When Our Two Countries Unite their Forces, Few Challenges Can Withstand Them
When Our Two Countries Unite their
Forces, Few Challenges Can Withstand Them
Speech by Mr Jacques
Chirac, French President on the occasion of the dinner given in his honour by Her
Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Windsor Castle, U.K., Thursday, November 18, 2004.
Élysée Palace and French Embassy in London.
My warmest thanks, Your Majesty, for
your words of welcome, which my wife and I take very much to heart.
I was deeply touched by your exceptional
invitation to make this second visit to Britain, and especially by your
invitation to visit you here, at Windsor Castle, knowing how devoted you and
your family are to this historic place, so magnificently restored after the
dramatic fire of 1992. I take it as a token of your profound, warm and loyal
friendship for France. I believe I interpret the feelings of my fellow
countrymen in reminding Your Majesty of the respect and affection in which the
women and men of France hold you, personally, and the British people as a whole.
We are nearing the end of this year of
celebration of the centenary of the Entente Cordiale, an Entente between our two
nations that is deeply rooted today. An Entente sealed in our common struggles
for freedom and against tyranny. An Entente consecrated by the blood spilled
with so much sacrifice on French soil, to which you paid homage by your presence
on the occasion of the ceremonies to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the
If the vision of your Great-Grandfather,
King Edward VII, a hundred years ago, has become a reality today, the reason is
that his was a vision of the future. And I profoundly believe that today, more
than ever, it is a vision of the future. Please allow me, Madam, to recall the
elegant formula Your Majesty used on the occasion of my State visit in 1996: "Though
it is true that we do not drive on the same side of the road, it is equally true
that we are advancing in the same direction." We have our differences, to be
sure, and we often cling to them. They are part of our culture and shape our
identity. But that is beside the point. The great lesson of the Entente Cordiale
is that, when our two countries unite their forces, few challenges can withstand
them. That is the underlying theme of the many events held to mark this
centenary: not so much to commemorate our common past, however rich, but, and
more crucially, to prepare for the future.
Our common future means the European
Union, first and foremost. Europe needs a strong Franco-British partnership in
order to move forward.
When Europe desires to make its voice
heard in the world; when it decides to forge a military capability in the
service of its security and to defend its values; when it sets out to build the
world’s most competitive economy, it cannot dispense with the combined action of
France and the United Kingdom.
Our two countries share a common
aspiration to view the world in the round and to exercise our responsibilities
in the international arena. By virtue of their history and their status as
permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, they are accustomed to
acting whenever international peace and security are threatened. By virtue of
the ties of solidarity which they have forged around the world, and in
particular through the Commonwealth and La Francophonie, they are acutely
sensitive to the fate of the most vulnerable countries. Like the United Kingdom,
France wants the international community to stand by its commitments: to reduce
poverty and imbalances in the world, to safeguard the environment, to break with
the vicious circle of poverty, instability and conflict that grips so many
peoples, in Africa especially. The British presidency of the G8 will serve as an
occasion to signal our common commitment.
I have no need to convince Your Majesty
of the fine future that lies ahead for the Entente Cordiale. There is vast scope
for action by our two countries, where our combined efforts can help to advance
peace, justice and solidarity. It is up to us, by remaining united around the
essence of the Entente Cordiale and faithful to its spirit, to give flesh to
this vision of the world which we share, and to turn today’s possibilities into
In expressing that wish, Madam, I raise
my glass in honour of Your Gracious Majesty, in honour of His Royal Highness
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and in honour of your family. I raise it also
in honour of the Prime Minister and of the Members of the British Government who
are with us here this evening. I raise it in honour of the great and dear
British people, the ally and friend of the French people.