France Is Aware of Its Debt to the United Kingdom
France Is Aware of Its Debt
to the United Kingdom
Speech by Jacques Chirac,
President of the French Republic, at the dinner in honour of Her majesty Queen
Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edimburgh.
Source: Palais de l'Elysée, Paris, April 5, 2004.
In welcoming Your Majesty, I speak for all French people, who
are especially delighted to be your hosts for the commemoration of the centenary
of the Entente Cordiale. In Your person, they are greeting a great and close
friend of France. I have my personal memory of the charm and warmth of your
hospitality, when you invited my wife and me to Buckingham Palace in May 1996.
Today, France welcomes you to Paris for this State visit in the same spirit of
The French will never forget that, when the European continent was beaten down
by barbarity, the hope of those who loved freedom resided in the United Kingdom.
With its Royal Family, with the great figure of King George VI, Your father, and
the much loved and respected figure of Queen Elizabeth, Your mother, who both
showed magnificent courage and solidarity throughout the bombing. With its
unbending government and its people with their admirable unity, determination
It is you, the British, who protected the flame of the
resistance at the darkest moment in History. It was in London that France’s
eternal spirit found help and encouragement. It was in London that it found the
hope to continue fighting the occupation. France is aware of its debt to the
United Kingdom and the people of the Commonwealth for the outstanding
relationship based on trust and respect that linked the Leader of the Free
French to the royal family and to the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.
In a few weeks, we shall be together to celebrate the
Normandy Landings. Together with the representatives of the allied nations, and
chief among them the United States of America, we shall welcome the surviving
veterans of those hours when the fate of Europe and the World hung in the
balance. Together, we shall honour the memory of those who fell so that the
ideals of justice and freedom could prevail. In the presence of the German
Federal Chancellor, we shall reaffirm that the mission of European construction
is to secure peace and democracy on this Continent. We shall take the measure of
the immense and unprecedented progress that Europe has made in the
reconciliation between the enemies of yesterday. On the union between our old
countries, which have managed to build the future by turning their backs forever
on age-old conflicts.
The friendships and battles of our two countries, our two
peoples, our two cultures and their common and separate histories have helped to
forge European civilisation. Inspired by the same values of freedom, justice and
human dignity, attached to their independence and their traditions, the British
and the French have, each in their own way, personified the same ideals. The
result is a mutual regard that embraces brotherhood, fascination and rivalry, in
a process of perpetual emulation that has shaped History.
We have transcended these differences and are now making them
work for Europe and the cause of greater justice in the world. The British and
the French expect the identities that are the source of their national pride to
be respected as they build a strong, dynamic and self-confident Europe. As the
European Union prepares to welcome ten new Member States, the new Europe will
need to adopt a constitution as soon as possible. Our two countries shall
provide the impetus needed to achieve this major step.
The United Kingdom and France share the same taste for broad
horizons and sense of duty that comes from worldwide responsibilities. This is
why our two countries are working for peace in the Balkans and in Africa and why
they have taken part in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan. This is why
our two countries had to join forces to give European defence a decisive impetus,
in conjunction with Germany.
We share the same faith in science and progress, the same
confidence in initiative and free enterprise, the same conviction that the
public powers have a role to play in justice, solidarity and promoting
development. This is why we recently joined with Germany to propose means of
achieving renewed growth for Europe.
On 11 March, tragedy once again afflicted Europe. The
bombings in Madrid created a wound. Let us present a common front against
terrorism. Let us strengthen Europe’s security with determination. Let us take
the necessary political initiatives to attack the root causes of this scourge.
We know that no country is safe. No country can stand apart. No country can act
alone. We shall fight this battle together and on a European-wide front.
Our shared ambition of achieving a world of peace and
solidarity is expressed in the forums where a new form of governance on a human
scale is being developed. As founding members, we see the United Nations as the
source of international legitimacy. As permanent members of the Security Council,
we would like it to be strengthened and enlarged to take on the prime
responsibility for international peace and security conferred upon it by the UN
We would like to see the G8 open up to emerging countries and
the most deprived. So that globalisation does not leave entire continents behind,
starting with Africa. So that the destruction of natural resources can be halted
and the environment protected for tomorrow’s generations. You have great plans
for 2005. The British Presidency can count on France’s support.
On 14 July this year, the Horseguards will parade down the
Champs Elysées. They will be a reminder of the blood our countries spilled
together on the battlefields of the twentieth century, in the trenches of the
Somme, in the African sands and on the cliffs of Normandy. The Horseguards will
remind us of the inspired vision of your ancestor, Edward VII and those who
signed the Entente Cordial one hundred years ago. It brought to an end long
centuries of history where the British and the French constantly vied with each
other and did battle on every sea and every continent. In a spectacular
diplomatic change of heart, our two nations decided at last that they would get
along. Shortly thereafter, they had to seal this pact as comrades in arms.
If we are celebrating this centenary today, it is to show
that the durability, depth and diversity of our links have clearly prevailed
over our divergences. What we want to celebrate in the events that will take
place all year long is also the promise for the future expressed by the younger
The Entente Cordiale is also an affair of the heart, a mutual
attachment that we need to continue cultivating. Our hope is that the feelings
we share are fulfilled in understanding, and with solidarity and a common
vision. We must keep in mind the progress that our countries still have to make
together and towards one another. At a time when so many French citizens have
chosen to live in the United Kingdom and more and more British subjects are
moving to France, we should rejoice that our two peoples continue to hold such
fascination and attraction for each other.
In this spirit of long friendship and age-old understanding,
Madam, I now raise my glass. I raise my glass in honour of a long reign that
personifies the abiding British genius. I raise my glass in honour of Your
Gracious Majesty and His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh,
as well as Your family. I raise my glass in honour of the great and beloved
British people who are the allies and friends of the French people.
Long live the United Kingdom!
Long live France!
Long live French and British friendship!