The Driving Force for European Defence Is Today a Franco-British One
The Driving Force for European Defence Is Today a
Joint press conference given by M. Jacques Chirac,
President of the French Republic, and Mr Tony Blair, Prime Minister of
the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. London, November
18,.2004. Sources: French Embassy in London and 10 Downing Street (1).
Mr Tony Blair: Good afternoon, everyone. First of
all, I would like to extend a very warm welcome to President Chirac and to his
colleagues on the occasion not just of the Anglo-French summit, but also, very
importantly, a celebration of the centenary of the Entente Cordiale. We are
delighted to have President Chirac and his colleagues here in the UK for this
celebration. We have had a series of bilateral discussions today, which have
been immensely constructive. I would just like to run through some of the issues
that we have been talking about together.
First of all, I should say on the question of Iraq, I think the differences at
the time of the conflict were well known, but both of us are now working under
UN Resolution 1546 and both of us want to see a stable and democratic Iraq. We
will both do what we can to ensure that that happens. However, having stated
that there was that disagreement, well known at the time of the conflict, it is
just worth pointing out that, particularly in the light of some of the coverage
there is on the question of Iran, of Afghanistan, of the Balkans, of Africa, and
of climate change, we are working very closely together.
On the question of European defence, both at a defence level and at an
industrial level, we are working closely together. It is worth pointing out that
our armed forces have been engaged in cooperation together in many different
parts of the world: they still are in Bosnia; they still are in Afghanistan; and,
most recently, albeit in a limited and specific way, in respect to Côte
d'Ivoire. Indeed, I expressed to President Chirac my thanks for the assistance
that was given by France for the evacuation of British nationals and thanked him
These are all areas in which we are working closely together. We have also
discussed the Middle East peace process where, again, we believe it is important
that the elections on the Palestinian side go ahead. We must do everything we
possibly can to revitalize and reinvigorate that Middle East peace process. In
the discussions that our respective ministers have had, they crossed a whole
range of different questions from the environment to employment, as well as
questions about the future of Europe. Again, on these issues, there is a very,
very strong measure of agreement.
I have no doubt at all that it is not possible for either of us to build Europe
in the way that it needs building for the future unless we work strongly and
closely together. A recommitment to that was an essential part of our discussion
today. Can I say, once again, Jacques, it is a pleasure to have you here with
your colleagues. Thank you for the discussions that we have had earlier today,
and we look forward. Many thanks.
Mr Jacques Chirac: Before I begin, I should like to
remember Margaret Hassan and want to express the horror we feel at what she
suffered, and of course our total solidarity with British in this dreadful
I also, of course, want to thank the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, for his welcome,
on this twenty-seventh Franco-British summit and stress the fact that its
keynote has indeed, as he has just rightly said, been one of a friendship which
nothing can today call into question. As you know, we are in the Entente
Cordiale centenary year. And for a hundred years, having previously fought each
other for five centuries, we have seen, understood and felt that, actually –
while we may have differences of opinion on certain points, or different
interests, which is wholly legitimate and normal – the truth is that we have in
common the things that really matter for today and tomorrow. And that in any
case, when we had a difference of views, it had to be resolved in a spirit of
solidarity and certainly not in one of conflict.
That has been very clear during our talks. Just now Tony Blair listed all the
vast areas in which we are working hand in hand. On the ground or in the
political, international organizations. It's true. At the military level, from
Afghanistan to Africa. I'm thinking of Ituri where, despite the problems, the
United Kingdom has given us practical support, and on the ground, including of
course in the Balkans. Together we have carried out the reform allowing the
European Union to take over from NATO, very shortly, in fact under British
I could go on giving examples like this. It's true too when it comes to drawing
up together – and it wasn't that obvious or that easy – a common strategy for
European defence. The driving force for European defence is today, as it has
been for some time, a Franco-British one. And I remember that at the height of
our difference of views, on a particular point, regarding our assessments on
Iraq, we met in Le Touquet for a Franco-British summit. And it was in Le
Touquet, following St Malo, that we decided together – despite the situation and
with our thoughts geared to the future – to take the decisive steps to
strengthen European defence, which rests, I repeat, on cooperation,
collaboration, an agreement and a common vision between Britain and France.
I was telling the Prime Minister just now that France will, of course, actively
support Britain in her European presidency during the second half of next year,
and I also told him that right from the beginning of the year, we shall be
working hand in hand because we have the same approach, the same vision of
things, the same objectives for the G8, also under a British presidency which
has adopted two main subjects: Africa and development, and the problems linked
to climate warming. These are two shared concerns, and they are clearly the
fundamental issues for the future. World stability would be at risk in an Africa
whose development problems weren't successfully addressed, and also through
imprudent environmental action. And hand in hand we're going to support exactly
the same ideas, the same objectives, during the British G8 presidency. These are
the things which really matter.
Then we also talked about the subjects, I should say the subject, since there's
only one, on which we've had a difference of views. It's very understandable.
It's Iraq. On Iraq, our analyses were different and we drew different
conclusions from them. Who was wrong? Who was right? History will say. Certainly
not us, nor you. We'll see. Only history will be able to judge. But, in reality,
our common concern today isn't, of course, to analyse the past, but together to
commit ourselves to working for the future. And the future – with of course all
the difficulties – is a united, independent, democratic, peaceful Iraq. That's
clearly our common objective. And, on this point, we have no differences of view.
What does this mean? It means that we have together, and after consideration and
discussion, both voted for UNSCR 1546 and are implementing it.
We are implementing it together, with our American, European, international
partners. And we're determined to do so. What we want is to have an Iraq who,
after a reorganization of her political structures, can enjoy her full freedom,
her autonomy, in peace, with due regard for human rights and democracy.
And then, finally, on the Middle East, as regards the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict, we have the same analysis and the same objectives. We think that in
the current situation, and having regard to the decision taken by the
Palestinian authorities to hold elections – elections which we all want, and
they want to be democratic and free – it's together that we'll make our
contribution with, we hope, the whole international community, and particularly
the European Union and the United States, so that there can be free elections.
It may not be easy, but what's certain is that we have to work totally together
on achieving the common objective of establishing unchallengeable and
unchallenged political structures there.
I won't say much more. But I'm always a bit surprised at times to see comments
made in France. I'm fortunate that I don't read English! And so I am at times a
bit surprised to see the comments made in France which sometimes seem a bit
superficial. At any rate, they don't reflect either what I firmly believe or,
without any doubt, what the British government firmly believes, or our
experience [of Franco-British cooperation] which we are once again enjoying
today at this twenty-seventh summit.
Question: I would like to ask
the President why he thinks the war in Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein
may not have made the world safer. My question to the Prime Minister is on a
domestic matter: the war between the two Charles's. Do you endorse the
commentary by your Cabinet colleague on the heir to the throne?
Mr Jacques Chirac: If you look at what's happening
in the world, in respect of security and the growth of terrorism, not just in
the Middle East, but throughout the world, including Asia, and especially in
South-East Asia, you can't credibly say that this situation has significantly
improved, I repeat, with respect to security and terrorism. This hasn't in fact,
to my mind, any direct link with the situation in Iraq, but I note it.
Mr Tony Blair: It may sound something of a 'cop
out', because I have not read in very great detail what either has said, but I
would simply reflect that, if everything I wrote in a memo during a moment of
exasperation was given widespread publicity, I might make for a few headlines
myself. I am sure that, if we analyse sufficiently closely what each of them has
said, there will be some common ground.
Question: President Chirac, you
have just said that, together, you will try to support free elections in the
Occupied Territories. What do you mean by contribution? Does that mean Britain
and the United States exerting pressure on Israel? The French position is well
thought of and very fair. The British position is less well thought of in the
Arab world. Can you tell us a bit about the plans?
Mr Jacques Chirac: I'd simply say that the British
and French consider there is an opportunity and a necessity: the opportunity is
for a sounder political organization to emerge, which in turn implies doing the
utmost to enable it to find political expression. We are both of this opinion. I
understand, following the talks the British Prime Minister had with the
President of the United States, that there is today a sort of consensus on doing
the utmost to make the elections in Palestine possible and enabling the
Palestinians to be fully empowered to express their views, which requires
everyone making an effort and no one being provocative.
Mr Tony Blair: The good news is that there is
consensus around the world in terms of the objective we are trying to secure,
which is a two-State solution: Israel, confident of its own security, and a
viable Palestinian State. The bad news is we are a long way from achieving that.
The question that we have is how do we get there? The five steps that myself and
President Bush set out last Friday offer the only way forward at the present
time. I think myself and President Chirac are essentially agreed on these
components. Firstly, we have to be clear about the overall vision: the two-State
solution. Secondly, we have to be clear on the necessity of the Palestinian
elections being allowed to go ahead and happening. Thirdly, we have to build,
with the Palestinians, the necessary structures – politically, economically, and
in security terms – for a viable State. Fourthly, we have to make sure that the
disengagement plan that Prime Minister Sharon has outlined actually goes ahead.
Fifthly, we have to use these achievements, if they happen, as the opportunity
to get back into the Roadmap and final status negotiations. There is no issue
the world over that causes such concern.
The good news is there is actually an agreement as to where we all want to get
to. The bad news is, at the moment the parties are a long way apart, so it needs
these intervening steps to be taken in order to get back into the Roadmap and
final status negotiations, which in the end are the only thing that will resolve
this issue sensibly. I think there is a real opportunity to move this forward
now, if we are willing to take it. Europe, the United Nations, America, the
Quartet countries, but also individually our own countries, will do all that we
can to assist that.
Question: I have a question on
cultural divergence. The British Government today is in the process of banning
hunting with hounds. I would like to ask the President whether he would welcome
British equestrians to join French hunts. To the Prime Minister, in view of your
personal opposition to hunting, would you actually like to see a Europe-wide
ban, on animal rights grounds, on hunting?
Mr Jacques Chirac: I don't hunt. In fact not many
people hunt in France and I have no opinion to give on the great British
Question: What do you think
about the emergence today of a common European diplomacy?
Mr Tony Blair: The best example of European
diplomacy taking shape at the moment has been the cooperation between France,
Britain, and Germany over the question of Iran and its obligations in respect to
the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA). As a result of that
cooperation, we have actually secured significant advances. We have both been
completely open about the differences that there have been on the question of
Iraq. It is worth pointing out that on all those other issues, whether it is
Iran, Afghanistan, or the Balkans, where our troops work together, or the G8
issues of climate change in Africa, we work on the same line. The cooperation we
have is absolutely essential for achieving the goals not only of our two
countries, but of the EU as well. Countries will always have their own strong
views on foreign policy; of course they always will – France and Britain will.
But, we have shown, particularly in relation to Iran, how cooperation between us
at a European level, can advance the cause not just of Europe, but of the wider
Mr Jacques Chirac: Yes, let me add that we're
obviously making headway with European diplomacy. First of all it's a fact. Can
you imagine today, on an important issue, the French Foreign Minister deciding
something without discussing it beforehand with his British or German colleague,
or another European. These days, foreign ministers spend an essential part of
their working hours harmonizing their positions. And this wasn't the case, of
course, ten or twenty years ago. This common diplomacy obviously doesn't prevent
some differences of views, but it resolves most of them.
Secondly, the Constitution we've just signed in Rome in fact provides for a
European minister of foreign affairs. This doesn't mean that each of our nations
is suddenly going to find itself deprived of its ability to take foreign policy
initiatives. But it means that this movement to harmonize what we do with
respect to foreign policy is going to develop further. In other words, instead
of possibly clashing around the table or possibly on the ground, today we settle
most of the problems by agreement, or in meetings, and this is common diplomacy.
And it's growing, it can only grow.
Question: Mr President, do you
welcome the idea of Britain as a bridge between Europe and America? What do you
think the state of that bridge currently is? Prime Minister, can I ask you to
return to hunting? It is an important day. Do you today celebrate the end of
hunting, or do you feel a bit of discomfort that the activities of a minority
have been outlawed by the views of a majority?
Mr Jacques Chirac: Obviously, for historical,
cultural and particularly linguistic reasons there's a tie between the United
States and Britain which I'd describe as, in a way, a family one, and so a
special one. It's normal, history has created it and, consequently, the fact
that Britain can be an "honest broker" in relations between the rest of Europe
and the United States is obviously a plus for Europe, incidentally for Britain
as well, but it's a plus for Europe. I can but welcome that. This being the
case, I'd like nevertheless – we talked earlier about this, during our working
lunch – to reiterate that the United States and Europe are naturally destined to
confront together the major developments of tomorrow's world. For a simple
reason: faced with the world we see, Asian, South American, African, etc., North
America and Europe traditionally, historically share the same values and so are
destined to fight the same battles.
And so the transatlantic link – I was talking about it just now – is a reality
nothing can call into question. Then secondly, there's the day-to-day management
of business, of course, and here, Britain can certainly play an important role.
But I'd say that, all the same, it's a relatively secondary one compared with
the essential one, i.e. the transatlantic link is an inescapable link, but one
which naturally requires everyone to be aware of the respect they owe each other.
This applies to the two sides of the Atlantic, just as it does in the European
Union, between all our countries.
Mr Tony Blair: In respect of
hunting, there will now be a whole series of Court actions. However, for the
best part of two years, I have tried to find a compromise and a way through the
issue, since there are people on either side of this debate who feel
passionately about it. I think that many people in the country would like to
have seen a situation in which we dealt with the arguments relating to hunting,
whilst, at the same time, understanding the feelings of those who regard this is
an integral part of their way of life. It was not possible to find a compromise
in Parliament, and the action may now transfer to the Courts. However, despite
the very passionate views on either side of this debate, I think that most
people would prefer to have seen a compromise acceptance.
Question: You both talk about
peace, and you seem to be advocates of peace in the Middle East, which is
greatly appreciated everywhere, since that troubled area has contributed to
world destabilization to a great extent. The efforts seem to be concentrated
around Israel and Palestine; to obtain a just and durable peace, should it not
be comprehensive and include other parties whose lands are still occupied, for
instance, by Israel?
Mr Tony Blair: Yes. You will only achieve a
comprehensive settlement if all the issues are resolved. However, I think that
the Israeli/Palestinian dispute is at the heart of this, and there needs to be a
massive mobilization of international effort and will in order to bring this
about, because it is an issue that, in a very real way, affects the security of
all of us. I have made it clear throughout that this is the single most pressing
political challenge that we face, and we will work very hard to move it forward.
In this regard, what President Chirac was saying a moment or two ago about the
transatlantic alliance is absolutely right; ultimately, whatever differences
exist, that alliance is of fundamental importance and, in relation to an issue
such as the Middle East peace process, even though the Americans will, of
course, have the lead in such negotiations, the role that Europe can play,
particularly in supporting the Palestinian Authority in creating a viable State,
is going to be of tremendous importance. The peace process will also focus on
other aspects of the dispute and a comprehensive settlement will have to deal
with all the different aspects of it. I think it is unlikely that there will be
a great deal of progress on the other tracks if there is no progress on the
heart of the dispute, which is the Israeli/Palestinian aspect.
Question: In the past month,
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and even the Foreign Office's annual
human rights report have emphasised the alarming spiral of human rights
violations in Iran. In effect, the EU and the UN have also condemned these
violations. In view of this, and in view of the fact that, for the past 25 years,
Iran has not abided by the international covenants and agreements that it has
signed; the fact that it has achieved its foreign policy objectives through
unconventional means such as terrorism; and the fact that, for the past 20 years,
it has hidden its nuclear programme from the West, how confident are you that
the current agreements are going to succeed, and what is different about them
this time? Last week, Mr Prime Minister, you stated that, in order to combat
terrorism and fanaticism, you have to be committed to justice, peace and
democracy. Do you have any concrete plans to bring justice, freedom and
democracy to Iran?
Mr Tony Blair: Firstly, what is different about the
cooperation at a European level in respect of Iran's nuclear obligations is that
we have worked in concert right from the very beginning. Time will tell whether
the agreements signed will be adhered to. There have been difficulties in the
past, but I think our concern is to ensure that those agreements are abided by.
In respect of the issues around human rights and democracy, I take the view that
the ultimate security that we will have lies in the spread of democracy, human
rights and freedom. That does not mean that we can impose these values on any
country that, we believe, falls short in this respect, but it does mean that our
position is one of constantly arguing for them and supporting those within any
country who want the basic freedoms that we, in Britain or France, take for
We can make progress in different ways; sometimes it is best done through
dialogue and pressure of a different sort. We will carry on working for this. I
think one of the most curious things about the world today is that, unless
publicity is given to human rights abuses, people do not think that they happen.
However, there are countries in the world where the most grotesque abuses of
human rights take place, but they are never captured by cameras and no publicity
is ever given to them. I think that, when the UN high-level panel reports later
this year, one of the issues they will look at is how we put greater pressure in
favour of basic democratic rights for all citizens in the world. I am convinced
that ultimately as well, that is our best hope of security. For the present
time, we proceed in the way that we are. In that, the cooperation between
Britain, France and Germany has been exemplary.
Mr Jacques Chirac: I totally share the Prime
Minister's views. I'd nevertheless like to say that we were all concerned about
the direction of nuclear research and activities in Iran, particularly regarding
everything to do with enrichment and reprocessing, and that we have had an
exceptional demonstration of the ability of European diplomacy to resolve the
problems. There has been a joint effort conducted by Britain, Germany and
France, an effort which it has to be said has been very tenacious and very
persuasive. At the outset, few thought we would be able to succeed. We have
successfully completed the first stage, i.e. what the Iranians have accepted
must first of all now be corroborated by the Board of Governors of the
International Atomic Energy Agency in a few days' time, on 25 November. And if
the Board were to confirm the validity of the agreement we have finally obtained
from the Iranian authorities, then, in a second stage, we would have to
establish the full programme allowing the international community to be sure
that what is planned is actually implemented. And so make sure that there are no
differences or attempts to use nuclear power for military purposes, and, in
return of course, to improve the lives of the Iranian people thanks to the use
of civilian nuclear technology for energy production. And this has of course to
be looked at in detail.
Of course, this process must be totally approved, particularly by our American
friends, but also by a number of powers who in one capacity or another have an
interest in this sphere, I'm thinking in particular of Russia and China. And, in
the wake of that, we'll be able to say we have made real significant progress
for the world.
Mr Tony Blair: Many thanks indeed./.