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Michèle Alliot-Marie in Bratislava Says Divisions Are Behind Us

Michèle Alliot-Marie in Bratislava Says Divisions Are Behind Us

Speech given by Mrs Michèle Alliot-Marie, French Minister of Defence, at the Bratislava International Conference on the theme "Toward a Wider Europe". Bratislava, March 19, 2004. Source: DICoD, Paris.

Heads of State, Heads of Governments Mr Secretary general, Ministers,

It is a great honour and a real pleasure to be here in Bratislava, among this assembly symbolizing in a way our common future.

It is also an opportunity to present the French vision of the New Europe, a wider Europe.

2004 is a very meaningful year for the enlargement of the EU and of NATO. It will not be the last one. Other countries will join us later. It is however a decisive step for the reunification of the European family.

Divisions are behind us !.

New members bring a new dimension to the EU and to NATO.

  • 1. Which Europe do we want to build ?

- We want Europe to respect diversity and show solidarity, including in its defence component. - We are involved in a unique process to build a new Europe. - It is neither that of a free-trade area, nor the creation of the United States of Europe.

  • Diversity is central for Europe

We have old and real identities. They are built upon history, culture and upon the desires of our populations.

The aim of the European construction is not to erase our identities.

France, like the other nations, is proud of its traditions and tries to keep them alive. Countries which have recently regained their independency have a true reminder of the value of national identity.

In the same way, we stand in a multipolar world.

Therefore, we must be better organized to defend collectively our common interests.

This is why we need :

  • A Europe with close bonds

Setting up a common market is necessary but not sufficient.

We must build a European model based on common objectives such as :

  • industrial cooperation in order to compete as a European player ;

  • social protection ;

  • defence of our cultural heritage ;

  • political consultation among the 25 countries to promote common interests and values.

The designation of a European minister of Foreign Affairs will foster the European voice in the international arena. This voice, our voice, will only be heard if we have the means to have it respected which implies to reinforce the European defence.

It is necessary to defend our populations, our interests and our values using military assets if and when necessary.

The ambition of a European defence is growing.

  • The European flag was in Macedonia last year; it will stand in Bosnia this year.

  • Last summer, we have successfully conducted the first autonomous EU operation in Ituri.

  • Tomorrow, we are likely to intervene in Africa or elsewhere in the world.

A twofold condition will keep this ambition alive :

First, by getting the right military capabilities. The European defence agency will help us to rationalize our efforts, to plan our needs, to put our assets in common and prepare the future.

Then, by improving our command and planning capabilities. In order to do so, the European planning cell will enable us to plan and organize our operations better.

Each one of us has a role to play.

Beside being an economic power, the EU deserves to become a major political and military player.

This ambition does not imply that we have to reduce the importance of the Atlantic Alliance and the Transatlantic partnership.

  • 2. Which Euro-Atlantic partnership ?

Europe and America are two partners within an Alliance that needs to be renewed. Two poles, two partners with special relationships. On both sides of the Atlantic, we share a common history.

We also face common threats : terrorism, proliferation of mass destruction weapons and regional crises.

We have the same values based on democracy and the rule of law.

This is why the European and American poles have a mutual interest in cooperating in our multipolar world.

  • An updated Alliance

The Atlantic Alliance is the symbol of this relationship in the field of security. It is for each of our countries the ultimate guarantee in front of the current uncertainties. It is also a framework for common action when dealing with international crises which threaten our security. The reform of its structures is crucial to enable us to face crises efficiently.

The key word here is flexibility. It is the only solution to react appropriately when a crisis occurs.

Depending on the situation, we must be able to use either the Alliance, or the EU with the Alliance’s capabilities, or the EU in an autonomous way or as part of a coalition.

Therefore, there is no competition between the EU and NATO.

The increasing number of predictable crises in the world implies a reciprocal support and forbids any competition between the two organisations.

  • Strengthening defence assets

Our main problem is a lack of capabilities. So, we must remain vigilant and dedicate the necessary means to Defence.

Protecting its citizens is the raison d'être of any State.

  • France is achieving a real effort.

The current French Military Programming Act extending from 2003 to 2008 will increase the equipment budget by 14 % . In the field of defence research, the French budget will represent a third of the one of the European Defence.

France expects its partners and allies to participate in the common building of European security.

We must not forget that reinforcing the European military capabilities will reinforce the European pillar within the Alliance.

It will also consolidate the Transatlantic link by showing to our American allies that the Europeans are able to take on their responsibilities in the field of Defence.

In this respect, I would like to outline the efforts achieved by the countries which are about to join NATO and the EU.

  • Conclusion

The coming meetings of Brussels in May and Istanbul in June will represent a decisive step for the European reunification and the stability of the continent.

It is our new responsibility to make Europe have its place in the multipolar world.

As the terrible terrorist attacks in Madrid have shown it, we will have to face heavy threats, but at the same time new opportunities will open up.

During the next EU summit, a number of measures should be taken in order to reinforce our co-operation, in particular in the field of the fight on terrorism.

Our Union must be open and must altogether :

  • preserve what the Transatlantic relationship has already achieved ;

  • cooperate with our major neighbours such as Russia, the Arabic and African worlds ;

  • lastly, be a major actor with emerging powers (China, India, Brazil).

It is a huge challenge that corresponds to the major cultures we represent. We must take it up together. Our children would not forgive us not to have prepared their future !

Thank you.

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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).