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Asserting Europe's Presence Throughout the World

Asserting Europe's Presence Throughout the World

Speech by Jacques Chirac, President of the Republic at the Ambassador's, at the Ambassador's Reception (Excerpt) Paris, 28 August 2000 (...) Source: French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

For the past two months, France has held the presidency of the European Union. You are all actively engaged in making a success of this presidency. It's the opportunity for asserting Europe's presence throughout the world. On the ground, you have, during these few months, the chance to give a new boost to the Fifteen's efforts. And I ask you to exercise this responsibility with ambition and also with the constant concern to work as a team with our partners.

This is the spirit in which France is tackling the major issues of its presidency. It comes at a moment when the Union has to take crucial decisions about its institutions. It's members', our, responsibility is commensurate with what is at stake.

You know the situation we're in. With the enlargement, which meets a deep need for unity and peace, the Union is going to change in scale. By firmly pursuing its mission of bringing together the European family, it's also going to change in nature.

This development requires reforms and is quite naturally arousing a debate on the future. France must play its part in it. It's important for it to make its ambitions, what it wants for Europe, clearly known.

Firstly, France wants a Union equipped with more effective and more democratic institutions. Institutions which more accurately reflect member States' real weight. Institutions which facilitate decision-making in a community which will have more members, with wider variations in living standards, culture and history. Institutions which permit those which so wish to go faster and further, while, of course, respecting the Union's cohesion and solidarity.

As I said even before France assumed the presidency, an Intergovernmental Conference which contented itself with some alterations to the weighting of the votes and majority voting and a few measures to make the enhanced cooperation mechanism more flexible and which didn't help improve the effectiveness of the work of the Commission - in short, a cut-price IGC - would not satisfy these requirements.

Forging ahead, avoiding paralysis, is a necessity. We see this with the euro, which has brought us stronger growth, greater stability, but which demands better coordination of our economic policies. We see it with the Kosovo crisis which clearly showed the need for a real European security and defence policy. We see it still more clearly in all the spheres - ranging from protecting the environment to security, and including employment, training and social protection - which directly affect the daily lives of Europeans who want, here too, more consistency and efficiency.

Future of Europe

It's because we have to maintain the capacity to provide impetus and ensure progress inside the Union that one of the French Presidency's priorities will be to facilitate use of the enhanced cooperation mechanism. And, after the conclusion of the IGC, we will have to go further. That's why, during my State visit to Germany, I called for the creation of a group of pioneer countries which would be the front runners of those which want to take Europe forward, a sort of engine for the Union. On a voluntary basis, these countries would thus organize themselves to act more effectively together, while of course safeguarding the Union's acquis and giving the other members the possibility of joining them at any moment.

We see Europe as a Union in which the member nations link their destinies without giving up their identities. We need to reconcile the quest for deeper integration in response to a changing world with the desire to maintain at the level of the States those spheres of competence which aren't going to be pooled. The result is an original reality: the member States, like the Union, are players in international life. They will remain so.

The great majority of our fellow citizens have a positive view of Europe. But their questions are becoming increasingly pressing: who does what in Europe? What are the Union's values? What are its borders? What new adjustments must be made to the institutions? It is the duty of the political leaders both to propose answers to these questions in order to reconnoitre the route and to look beyond the immediate tasks in order to make better progress today. And that's why I expressed the wish to see the start, after the French presidency of course, of a debate on a fundamental text which would be the first European constitution.

This same vision of the future is prompting France's desire for a strong, powerful Europe, destined to be one of the key players in international society.

With its partners, France must encourage this development. Today it is calling for the definition of ambitious policies for the promotion of ideas and defence of European interests. The voice of European diplomacy, as is still too often the case, must not reflect the lowest common denominator. It's a question of will. This is how the Europeans will progressively take their destiny in hand.

But a strong Europe is also a Europe equipped with the instruments to fulfil its ambition. The requisite European military capabilities must be developed. At this stage, we need to give the Union the credibility it still lacks so that it can effectively manage a crisis with its own assets, either on its own, or with NATO's assistance. This is a fundamental stage. The capabilities commitments' conference scheduled for November is going to allow each member country to announce the assets it will place at the Union's disposal so that, in three years' time, it can deploy 60,000 men in an external theatre.

During our presidency we must also ensure that the institutions created by the Helsinki European Council, and particularly the Political and Security Committee, play an increasingly important role.

Similarly, Europe must, uninhibitedly, assert its identity and its values. This is why we are keen for the scope of the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights, now being drafted, to be commensurate with our expectations. It must embrace civil and political rights, economic and social rights and the new rights which particularly concern the environment and bioethics.

The time has also come to define more clearly the social model which meets the aspirations of the European citizens. The adoption of the Social Agenda in Nice will contribute to this. We need to build a Europe closer to its citizens, a Europe which addresses their primary concerns: growth, employment and training, justice and security, the environment and health, the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime. In all these spheres and some others, under the French presidency, we are making headway. (...)

Balkans/Serbia Peace is our primary concern. On our continent, the European Union has entrenched it by radically transforming the relations between its member States. We must nonetheless remain vigilant and safeguard the conditions underpinning this security. Member States must do this in the Union and in the Atlantic Alliance, which remains crucial to their collective defence. They must do so too individually by more effectively shouldering their responsibilities in the defence sphere. France, with its deterrent capability of which I am the guarantor, is making its full contribution to this.

While peace is the prime achievement of the European enterprise, on our doorstep, in the Balkans, the situation remains fragile. The old demons which had corrupted Europe are still present in Serbia. The international community - and France has played its full part in this - in Bosnia-Herzegovina as in Kosovo - has successfully put an end to ethnic cleansing. But there will be no stability in the area of the former Yugoslavia while a regime like that of Milosevic continues in Belgrade, as long as democracy hasn't, everywhere, regained the upper hand.

The European Union must contribute to this by supporting, using the instruments available to it and by its power of attraction, the positive developments which have emerged in some countries. In Croatia, of course, but also in Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina where the recent elections signal a policy shift which must be encouraged. This is the objective of the summit which will be held in Croatia under French presidency. This meeting will also have the aim of encouraging the positive trends in Montenegro where praiseworthy democratic efforts are being made and in Kosovo where peace has admittedly returned but where the entrenchment of the values of tolerance and respect for human rights remains our main objective.

This initiative, which I took after consulting President Mesic, received the support of the Feira European Council. Serbia must understand that the road to rapprochement with Europe will be opened to it once it has moved towards democracy. Its destiny is European. To be faithful to it and rejoin its family, it must respect its values. (...)


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).