powers of the 21st
century, and the institutions to enable them to act effectively for the common
good of humanity. Notions of enemy or adversary are no longer relevant to them.
The whole question is to know whether the idea of responsible partnership can
prevail over those of competition and rivalry.

The
whole question is to know whether we will be capable of building a new order for
the 21st century; an order better suited to our globalised world and
to the challenges we must face; an order in which all States, be they large or
small, will feel that their interests are fully and fairly taken into account.

*


*

In
response to these fundamental questions I, together with Bernard Kouchner, have
sought to provide answers in the name of France that mark a something of a break
and form part of a coherent vision of the place and role of our country in
today’s world.

I
wanted to start by placing France clearly and distinctly within its family, the
West. In a world that has lost its bearings, where confusion tends to reign
precisely because we are in the midst of a transition to an order yet to be
invented, I believe it indispensable to state clearly where we stand and the
values we hold to be essential.

This
repositioning in no way implies abandoning or in any way undermining our
independence or our freedom of speech and action. I said so forcefully before
the United States Congress: France is a “friend that stands on his own two
feet. An independent ally. A free partner.”

By
placing itself clearly within its Western family, France-and that was my
intention-has raised its credibility, increased its scope for action and its
capacity to wield influence both inside and outside its family.

Inside,
to begin with: our absolute priority is the construction of the European Union.
Thanks to the simplified treaty, after ten years of paralysing debate over its
institutions, Europe is moving forward once again, and France has resumed its
rightful place at the heart of the Union. With a new positioning, for beyond the
Franco-German entente, which is more than ever vital, I wanted to forge close
working relations from the outset with the European Commission and Parliament. I
have wanted France to listen to and stand by the new Member States from Central
Europe, for they have much to give us. I have wanted to strengthen our ties with
our Mediterranean partners.

But
we all know that the French ambition of seeing the European Union emerging as a
global 21st century player aroused misgivings, notably in matters of
Defence. Surely France was seeking to weaken, perhaps even destroy, the Atlantic
Alliance? I wanted to give a clear answer to that suspicion, and I did so before
the Congress of the United States. Given the scale of the threats and crises
facing us, the development of a European Defence is a strategic necessity. So
that is my priority for the coming years. There is no sense in opposing this to
the Atlantic Alliance. European Defence and our Atlantic anchor are the two
sides of a single defence and security policy. This is the context within which
France intends to update its relationship with NATO. We now need to get down to
work, and France will be making both pragmatic and ambitious proposals with a
view to both the French Presidency of the Union and the Summit marking the 60th
anniversary of the Alliance.

Outside
the Western family, next, our repositioning has bolstered our credibility and
added weight to our message. This was the case in Beijing, when I set forth our
views on the need to restore balance in relations between the main currencies,
after having previously spoken about this to the United States, and being
followed immediately afterwards in China by the President of the European
Central Bank and the Chairman of the Eurogroup, and then by the President of the
Commission. That was also the case when, after much consultation, with Egypt and
Saudi Arabia notably, and with the encouragement of the principal leaders
concerned, I chose to engage in a dialogue on the subject of Lebanon with
President Bashar al-Assad.

*

And
this brings me to the second new departure I wanted to introduce into our
foreign policy, namely my wish to conduct a diplomacy of reconciliation. In this
age of relative power, marked by rising attacks on the legitimacy of external
intervention and a widening of religious, ethnic and social divides, France
needs to engage in dialogue with everyone. It must seek tirelessly and
pragmatically to reduce the factors of tension and move towards peaceful
solutions consistent with the principles from which we draw our inspiration.

That
is the thinking behind the dialogue I have restored in Africa with the
Presidents of Rwanda, Sudan and Cote d’Ivoire. That is the thinking behind the
welcomes I have extended to President Chavez or to Colonel Gaddafi. If we had
not responded to the Libyan leader’s gesture in renouncing weapons of mass
destruction under international control, in renouncing terrorism and
compensating the victims, and in releasing the Bulgarian nurses, what message
would we be sending to the leaders of North Korea or Iran, just as we are trying
to convince them to halt proliferation?

But
we must be clear: diplomacy of reconciliation is in no sense a diplomacy of
accommodation. Because we stand four-square at the heart of our Western family,
we are conducting these dialogues on the basis of our values and principles,
speaking plainly, transparently, and firmly. It is in this spirit that I took
the initiative in favour of the Bulgarian nurses or the hostages in Colombia, in
particular Ingrid Betancourt. It is in this same spirit that when in Beijing, I
spoke against capital punishment and for freedom of the press, and when 
in Moscow I spoke up for the rights of ethnic or social minorities. And
when the terms agreed to at the start of the dialogue are not satisfied, or when
this dialogue falls short of the hoped-for results, it is up to me to draw the
consequences. That is what I have done with Syria with respect to Lebanon.

*

The
third new departure in our foreign policy concerns the notion, to which I attach
great importance, of diversity, with its corollary, reciprocity. I devoted the
bulk of my speech in Constantine, Algeria, to this. In Europe, more than
anywhere else, we have experienced with the Holocaust the absolute horror that
can result from rejection of Others and their differences, be they ethnic,
religious or cultural. The same rejection of the Other led to genocide in
Rwanda. Today, it is in the religious sphere, with the rise of various forms of
fundamentalism, that we see the emergence of an urge to exclude and to erect
barriers.

Just
as I hold fundamental the fight for democracy, so I believe that the fight for
diversity, for openness, for tolerance, for acceptance of others and their
differences is essential. It is, in a sense, the precondition to the extension
of freedom and to democracy putting down roots.

Let
me be clear: I favour the flowering of religions, as I favour the right of each
person to have no religion, or to change religions. That is my conception of
secularism. And it was in that sense, as Interior Minister for four years, that
I authorised the opening of an unprecedented number of mosques in France, for
Islam is now our second-largest religion and all who so wish must have the
possibility of practising their faith in dignity and tolerance. More than anyone
else, I have contributed to the emergence of a French Islam. And it is for that
very reason that I can plead with conviction that it must be possible, in
Islamic lands, to practise one’s religion, whichever one chooses, in dignity
and tolerance. How can those who call for the opening of mosques in France
refuse the opening of churches wherever that may be justified?

Ultimately,
whatis at stake in Lebanon? Is it not precisely the survival as a sovereign and
independent State of a people that, throughout history, has shown to the world
thefinestexample of how thegreat monotheistic religions can live together
harmoniously, in tolerance and respect?

 

*

The
final new departure in our foreign policy concerns the construction of a world
order adapted to the emergence of new powers and able to deal effectively with
the challenges of the 21st century.

At
the United Nations, I want to see an energetic resumption of reform, starting
with that of the Security Council, which needs to be expanded in both member
categories. And everything should be done to ensure that the Bali process, the
sole legitimate framework for making decisions and reaching agreement,
culminates in December 2009 in the signature of a treaty commensurate with the
colossal stakes confronting the whole of humanity in the shape of climate
warming.

Reform
of the International Monetary Fund is no less necessary, and I am happy that a
Frenchman, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, should have been chosen to head 
this indispensable change; so that this institution 
better reflect the true economic weight of the world’s principal
powers, in particular of the great emerging economies; and finally I hope, to
tackle, along with other competent institutions, major issues such as rent that
occupied a central place in my first speech to the United Nations General
Assembly, last September: the oil monarchies have taken the welcome initiative
of setting up a Fund to help the poorest countries pay their energy bill; I hope
the major oil and mining companies enjoying profits akin to a rent will also
contribute to a similar Fund.

The
G8 too needs to change. It remains an incomparable instrument for informal
consultation and for providing stimulus. But who can fail to see that it needs
to be expanded progressively to embrace China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South
Africa, who have now formed the G5? It will take time, I know. But I hope that
the next Summit in Japan, in early July, can be an opportunity for us to take a
step in this direction.

*


*

Ambassadors,

What,
in this context, should France set as its priorities for international action in
2008?

The
European Union first of all, with the French Presidency following that of our
Slovenian friends in the second half of the year. In addition to preparing for
implementation of the simplified Treaty and the Defence project, I want,
together with Bernard Kouchner and Jean-Pierre Jouyet, to see Europe making
progress in areas of concern to Europeans, namely:

Climate,
for which the Union will need to make clear how it intends to spell out the
commitments of the 27 member countries to ensure the success of the Bali
negotiations. With the Grenelle Environment Round Table process, France has set
about inventing a new model of growth; we should adopt a similar approach at the
European level;

Energy,
to improve both the solidarity between us via the growing interconnection of
networks and our independence by systematically diversifying both our production
and our suppliers;

Immigration,
with the adoption by the 27 of a “European pact” spelling out broad
principles, setting objectives such as a European asylum regime, and
implementing common means of action.

Finally,
agriculture, for which, as of this year, we will be seeking agreement on the
principles that would permit a genuine “refoundation” of the post-2013 CAP.

But
the Union also needs to do more to shoulder its international responsibilities,
from Chad with the deployment of the European force in February, to the Balkans,
with the tricky task of managing transition
in Kosovo. Because the status quo there is no longer a viable option, and
because we have explored every course of negotiation in vain, the Union should
stand united in firmly implementing the only practicable solution, namely that
which is on the table. But it should also offer the countries in the region,
Serbia included, credible prospects of rapprochement with and integration
into the European family.

 

*

2008
will also see the launch of a grand design for civilisation, namely the Union
for the Mediterranean, whose purpose is to bring peace, understanding and
cooperation based on concrete projects to all those who live on its shores. The
proposed summit to be held in Paris on 13 and 14 July, in the presence of all
members of the Union, will, I hope, lay the basis for the launching of the first
projects.

This
great ambition will be facilitated if 2008 also turns out to be the year of the
creation of a Palestinian State alongside the State of Israel, as agreed at
Annapolis. I do not underestimate the difficulties, but the spectacular success
of the Paris donors’ conference revealed the hopes and the commitment of the
entire international community. I will be going to the Near East in the spring
to affirm forcefully our support for the two chief negotiators, Prime Minister
Ehud Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas and bearing a simple message: peace is
possible! The two peoples expect it! We must now take every risk for the sake of
peace!

And
it is now, too, that we must extricate Lebanon from a crisis that is endless
because it is fuelled from outside. The Arab League has unanimously adopted a
settlement plan that coincides entirely with the ideas put forward by France. It
behoves all concerned to shoulder their responsibilities on this basis, both
inside and outside the country, and it is up to the international community to
judge each actor according to his acts. France will continue to stand by the
Lebanese-and I mean all the Lebanese.

 

*

Concerning
Iran and its nuclear programme, you know my position: I stated it precisely on
27 August. Nothing that has happened since has led me to alter my judgment or
the French approach. This consists of firmness-because sanctions are necessary
in order to convince the Iranian leadership to return to the negotiating
table-and dialogue, which I have engaged in because we are seeking not regime
change, but on the contrary to bring Iran back into the fold as a positive
player in its region, provided it respects international law.

This
is in its interest, as it is in its interest today to calm the tensions between
Sunnis and Shiites, from Iraq to Lebanon, or to avoid a “talebanisation” of
Afghanistan.

I
mentioned earlier our world in transition, in which two great challenges-those
of climate and religious extremism-could well drag international society into
confrontation. This is what is likely to happen if the States concerned, whether
by design or through myopia, proved incapable of uniting to tackle the threat of
Al Qaeda. I am convinced that developments in Pakistan and Afghanistan, through
the global threats they constitute, call for a concerted drive on the part of
all-I repeat all-the powers capable of weighing in on the right side of the
balance.

In
agreement with President Karzai, France
will be hosting the forthcoming conference to support Afghanistan and will be
stepping up its commitment there. It will be taking this initiative alongside
Pakistan, which has been seriously destabilized following the atrocious murder
of Benazir Bhutto, and I shall be receiving President Musharraf in Paris in a
few days time.

*

Ambassadors,

There
is a continent that occupies a special place in the hearts of the French, and
that is Africa. More than any other European country, France feels close to it.
Perhaps it is that very proximity that makes it hard for us to accept the simple
fact that Africa has changed, and that France’s relations with Africa must
also change.

Of
course, France will continue to be Africa’s most resolute advocate in Europe
and in the major international institutions.

We
will struggle tirelessly to bring about enduring peace, human rights and
economic growth, which are at the very heart of the Millenium Goals. On the
ground, however, I would like to see us working more closely with civil society,
with a resolute emphasis on youth, and on addressing their concerns. I expect
our Ambassadors to come up with precise proposals in this regard.

I
also want to set in motion that diplomacy of reconciliation so dear to my heart
in the direction of Angola, where I shall be going soon, thus sealing with
President Dos Santos the revival of Franco-Angolan relations; in the
direction of Rwanda, with the hope that 2008 will be the year in which we
restore our relations; of Sudan and Chad where, with Bernard Kouchner, we will
work unstintingly to achieve a lasting settlement to the crisis; and lastly in
Cote d’Ivoire, where the holding of free elections guaranteed by the UN would
open the way to the normalisation we are all hoping for.

 

*

Finally,
2008 will be a year of great uncertainty over the state of the global economy,
with the accumulated effects of the “sub-prime” crisis and the rising price
of raw materials, in particular energy. This for me, is an additional reason to
speed up the pace of reform, in France and internationally, so as to bring about
a return to confidence and growth.

In
the space of one generation we have witnessed an unprecedented shift in the
distribution of global wealth, with the accelerating transfer of factories, then
of financial reserves, to the emerging countries. The current weaknesses are
contributing to global economic integration, and the process is the exact
reverse of that which occurred ten years ago with the Asian financial crisis: 
today it is Asia and the Gulf that are coming to the rescue of the West. But the
lesson is the same, namely that our economies are so interdependent that no
country now can act alone without making full allowance for the impact of its
initiatives on the world economy.

The
time has come for the leading players, old and new, to consult closely and
discreetly in order to grapple seriously with the two major weaknesses in the
present-day international system, namely the relationship between the main
currencies, whose persistent imbalance is a danger to us all, and the absence of
transparency and sufficiently binding rules on funds and financial products,
which can pose a grave threat to the world as a whole in case of upheaval.

Together
with others, France will be announcing initiatives on these issues in the coming
weeks. I will be going to London on 29 January in this spirit.

*

As
you can see, Ladies and Gentlemen, I definitely do not 
believe in fate! You can count on France, in 2008 and beyond, to
contribute with all its strength to the necessary changes to ensure that the
present transition leads to a fairer, more prosperous, more peaceful world
order.

 

Thank you./.

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Dernière modification : 03/11/2008

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