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An Alliance Doesn't Mean Allegiance

An Alliance Doesn't Mean Allegiance

Interview given by Michel Barnier, Minister of Foreign Affairs, to Radio France Internationale and “L'Express” magazine “Invité de la semaine” (Excerpts). Paris, April 15, 2004. Source: Embassy of France, Washington D.C. (...)

  • US / Europe

Question:  Is there a need to counterbalance American power?

Michel Barnier: I'm not trying to be European and to promote the European project in opposition to the US or in some sort of rivalry with the US who is our ally and the world's foremost power, but won't be the world's sole power for ever. There are other powers which moreover are often continent-wide States such as China or Russia, all close to us. There's India and Brazil. I was in South Africa. You can see regional poles being created in Africa too. In order to count at that table of the world's present and future great powers, Europe has to be united, has to speak with a single voice because none of our countries, even Britain, France and Germany which are the biggest countries, can be strong enough by themselves to balance these powers. You're talking about the US. The US is our permanent, definitive ally since we have the same values and the same concerns about freedom, but an alliance doesn't mean allegiance. The alliance has to be a dialogue, a balanced partnership. This depends on the US and how they see us; the Americans have to trust us and respect us, probably more than we see them doing today. And it also depends on us, on our having confidence in ourselves so that we're capable of having a foreign policy, without asking permission, I repeat, and the Constitution offers certain tools and a defence policy. It depends on us. (...)

  • Iraq / Falluja/US

Question:  (...) The Americans are pulling their marines out of Falluja. There's a sense they're following a rather different policy to the one they've had so far. Is this a step in the right direction in your view?

Michel Barnier:  We don't believe that the solution, the only way out of the conflict in Iraq, can be military; this question isn't going to be resolved by more soldiers or more military operations.

All gestures and actions that go in the other direction are welcome in order to bring about a better climate. Why a better climate? Because in a few weeks – it's been promised – on 30 June there's supposed to be a more representative transitional government to which the keys of sovereignty will be entrusted. Preparations for this change, which has to be a break to some extent with the current occupation, can't be made without a climate of confidence and stability. There need to be gestures to create such a climate of stability, and above all the Americans and their allies who currently occupy Iraq have to agree to a genuine, sincere, clear-cut transfer of sovereignty to a government which will be recognized and respected by the various Iraqi political forces and especially the various Iraqi communities.

We are anxious to see this real transfer of sovereignty to a government which is going to take over, and then naturally, sometime afterwards – several UN resolutions will be needed – the time for Iraq's political and economic reconstruction will begin. France, along with the other European countries, will play her part in Iraq's political and economic reconstruction because we must contribute to a return to progress and stability in the area.

  • Iraq / France / Safety of UN Officials

Question: The idea that Colin Powell floated in a French daily this morning, that France should be responsible for the safety of UN officials in Iraq, does that strike you as...

Michel Barnier: No, there's no question – as President Chirac has said repeatedly and clearly – of there being French soldiers in Iraq at this time, but we are concerned that in the framework of the United Nations, which for us has always been the only conceivable one for resolving such conflicts, that the stabilization phase, the transfer of sovereignty to an Iraqi government for the Iraqis, should be successful, and we will take our part in the next phase that will, I hope begin very soon, the phase of rebuilding Iraq politically and economically. (...)./.

Question: Is there a need to balance American power?

Michel Barnier: I’m not trying to be European and to promote the European project in opposition to the US or in some sort of rivalry with the US; it’s our ally and the world’s foremost power but it won’t be the world’s sole power for ever. There are other powers which moreover are often continent-wide states such as China or Russia, all close to us. There’s India and Brazil. I was in South Africa. You can see regional poles being created in Africa too. In order to count in that table of the world’s present and future great powers, Europe has to be united, has to speak with a single voice because none of our countries, even Britain, France and Germany which are the biggest countries, can be strong enough by themselves to balance these powers. You’re talking about the US. The US is our permanent, definitive ally since we have the same values and the same concerns about freedom, but an alliance isn’t allegiance. The alliance has to be a dialogue, a balanced partnership. That depends on the US and how they see us; the Americans have to trust us and respect us, probably more than they do today. And that also depends on us, on our having confidence in ourselves to be capable of having a foreign policy, without asking permission, I repeat, and the Constitution proposes certain tools and a defense policy. It depends on us. (...)

Question: Something very interesting has just happened: the Americans are pulling their marines out of Falluja. There’s a sense they’re following a rather different policy to the one they’ve had so far. Is that a step in the right direction in your view?

Michel Barnier: We don’t believe that the solution, the only way out of the conflict in Iraq, can be military; this question isn’t going to be resolved by more soldiers or more military operations.

All gestures and actions that go in the other direction are welcome in order to bring about a better climate. Why a better climate? Because in a few weeks, as promised, on June 30 there’s to be a more representative transitional government to which will be given the keys of sovereignty. Preparations for this change, which is to be a break to some extent with the current occupation, can’t be made without a climate of confidence and stability. There need to be gestures to generate such a climate of stability, and above all the Americans and their allies who currently occupy Iraq have to agree to a genuine, sincere, clear-cut transfer of sovereignty to a government which will be recognized and respected by the various Iraqi political forces and especially the various Iraqi communities.

We are anxious to see this real transfer of sovereignty to a government which is going to take over, and then naturally, sometime afterwards--several UN resolutions will be needed--the time for Iraq’s political and economic reconstruction will begin. France, along with the other European countries, will do its part in the political and economic reconstruction of Iraq because we must contribute to a return to progress and stability in this area.

Question: The idea that Colin Powell floated in a French daily this morning, that France should be responsible for the safety of UN officials in Iraq, does that strike you as....

Michel Barnier: No, there's no question--as President Chirac has said repeatedly and clearly-- of French soldiers in Iraq at this time, but we are concerned that in the context of the United Nations, which for us has always been the sole conceivable framework for resolving such conflicts, that the stabilization phase, the transfer of sovereignty to an Iraqi government for the Iraqis, should be successful, and we will take our part in the next phase that begins, I hope, the phase of rebuilding Iraq politically and economically.
 


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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).

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