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Our World Seeking New Balances Is Teetering Between Hope and Chaos

Our World Seeking New Balances Is Teetering Between Hope and Chaos

Address given by Mr Jacques Chirac, President of the French Republic, at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. London, United Kingdom, Thursday, November 18, 2004. Sources : Élysée Palace in Paris and French Embassy in London.

  • My Lord Mayor,

  • Mr. Chairman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies,

  • Mr. Director,

  • Ladies and Gentlemen,

I should first of all like to thank you for your hospitality and your kind words of welcome. It is a pleasure and an honour for me to be able to speak to those at this prestigious Institute whose thinking and analyses help clarify the choices of leaders on the international scene.

A few days ago, the American people went to the polls. In a few months, Europe will do the same. In France, in the United Kingdom and in many other EU countries, the people of Europe will be asked to directly express their opinions on the European Constitution.

Like the American elections, these referendums, which are the natural rhythm of democracy, will shape, above and beyond each of our nations, the very development of the world.

We live in a single world. A world in which the United States’ choices and Europe’s choices have a decisive impact.

It is a complex, changing and sometimes worrying world, one that is increasingly present in our fellow citizens’ lives and concerns at a time when every day, globalisation further blurs the boundaries between what happens within and beyond our borders.

A world that is fervently seeking new balances, that is teetering between hope and chaos.

Today, Europe and the United States have a huge responsibility. We each have our history and our way of looking at things. Based on its experience, Europe carries the message of reconciliation with past enemies. It bears witness to the force of law, co-operation and solidarity. Like the United States, it has inherited an essential legacy: an attachment to the values of democracy, liberty and human rights that underlie the Charter of the United Nations.

It is in these shared values that Americans and Europeans today, as in the past, find the common ground enabling them to together take up the challenges of this new century and help create a new world order based on the peoples’ support and freedom and on respect for their identity.

Before the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the end of the Cold War fifteen years ago marked the third victory in a century for democracies and transatlantic solidarity.

The collapse of Communism had far-reaching implications, which we are only just starting to gauge. Following our victory, we chose globalisation in the hope that trade would unify the world in prosperity. Some believed that the demise of Communism would sound the death knell for ideologies and that our values would naturally prevail everywhere.

Fifteen years later, the landscape before us remains incomplete and faced with new threats.

The choice of economic openness freed hundreds of millions of men and women from poverty. As a result, large entities - countries and groups of countries - are growing alongside the European Union, the United States and Japan, forming new poles that combine economic strength with political will.

This new reality has challenged the long-standing pre-eminence of the West and its models. It has paved the way for the assertion of another modernity that is emancipating itself from us. A modernity rooted in age-old histories and cultures, which we must now learn to understand better and respect, and whose calling is also to understand and fully share the values of democracy and liberty.

Globalisation often causes upheaval and destabilisation in societies that are poorly prepared to take advantage of its opportunities.

In Africa, in particular, it relegates hundreds of millions of men, women and children to extreme poverty, sickness, ignorance and exclusion. This situation is morally unacceptable, politically dangerous and economically absurd. Poverty goes hand in hand with the major epidemics, which know no borders. It drives millions of human beings into exile, in search of a better future. It stifles energies and talents that could contribute to shared prosperity if they were free of the daily fight for survival. And all too often, it leads to revolt and war.

In regions in crisis, nostalgia for the past and religious fundamentalism appear as shelters from the storm. Poverty and a sense of injustice therefore form a breeding ground for fanaticism and revolt. And the West is often seen as the source of all evils. In a globalised world, not paying attention to this is tantamount to paving the way for the clash of civilisations.

Globalisation compels us to pay even more attention to the environmental crisis, as humanity is increasingly exerting a destructive pressure on nature. This pressure could reach the breaking point if the entire world were to reproduce the Western systems of consumption and production based on wasting natural resources that we mistakenly believe to be inexhaustible.

In its cracks and crevices, it is nurturing new threats to peace and security, as international crime, terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction usurp and distort free trade and the instruments of modernity for their own ends.

The future depends on our collective ability to take on board this new global complexity by casting off obsolete approaches. It depends on our will to together take up the common challenges. Challenges that neither Europe, the United States nor any other international player today has the means to meet alone. Yet resolving these challenges will determine the security and future of each and every one of our citizens.

It is by recognising the new reality of a multipolar and interdependent world that we will succeed in building a sounder and fairer international order.

Granted, it is still possible to organise the world based on a logic of power. Yet experience has taught us that this type of organisation is, by its very definition, unstable and sooner or later leads to crisis or conflict.

But we have another choice. That of an order based on respect for international law and the empowerment of the world’s new poles by fully and wholly involving them in the decision-making mechanisms. Only this path is likely to establish a stable, legitimate and accepted order in the long run.

This is why we must work together to revive multilateralism. A multilateralism based on a reformed and strengthened United Nations, with a Security Council enlarged in terms of both its permanent and non-permanent members to represent the new balances in the world. With the creation of a new political forum on the economic and social governance of globalisation, of which the Evian Summit Enlarged Dialogue and the G20 summit project are, to a certain extent, forerunners. Together we must give our all to ensure that these reforms take shape in 2005.

This multilateralism should lead to support for the regional integration processes underway on all the continents. It is also at this level that the empowerment approach should be brought into play, with the assistance of the major multilateral organisations.

We need to build the new world order on the recognition of the diversity of cultures. This long-stifled reality is asserting itself today as an increasingly decisive factor in relations between nations. It is by respecting it that we will ensure real support for the values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Dialogue between cultures, civilisations and religions is the best response to the enemies of freedom who count on conflict between them.

This dialogue respectful of diversity naturally goes hand in hand with resolute support for the democratisation processes embarked upon by many countries. We believe in the universality of aspiring to freedom and the exercise of citizenship. We should support reformers everywhere with respect for peoples’ identities. Yet we must avoid any confusion between democratisation and Westernisation. For although our memory is sometimes short, the peoples submitted to the West’s domination in the past have not forgotten and are quick to see a resurgence of imperialism and colonialism in our actions.

The world needs a strong Europe in a reforged transatlantic partnership to build the new world order that will guarantee lasting peace, security and economic and human progress.

Europe has created a model: after totalitarianism, two World Wars, the Holocaust and nearly fifty years of Cold War, it decided to break free of the power games. Its peoples have established an area of peace, democracy, solidarity and prosperity founded on the freely conferred sharing of sovereignty. This has made the European Union an original and exemplary international player.

Tomorrow, with the entry into force of its first Constitution, Europe, steered by humanist and democratic ideals and with a clear picture of its strategic interests, should be able to take on new responsibilities on the international scene.

It is set to establish special links with the world’s major poles. I am obviously referring to China, India, Brazil and all the groups of countries such as Mercosur, ASEAN and the African Union, which justifiably aspire to seeing their new political, economic, technological and financial stature recognised. I am also referring to Russia, which has resumed its rightful place in the concert of nations and which is so close to us in terms of history, culture and geography.

The dialogue that Europe is developing with these new poles of the 21st century is helping to further our values, respect for international law and world stability. It is not the solitary pursuit of selfish interests, but a clear strategic priority placed on the commitment and empowerment of these new global players.

I believe that this harmonious dialogue with the other major poles in the world is helping to promote the universal values that are at the heart of the transatlantic link.

On 6 June 2004, on the beaches of Normandy, I reaffirmed that France will never forget what it owes America, its friend and ally since the War of Independence. Like all the countries of Europe, it knows that the Atlantic Alliance, forged in the face of adversity, is vital to our collective security in the face of new threats.

Forty years ago, President Kennedy called for a balanced partnership to be forged between the two sides of the Atlantic. France, with the European Union, shares this vision.

I would like to point out that for France, NATO is also the forum where Americans and Europeans can, when united around the same objectives and tasked by the international community, pool their efforts to work for peace in a climate of mutual attentiveness and respect.

In this spirit, France decided at the Prague Summit to fully commit to enabling NATO to face up to the threats in the world today. France is now one of the leading contributors to the NATO Response Force, the NRF, whose national resources are also available for the European Union.

France is also one of the foremost contributors of forces to the Alliance’s military missions and, at this very moment, is managing operations in Kosovo and, via the EUROCORPS Staff, in Afghanistan. This shows that a strong Europe of Defence also contributes to a stronger Alliance.

Building a credible European defence system is obviously not, as is sometimes said, about building up a Europe against the United States. It is about giving Europe the capabilities to assume its responsibilities either independently, in liaison with the Atlantic Alliance or within it.

This is a long-haul effort, for while Europe theoretically has the second largest military budget in the world, equivalent in volume to half that of the United States, the results do not reflect the effort put in. The only realistic way to give Europe the capabilities it is lacking is to now build a bridge between the national defence forces, pool resources, phase out redundant duplication, seek out synergies and favour co-operation programmes. Following the success of the A400M aircraft, this concern is at the heart of the debates and projects that France has been conducting with Germany and other EU partners in recent months.

Hence France, like the United Kingdom, has chosen conventional propulsion for its future aircraft carrier, which should improve the interoperability of our fleets. We should give our all, end the circumspection and overcome short-term economic problems to ensure that this co-operation, which the British Prime Minister and I both wish for, is a real success, a success for our countries and a success for Europe, for its defence and for the transatlantic link.

In the same spirit, we should together take up the strategic challenge of space, as a guarantee of Europe’s autonomy and its credibility in evaluating threats and conducting military operations. Here again, we have established productive co-operation with Germany. We can surely go further together with the United Kingdom.

The resolution of regional crises may be the first priority for reforging transatlantic co-operation in the coming months.

From the Balkans to Afghanistan to Haiti, we see what Europe and the United States can do together when they make the effort to agree on the objectives and how to achieve them. In all these crisis areas, our soldiers are working side by side for peace.

  • We should focus our efforts on areas in which our approaches differ.

The resolution of the Middle East conflict can no longer wait. If we want to alleviate tensions and emotions, overcome fear, frustration and despair, and bring a lasting end to violence and terrorism in the region and beyond, we have to do everything in our power to arrive at a fair and sustainable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The passing of Yasser Arafat, the historical embodiment of the Palestinian people’s national aspirations, has made the resolution of this crisis even more urgent. Faced with a risk of chaos, the Palestinian leaders have chosen democracy. Let us support them in this. Let us facilitate the holding of free elections in the Palestinian Territories. Let us help assert legitimate and democratic Palestinian institutions that will constitute, for Israel, the best partners for peace.

Reviving the Middle East peace process is an absolute priority, which should rally Americans and Europeans together with their Quartet partners. Let us together ensure the success of the withdrawal from Gaza. Let us pave the way for the implementation of the Road Map, the creation of a viable and democratic Palestinian State living alongside the State of Israel in peace and security.

In Iraq, the unanimously adopted Resolution 1546 has defined the steps of a political process that must now be implemented in its entirety. We believe that the coming elections, provided they are organised in a credible manner, can give rise to the creation of fully legitimate Iraqi institutions and enable the country to be master of its own destiny. The entire international community is united in its aim to give back the Iraqi people, in all their diversity, their dignity through regained freedom, return them to their full place in the international community and enable them to contribute, by their stability, to balance in the region. The upcoming Sharm-el-Sheikh conference should be useful and advance the cause of peace by supporting the process underway through to its successful conclusion.

Combating the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism is our second priority. Transatlantic co-operation is already exemplary in these areas. It should continue and be stepped up.

To give new impetus to non-proliferation policy in the light of the recent crises, I proposed that a meeting be held of the Heads of State and Government of the Security Council member countries. This proposal is more relevant than ever. It should enable us to make a rational analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the non-proliferation regime we have built up over time: treaties, systems to control exports of sensitive technologies, verification and inspection mechanisms, special G8 programmes, the Proliferation Security Initiative, and the EU Strategy against the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

  • This meeting should enable us to explore new avenues to supplement these crucial instruments and strengthen the international consensus.

Iran is an urgent case in point. It has led us, with the United Kingdom and Germany, in association with the European Union, in liaison with Russia, and in full transparency with the United States, to propose to Tehran an approach based on reciprocal commitments between our countries: since Iran has decided to implement confidence-building measures to guarantee the peaceful nature of its nuclear programme now and in the future, our three countries, in liaison with the European Union and its Member States, are able to embark with Iran on long-term co-operation in the political, economic and technological fields, including the civilian nuclear industry. It is only fitting that the countries that respect their international non-proliferation obligations and provide proof of the peaceful nature of their objectives should be able to use the technologies to which the international rules give them legitimate access. Yet no leniency should be shown towards those who fail to comply with their commitments.

Our world is witnessing a spread of terrorism that nothing, no cause, can justify. The international community needs to be united in the face of this outburst of blind, barbaric violence. In Afghanistan, where our special forces are fighting alongside our American allies, and elsewhere, our uncompromising fight has dealt the terrorist networks some harsh blows. The nations in the UN-led coalition have closed ranks. Yet the recent attacks in Asia, Europe and Africa show that the threat persists and is growing.

This worrying observation compels us to define an evermore effective and appropriate response, including against new threats such as bioterrorism and cyberterrorism.

It also prompts us to recognise that terrorism is rooted in unresolved conflicts and poverty and the absence of prospects for development. Our fight cannot overlook this reality.

There are other challenges aside from security that a reforged transatlantic partnership can successfully take up. I am referring, in particular, to poverty reduction and environmental protection. We will have the opportunity to make decisions that will change the state of affairs at the G8 Summit hosted by the United Kingdom next year.

Underdevelopment is not inescapable. The example of China and India proves this. Yet poverty is a blind alley, and we must extend a hand to help those who cannot leave it by their own means. Those who are too weak to take advantage of the benefits of international trade liberalisation risk being marginalized even further.

We know the road: the Millennium Development Goals adopted by the international community four years ago. We know the method: the partnership set up in Monterrey and illustrated by NEPAD’s approach. We know the price: in the region of one hundred billion dollars per year, which is a small fraction of global wealth. And yet official assistance from the rich countries covers merely half of this sum.

The international community urgently needs to find new resources for development. It must explore all avenues, impartially and without exception, in order to mobilise a fraction of the immense wealth created by globalisation.

The United Kingdom has put forward the idea of an International Finance Facility, which we support. France, with Brazil, Chile and Spain, has tabled concrete and realistic proposals concerning international taxes, which complement this idea. Let us prepare a common approach for the September 2005 United Nations Summit whereby the international community will fully respect its commitments.

The destruction of nature is not inevitable either and, in this field, combating climate change is the most urgent concern. Like Tony Blair, I believe that this is one of the most pressing threats of our time and I am determined to do everything in my power to ensure that the international reaction is equal to the challenge.

The Kyoto Protocol is the only effective instrument we have to meet this global challenge. Russia’s decision to ratify it is a historic event and a great step forward for the future of humanity. I hope that the next G8 Summit, under the British presidency, will see us taking another decisive step forward together, with the United States.

  • Ladies and Gentlemen,

The balance of the multipolar world taking shape is based on a harmonious partnership between the major poles and the assertion of the values and vision of the founding fathers of the United Nations who, immediately following the Second World War, defined an international order based on law and justice.

It is this world of law and justice, underpinned by a strong and reforged transatlantic link, that we call for.

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).