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The Best Thing I Know Between England and France Is the Sea

The Best Thing I Know Between England and France Is the Sea

Speech by Michèle Alliot-Marie, French Minister of Defense, during her meeting with Geoffrey Hoon, British Minister of Defense, on board the "Charles de Gaulle" aircraft carrier. Portsmouth, June 9, 2004. Source: French Embassy in the U.K.

It’s an honour and a real pleasure for me to welcome you all aboard the “Charles de Gaulle” aircraft carrier.

A long time ago Douglas Jerrold, an ex-sailor-turned-writer, wrote in the famous satirical magazine “Punch”: “The best thing I know between England and France is the sea”. Back then, the remark was mocking. Today I’d say that it’s pretty accurate when you think of the venue chosen to celebrate the Entente Cordiale centenary...

Britain and France are joining together this evening to commemorate their friendship. Since the signature of this Treaty in April 1904, our two nations have forged solid bonds equipping them today to confront the challenges of the future.

The Entente Cordiale paved the way for lasting, fruitful cooperation between France and Britain. At the time, this agreement gave tangible form to the move to an era of rapprochements and alliances. Because of our two countries’ centuries-old common history, what unites us rapidly outstripped what divides us. Admittedly, our two countries haven’t always viewed things in the same way. The differences make our conversations more interesting!

Above all, France and Britain are two major military powers who share a similar view of the world. Our analysis of the risks and threats is the same. We have the same duties and the same responsibilities. We share a tradition of commitment to the service of peace throughout the world. These common points allow us to tackle the future together.

Today, the genuine strategic partnership between France and Britain equips us to take on together the challenges ahead.

Examples abound of our military cooperation, which extends to all our armed services, particularly in the current battle against terrorism.

Together we’re fighting terrorism in Operation Enduring Freedom, in Task Force 150 in the Indian Ocean. Its command has just passed from a British commodore to a French rear admiral. And it was the British frigate “HMS Gloucester” which escorted the “Charles de Gaulle” to the area. We’re seeking to increase our cooperation. The choice of conventional propulsion for France’s second aircraft carrier, which President Chirac announced in February, will extend the scope of our collaboration.

Defense Europe obviously offers us huge potential for cooperation. Britain and France have a shared future in this great project. Complementary to the Atlantic Alliance, to which our two nations pledge unshakeable loyalty, European defense gives the EU the dimension it lacked. Quite obviously, the security of the Europeans demands close cooperation between Paris and London.

We have made enormous progress during the century of the Entente Cordiale. It's up to us to strengthen our cooperation over the next hundred years.

Celebrating the Entente Cordiale doesn't just mean congratulating each other for yesteryear’s reconciliation. It also means seizing today's opportunities for cooperation and together looking to the future. If we are to rise to the challenge of a constantly evolving strategic environment, we have to do it together.

Over the centuries our friendship has enabled us to avoid the worst. May it now serve us as a basis for building the best !

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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).