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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. Sources : Élysée Palace and French Embassy in London.

  • Madam,

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 Normandy Landings.

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.

  • Madam,

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 tomorrow’s realities.

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.

  • Long live the United Kingdom!

  • Long live France!

  • Long live the Entente Cordiale!

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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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