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We Can Choose Between Caricaturing Our Differences or Consolidate and Deepen Our Alliance

We Can Choose Between Caricaturing Our Differences or Consolidate and Deepen Our Alliance

Speech by French President Jacques Chirac at the Palace of Westminster. London, United Kingdom, Thursday, November 18, 2004. Source: Élysée  Palace, Paris and French Embassy, London.

  • Lord Chancellor,

  • Speaker,

  • President of the French Senate,

  • President of the French National Assembly,

  • Members of the British and French Parliaments,

Thank you for your words of welcome and friendship. This is the second time I have had the occasion to visit the Palace of Westminster, the heart of your great democracy, to meet with the representatives of the British people.

Great Britain and France are two ancient nations, and their institutions, their identities, and their ways of approaching the world are the outcome of a history dating back a thousand years and more. Their histories are distinct, yet they are twins. Our two countries have fought together many times in the past, yet they have also borrowed much from each other. They have long shared a common attachment to democracy, to sovereignty, and to the rule of law. And they stood together in the darkest hour of their history in defence of that commitment against barbarity. They continue to defend it together today, in the service of an exalted and historic enterprise, the construction of Europe.

When our two countries together signed the documents that formed the basis of the Entente cordiale, a hundred years ago, the European Union in its present form was assuredly inconceivable. But, fifty years later, the vision that inspired King Edward VII, Lord Lansdowne, Paul Cambon and Théophile Delcassé guided the founding fathers of modern Europe. Their idea, so simple and bold, of an "Entente permanente", has become a reality between our two countries, a reality sealed in the "blood and tears" of two world conflicts. Since then, it has also become a reality between the Member States of our Union, a reality that is the bedrock of peace and is now helping democracy to put down roots throughout the continent of Europe.

Today these visionary inspirations, the Entente cordiale and the European Union, are coming together.

  • Europe needs a strong partnership between the United Kingdom and France.

A partnership for a stronger, safer, fairer Europe, one in which all citizens can find a response to the collective challenges facing us.

A partnership that is already taking shape with the common commitment of our troops in the Balkans and Afghanistan; with our common concern to promote a Europe that is more competitive and more ambitious in the field of research and innovation. A Europe committed to its social model and resolved to encourage sustainable development across our planet. Together with Africa, this will be a priority of Britain’s Presidency of the G8, and it can count on our support.

The United Kingdom and France share a common destiny in a Europe respectful of its constituent nations. The choice is therefore up to us: we can choose to be swayed by myths and prejudice, caricaturing our differences; or we can choose to acknowledge reality, to consolidate and deepen our alliance, to join forces, to combine our countries’ formidable capacities and their complementary strengths, and to work together in tackling our common challenges.

Of France’s response I have not the slightest doubt. Nor do I doubt that of the United Kingdom, as it prepares to assume the Presidency of the Union in the second half of next year. Our two peoples will be called upon to vote by referendum on the Constitutional Treaty which we signed together in Rome last month: this represents a decisive step forward for the construction of Europe. It is my hope that, by their vote, Britons and French alike confirm their faith in Europe and its future. 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).