Changes in Europe and America : A French View
Changes in Europe and America : A French View
"Changes in Europe and America: A French view" with Jean-David Levitte,
Ambassador of France to the United States, at the Center
for Strategic International Studies of John Hopkins University (transcript).
Washington, October 12, 2004.
Source: Embassy of France in the United States.
David Calleo: Having the French
ambassador here every year or so has become an old tradition for European
Studies at SAIS. I think it goes back at least three decades, and it reflects
the aim I suppose of all area studies programs: to learn how other people see
the world, what they think should be done about the world's problems. And since
France has a very broad view of the world, a long experience and great influence
around the world, has profoundly shaped the Europe that we study, the Europe of
our time, it is certainly worthwhile to pay attention, and to be grateful we
should say that France is not only a country that knows her own mind, but is not
afraid to speak it, above all to her friends. And despite all the regular storms
and stressed, or perhaps because of them, our friendship, the cultural sympathy
between us, is something very deep and long standing.
French views are also worth hearing at SAIS, because they are
always so well presented. France does us the -- here in Washington pays us the
compliment of sending us ambassadors from among her very best diplomats, and
certainly that tradition is amply filled by the incumbent.
Jean-David Levitte was born in 1946 in Moissac in
Southwestern France. He has a degree in Law, and is a graduate of the Institute
of Politics, of political Science, and the National School of Oriental Languages,
where he studied Chinese and Indonesian.
He joined the Foreign Ministry in 1970, and served in Hong
Kong, and then Beijing, and then returning to Paris he was assigned to the
Foreign Ministry's Economic Affairs B"ureau, and after a year was transferred to
the office of the president of the Republic, where he worked the first time from
1975 to 1981. In 1981 he was posted to the permanent mission of France to the
United Nations, as a consular; returned to Paris in '84 to become deputy
director of the West Africa Section of the Foreign Ministry, and then deputy
executive assistant to the foreign minister then, Jean-Bernard Raimond. He was
appointed ambassador and permanent representative of France to the United
Nations in Geneva in 1988, and remained there until 1990. He returned to Paris
that year to become director of the Asia South Pacific Section at the Ministry,
and then head of cultural, scientific and technical relations.
Monsieur Levitte as a career diplomat was a former diplomatic
advisor to President Chirac, from 1995 until March 2000. He then became the
permanent representative of France to the United Nations from 2000 to 2002, and
from there came here to Washington in 2002.
He is speaking tonight on "Changes in Europe and America: The
French View" -- just what we need. Welcome, Jean-David. (Applause.)
Jean-David Levitte: Thank you
very much, David. And it's always a great pleasure and privilege to be at Johns
Hopkins University, at SAIS, with my good friend Professor David Calleo.
Yes, David, I will speak about Europe, but maybe I should
start with something which happened far away from Europe and the United States
Last Saturday, for the first time in history, the Afghan
people was invited to vote -- select their president. And I want to start with
Afghanistan, because I consider it a major success. And it is a success for the
United States, it is a success for the international community, and first of all
it is a great success for the Afghan people themselves. It reminds me what we
did -- you and us and the international community as a whole -- in Cambodia more
than 10 years ago when together we negotiated for two years to put an end to the
Khmer Rouge rule through elections organized by the United Nations. At the time
it was the Paris Accord implemented with success. And now the Khmer Rouge are
history -- a nightmare, but behind us -- and the Cambodian people have their own
government, elected through elections.
That's exactly what happened in Afghanistan. For 25 years and
more, we had in Afghanistan the Soviet occupation, then the Taliban rule. Then
9/11 and a process. And it is really history, and it is good as a starting point
for our conversation tonight to ask ourselves what helped us to succeed so well
in Afghanistan. And I see three explanations for this success. The first one is
certainly the unity and the determination of the international community as a
whole. It started, as I said, with 9/11. On 9/11 I was, as David said, the
French ambassador to the United Nations. I saw the destruction of the Twin
Towers from my office. I was during that month of September the president of the
Security Council, and we knew what we had to do. We had to change international
law, because it was a defining moment. And what we decided in one hour
unanimously was first to decide that such an act of international terrorism
should be considered as an act of war; and, second, that those who committed
this act should be of course punished through international law, but also the
states which sponsored these terrorist networks, through hospitality offered to
the terrorist networks, through training, equipment, financial aid. This
Resolution 1468 was adopted in one hour unanimously and it paved the way to the
war in Afghanistan. We were together united. And France participated fully in
this war with thousands of troops. We still maintain today important contingents
of troops, special forces on the border with Pakistan to try to eradicate the
last elements of al Qaeda and the Taliban together with and under the leadership
of American troops and special forces. But we have also ISAF; that is, the NATO
force under U.N. mandate which is in Kabul and around Kabul to maintain law and
order and to help the Afghan people to rebuild their country. And this NATO
force is led today by a French general, and we have an important contingent of
troops in Kabul. That's number one: unity and the determination of the
international community to bring a better future to the Afghan people while
eradicating the terrorist groups and the Taliban.
The second reason in my view for such a success is our
capacity to transfer immediately the responsibilities and the sovereignty in the
hands of the Afghan people themselves. Even before the fall of Kabul, we had
organized the Bonn Conference in Germany, and we had selected among all of us --
the U.N., the U.S., the Europeans, and of course Afghan actors -- an interim
president, President Karzai, and the sketch of a government. So the day Kabul
fells in the hands of the newcomers, the new Afghan forces and the coalition
forces backed by the U.N., the Afghan people had a sense of empowerment. The
Taliban were out, but President Karzai and an interim government was there. And
it continued with a big assembly, the loya jirga, which negotiated for weeks, in
a very lively way I must say, a constitution for the Afghan people. And on the
basis of this constitution adopted by an Afghan assembly, the U.N. was in charge
of organizing the electoral process, which was such a huge, huge success. And
that's number two.
Number three, right from the beginning we had a clear idea of
what we wanted to do -- a comprehensive plan to bring about democracy through
elections but also to rebuild the country, and of course number one to establish
security, a reasonable degree of security, through Operation Enduring Freedom
led by the United States and ISAF in Kabul and around, led by NATO and today a
So in my view these are the reasons for such a historic
success. Now, of course nothing is perfect in this world, and there is a lot to
do in front of us in Afghanistan. First, we have to organize free and fair
elections, local elections, and elections of the National Assembly, parliament,
next spring. And for that we have to maintain security to continue to eradicate
the Talibans. They wanted to stop the electoral process. They were not
successful, to say the least. We have to continue, and we have to also -- and
that's the number one priority probably tomorrow -- eradicate also the drug, the
poppy cultivation. Otherwise Afghanistan will become a narco-traffic state. We
know what we have to do, and we will do it together.
I wanted to start with Afghanistan, because it's good to
remind ourselves that we were together on 9/11, after 9/11, and we were very
successful in Afghanistan. So in comparison what happened in Iraq: How come we
are so successful in Afghanistan together, and how come the international
community is still today so divided about Iraq? In fact, it started when? It
started with a brilliant, important speech by President Bush in front of the
General Assembly of the United Nations on the 12th of September 2002. He
proposed to the world to disarm Iraq, if possible without the use of force,
through U.N. inspections, and if need be with the use of force. Everybody
applauded. We had a goal: to disarm Iraq. And we started immediately to work
hard on a resolution of the Security Council. It took eight weeks of good, hard
work to adopt this. Resolution 1441 was adopted unanimously in November. That
was our road map for a success story in Iraq.
So far, so good. At that moment I was transferred to
Washington, and I discovered that the mood in Washington was somewhat different
with the one in New York. End of November the U.N. inspections were deployed all
over Iraq, and they immediately started to try to identify the stocks of arms of
mass destruction, to clarify the ambiguities and the contradictions that we had
about all the informations that we had in stock in the U.N. and from different
At that moment the U.S. started the massive deployment of
American troops around Europe, and it was in a way a good idea, because it was
sending to Saddam Hussein a very powerful message. This time it's serious
business: no cheating -- no more cheating. If you don't comply with the U.N.
inspections you will have to be confronted with the consequences; that is, the
use of force.
But to send this powerful message, probably 50,000 troops
would have been enough. The moment 300,000 troops were deployed around Iraq I
felt -- and you felt probably in Washington -- the strong pressure to use them
soon, fast. And the mood in New York was not at all the same, because the more
American troops you had around Iraq, the more Saddam Hussein was cooperating
with the U.N. inspections. And the more he was cooperating, the more results we
had, the more clarifications we had.
You remember probably that for instance the U.N. inspectors
asked for the destruction of missiles Al Samoud 2, because their range was going
beyond what was the limit stressed by the U.N. And the Iraqi army destroyed
So the mood was, thanks to the U.S. determination, the U.N.
inspections are getting results. Day after day, week after week, we know better
what is the situation on the ground. So let's continue this good work with the
U.N. inspections. So that's the divorce if you will between the mood in
Washington and the mood in the Security Council in New York. So you know what
happened -- no need to go back.
And what I want to say today is that what is at stake today
in Iraq is of major importance. Of course for the Iraqi people themselves they
have the right to express their views about their own future, as the Afghan
people just did last Saturday. What is at stake also is of major importance for
the whole Arab and Muslim world, because Iraq would set an example, a good or a
bad example. But even more important in our view as Europeans I would say that
what is at stake is probably in Iraq the future of the relations between the
Muslim world and the West. So we cannot fail in Iraq. And when I say "we," it is
you and us. And France is prepared to help.
We have said time and again -- and I will repeat it today --
we will not send troops in Iraq, for one good reason: we don't think that to add
more foreign troops to the existing contingents with the multinational force
will solve the problem. On the contrary, it would reinforce the feeling of
occupation at the very moment we should give the Iraqi people, as we did for the
Afghan people, a sense of empowerment. But what we have proposed is to
contribute to more security in Iraq through the training of gendarmerie -- that
is a kind of military police. It is a French specialty, together with few of our
European countries, and probably that is the best way for France to contribute
to more security for the Iraqi people, which is obviously the number one
Now, one word about Europe. I want to say these words,
because from time to time I read in American media that France, together with
Germany and few others, would like to build the European Union as a kind of
counterweight to American dominance. That is not true. Why are we today building
the European Union? Well, just think what was our situation only two generations
ago. After the Second World War there was a strong feeling of animosity, hatred,
in Europe, and especially between the French and the Germans. For centuries our
people were fighting each other. France invaded its neighbors time and again. We
were invaded time and again. And great leaders decided that once and for all
enough was enough, and what we had better things to do than to fight each other
through wars. We had better things to do, and it was to make war impossible in
Europe. That is the goal of the European Union: to make war impossible in
We started by pulling together our coal and steel industries,
because guns are made of coal and steel. Then we added our nuclear energy,
because bombs could be made of nuclear energy. And then we discovered that it
was a great success story, and we could add to these developments a common
market. And again it was a great success story. And through this process, all
these years, we engaged into an enlargement process. We were six founding
countries, but in '72 we enlarged our community, our family, to three newcomers,
the U.K., Ireland, Denmark. Then we expanded to 10, 12, 15 countries. And during
that period the common market was such a success that we needed a common
currency, not to compete with the dollar but simply when you have a common
market you need a common currency. Just think would the situation in the United
States if you had one currency for Texas, one for California, one for New York
State and New England. It wouldn't work. We had 15 currencies -- we needed one.
And that is the reason why we have today the euro.
And this year, 2004, has been a year of two miracles for the
Europeans. The first miracle is our expansion to 10 newcomers, most of them
being Eastern Europe countries who only 15 years ago these countries, most of
them, were part of the communist bloc. And three of them, the three Baltic
states, were even part of the Soviet Union. And today they are part of our
family of democracies and full members of the European Union. It is truly
considered from a European perspective a very moving miracle.
But the second miracle came with the treaty, the
constitutional treaty, our constitution. And I say it's a miracle, because we
are not where you were in Philadelphia in 1787. You were starting a new country
from scratch, but with one common idea, the enlightenment philosophy, a common
will, independence, a common language, English. And the Founding Fathers had
roughly a good idea of what they wanted to do and not to do. If you consider the
25 countries of the European Union all involved in this constitutional process,
we had and still have roughly 2,000 years of different histories, cultures, and
as I said more made of wars than peace, 21 different languages, different legal
traditions with some countries with many constitutions -- France more than 20
constitutions in our history. Some countries without a constitution, at least a
written constitution -- the U.K. And from all these different perspectives we
had to agree together, 25 countries, on one text. The result is quite
impressive. It's rather thick -- this thick. If you compare with your
Constitution this thick it's not a major success. But if you compare with all
the European treaties that will be replaced by this constitution, it is a great
Of course now it has been adopted by the 25 governments, but
we need to get the approval, the ratification, either of the 25 parliaments or
25 people. In each country it is the sovereign choice of the country to decide
whether the constitution will be approved by the parliament or a referendum. In
France next year it will be a referendum. And during this period of course we
will continue our move forward in terms of economic growth, reforms, but also
expansion of the European Union towards newcomers. And you know that Bulgaria
and Romania hope to join us in 2007; Croatia is on the way; Turkey will be
notified -- a very important decision by the European Council -- in December. So
all this shows a real dynamic. And the dynamic is still the same: We want to
make war impossible forever in Europe.
Let me conclude these introductory remarks with a few
comments about our relations, the French-American relations because, as David
mentioned in a very diplomatic understatement, we've been through a kind of
diplomatic storm. The weather is much better now, but still not exactly what I
would call Indian summer. And we still have a lot to do. But let me present to
you what is the situation in our relations as I see it.
If you look at the foreign affairs problems, of course we had
a major difference of views about Iraq. Now we have to work together as I said.
But, beyond Iraq, I see only reasons to celebrate our cooperation. We are
together in the war or fight against terrorism, strongly united and determined
to win this fight or war. Second, we are together, as I said, in Afghanistan, in
the Balkans, where American and European troops are side by side to rebuild or
build a country and see peace throughout the Balkans. We are together in Africa,
to help African countries to rebuild after a period of deep crises. We are
together in Haiti. And I could go on with this list. I see only one issue on
which we had a strong problem, Iraq. All other issues were a matter of full
cooperation in the best spirit of friendship.
But beyond foreign policy it's very important for you to
understand that France is a major economic partner for the U.S. France is the
second direct investor in the United States, after the United Kingdom, but
before Germany or Canada or others -- or Japan. It represents 650,000 American
jobs -- that's important. And even more important in our view: our shared
values, liberty, democracy, market economy. We helped a little in your war for
independence. In turn you saved us twice last century at the end of the First
World War and at the end of the Second World War. And on the 6th of June this
year we commemorated the 60th anniversary of D-Day. And for 60 million French it
was a unique opportunity to tell so many American heroes who risked their lives
and lost their lives for our freedom and the democracy in Europe. Thank you,
America, we will never forget. And tonight I thank you. (Applause.)
David Calleo: Would you like to field your own questions, or
should I do it?
Jean-David Levitte: Well, the
floor is available to any questions. Or maybe you have a different rule?
David Calleo: Yeah. No, I think we can do that. There's a man
back here in a blue jacket -- he's about to ask you a question.
Jean-David Levitte: Sure, any
questions. Yes, please?
Question: How closely has the French Embassy and the French
government been following the reporting of Bill Gertz of the Washington Times?
I'm wondering if you found anything inaccurate in his reporting about the
secret dealings of France and the Saddam Hussein government of Iraq before the
Jean-David Levitte: Yes. And
frankly I will not comment on this or that journalist, but I want to say very
clearly tonight that as a French ambassador I consider that during the last few
weeks we've been a bit too much as -- France -- the punching bag of the
electoral debate. I am a great admirer of American democracy. I am fascinated as
an observer to follow the debates and the campaign, but I cannot accept to see
France, the French citizens or French companies used as a tool in the campaign.
What you have in mind is an important U.N. program,
oil-for-food. Oil-for-food was established at the request of the United States
to feed starving Iraqi people, 22 million Iraqi. We together imposed sanctions
on Saddam Hussein to impose disarmament on Saddam Hussein. But we discovered
after four or five years that the real victims of this situation were the Iraqi
people. So together we decided to impose on Saddam Hussein the obligation to
sell his oil through a process monitored by the U.N., and then all companies
from all over the world were invited to compete to feed the Iraqi people. That
is oil-for-food -- that is the meaning. So American companies, as you can read
in your favorite papers today, participated fully either in the sales of oil or
in the sale of wheat or drugs to help the Iraqi people survive. And it was a
good program. Now, was it perfect? Of course not. It was very difficult to feed
22 million Iraqi people with a number of controllers on the ground from New
York, from the U.N.
Just imagine, for instance, during the Soviet era as if this
plan had been established not in Moscow but in New York. From faraway we had to
monitor the situation on the ground. And I think it's fair to say that the
United Nations did their best. Was it perfect? Of course not. And Saddam Hussein
of course cheated -- he cheated all the time. But it's very unfair to single out
this or that citizen without even mentioning that this citizen denied having
cooperated with the program or with Saddam Hussein. So I ask for more fairness
in American media for not only France, but all those who are mentioned in your
media. If you mention them, give them a chance to present their side of the
story. You are a great democracy. You are also an example for the world in terms
of free press. And it's important to maintain the highest standard in terms of
presentation of very sensitive issues. And we have nothing to hide. And we had
in Paris a few days ago, on the 7th of October, Paul Volcker. If there is a man
in the United States who is respected by everybody, it is Paul Volcker, the
former chairman of the Federal Reserve. And he is in charge of an inquiry. And
this inquiry is mandated by the U.N., with the support of the United States. And
he was in Paris to meet all those he wanted to meet. So let's give a chance to
this inquiry, and let's not bash on this or that citizen, company or country
without hearing their side of the story.
Question: Thank you very much for an interesting talk. What I
wanted to ask you about was your views on the Sudan. I'm interested to hear
generally what those view are, but also more specifically whether or not you
think that the situation there might eventually warrant some kind of
intervention by the Euro Corps or by Europe in and of itself without the
Jean-David Levitte: Yes, what
you have in mind it's not Sudan, which is a huge country, but Darfur, I think,
because you know that the American administration, the Bush administration,
devoted a lot of time and energy to trying to solve -- and with success so far
-- 30 years of conflict between the north, which is Muslim, and the south which
is more or less Christian. But then erupted another crisis in Sudan in the
western part, in Darfur. Here you have Muslim nomads and Muslim farmers, and
through history difficulties of living together for these two populations. And
it is true that the situation today in Darfur cannot be accepted, and we are
fully involved on the effort of the international community -- in the Security
Council, elsewhere -- to curb the violations of human rights, massive violations
of human rights in Darfur. During months we had 200 French soldiers deployed on
the border between Chad and Darfur to protect the refugee camps. During weeks we
had rotations of our military planes to feed the people on the border, to help
them. And we are fully on board with all the international efforts.
Now, should we send European troops or American troops? You
have to know that the African Union has decided to send troops in Darfur --
observers and troops and policemen. And they want to make it the first success
story of the new African Union. So it is very difficult to tell them, Hey, you
are not good enough to try that. Let's go as Europeans or Americans -- we know
better or we fight better. So what we will do, you and us, is to help the
African Union forces -- police, observers, monitoring mechanism -- to succeed by
providing logistical help to the Africans, because the Africans want to solve
this problem themselves. And we have I would say a moral duty to help them to
succeed. If they don't, then we'll go back to the Security Council and see how
we can do a better job. But let's give a chance to the African Union to solve
this problem with our logistical and financial support.
Question: Mr. Ambassador, I'm from WTOP Radio, the only station
here. Given it's fair to say that relations between President Bush and your
president aren't exactly warm, and polls showing that the level of antipathy
that the French public in general have toward not the United States in general
but perhaps its foreign policies, could you comment with just our elections
three weeks away -- President Chirac has said virtually nothing about the
upcoming election. How does he feel about he Bush-Kerry match-up, and what do
you -- (laughter) -- I'm pretty sure I know what your answer will be, but can
you comment on that? And how is your government sort of positioning itself in
the event of a win by either candidate?
Jean-David Levitte: First, it is
the privilege of each American to choose his or her president. And I'm not an
American, and I have nothing to say in the electoral campaign.
Second, what is important for two friends and allies like the
United States and France is to make sure that whatever the choice, your choice
of the American people, we'll be in a position to work well together. That's my
job, and that's also the job of my counterpart, the U.S. ambassador in Paris,
Howard Leach. And this is the job also of the French government, but also the
U.S. administration. And that's what we do. And during my introductory remarks,
I did my best to explain that if we had different views about Iraq on all the
other issues we worked well and we continue to work well. And it is important
after November the 2nd to continue to do an even better job, if possible.
Now, let me say a few words about the feelings of the French
about the American people, because time and again I read or heard on your media
that there is a lot of anti-American feelings not only in France, but all over
Europe. I don't think it is true. I mentioned the emotion that was perceptive,
that was so visible and audible in France during the commemorations of the 60th
anniversary of D-Day. And I think here you had the true feelings of the French
people for the American people. We love the American people, and it's not a new
development; it started with your war for independence. Lafayette was a perfect
example of our feelings for the American people.
Now, one day Colin Powell said the United States and France
have been in marriage counseling for more than 200 years. And it is true. We
have two strong personalities. The American people have strong feelings, the
French people have strong feelings. But it is a marriage, yes, and this marriage
is strong. We have stormy weather from time to time, as I've said, but we are
sharing the same values, and we have to build the 21st century together. We are
confronted with the same threat: terrorism, the spread of arms of mass
destruction. And if we are convinced of one thing, not only in France but in
Europe, is that we will succeed only if we can maintain this close alliance
which helped us to win the fight against communism during the decades of the
Cold War. And today we have in front of us a new challenge, and let's succeed in
confronting this new challenge together. So that's the mood in France.
Question: Mr. Ambassador, thank you for your speech. You mentioned
that the only thing that the United States and France don't agree on is your
war in Iraq. Perhaps you could also mention a couple of words about the WTO
disputes between Airbus and Boeing.
Jean-David Levitte: Yes, of
course. But you know we are two big market economies. And when I say two, it's
the European Union on one side with Airbus and America on the other side. And
there is a fierce competition, not only on planes, but on everything. That's
market economy. And it's good for consumers, because the prices are going down.
But in this globalized world what we need is good rules for the market economy,
and precisely we have the World Trade Organization for that. So if Boeing
considers that Airbus is benefiting too much from loans, subsidies, advance
payments, they can start a discussion in WTO. That's what was done by my good
friend Bob Zoellick a few days ago. Immediately his good friend Pascal Lame for
the European Union launched a procedure against Boeing, because Boeing wants to
build a new plane, the 7E7, with a lot of subsidies -- if I'm correct, $5
billion coming from Japan, because part of this plane will be built in Japan,
but also from Washington State and Seattle city. So all this will be discussed
quietly between professionals in WTO. That's the rule of the game. But it's a
fair competition, and we have good rules and they will be implemented.
David Calleo: Let me ask the people in the back, if you would
like to sit down, there are lots of seats up here. You look uncomfortable
swinging around back there.
Jean-David Levitte: Yes.
Question: Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much for your talk.
Condoleezza Rice famously said during the whole fracas over a war that a
global balance or power, or a multi-polar world led to the tragedy of World
War I. Would you share that opinion? And, if not, do you see the future pole
within the continent of Europe coming from Paris or Brussels?
Jean-David Levitte: What you
have in mind is the French view about the slow emergence of a multi-polar world.
We didn't invent that concept. And I'm sorry to say that in front of Professor
David Calleo, but Professor Joe Nye, the dean, the former dean of the Kennedy
School of Government, invented the idea of a multi-polar world, and it's there.
It's there. We have in terms of economy -- and economy is so important --
America as a big pole with NAFTA; the European Union as another big pole and in
a position to compete well. Airbus versus Boeing is a perfect example. But who
can deny that Japan is also a powerful pole? China emerging fast, and tomorrow
India, and maybe others will follow -- Brazil or Mercosur.
So in economic terms this 21st century is already organized
as a kind of multi-polar economic world. Is it a disaster? No, it is not a
disaster, provided we have good rules with WTO. Otherwise it would be the law of
a jungle. In military terms the U.S. will be by far the dominant power, and it
will last. And we don't want to compete as Europeans with the United States of
America. What we want to achieve in Europe is a foreign policy supported by a
defense instrument integrated. Why? Because it's very important to understand
here that our parliaments don't want to put more money in defense. And for one
good reason I explained that we are building a unity -- a union which makes war
impossible in Europe. So why should we put more money at the moment when we
don't see any more threat? But it's important to prepare for the future, the
long-term future. And it's important also to have the European Union in a
position to help -- to help beyond Europe, to help when need be. And for that it
is a fact that if you go to the French parliament or the British parliament or
the German parliament or the Slovene parliament, and if you say we want to build
a defense for the European Union, then they are ready to play. They are ready to
put in more money.
We don't want to build a huge defense system. What we want is
to be in a position to do what we did last summer in the Congo for instance. In
the Congo there was an emergency. The peace process in the Great Lakes region
was on the verge of collapse. The U.N. had no troops available immediately. The
American troops were occupied elsewhere. Who could do the job? And Kofi Annan
said, Well, maybe France could help. And we said, Not alone. And then we come to
our European partners, and we invented a European operation which was a success
story. That's precisely what we have to do, what we have to prepare for.
Does it mean the end, the collapse of NATO? Of course not.
Time and again I read that France, Chirac, wants to destroy NATO. If that was
true, how can you explain that France is in charge of the two NATO operations
which are now underway, the one in Kabul, Afghanistan, where you have General Py,
a French general, in charge of this NATO operation; and the one in Kosovo where
another French general is in charge, General de Kermabon, is in charge of this
NATO operation. These are the two NATO operations, main NATO operations, under
way. Why do we have these responsibilities? Because we have many troops on the
grounds, and because there is a rule of rotation, and we are part of this
rotating rule. We don't want to destroy NATO. NATO will remain the cornerstone
of European and transatlantic security for the decades to come. That's our
But we also need to confront later crises here and there. A
European force ready to act without delay: that's what we want to achieve.
Now last, but not least, you have the global problems -- AIDS,
poverty, climate change, and so on and so forth. And here you don't have a
bipolar world or a multi-polar world -- you have a global world. And we all know
that to solve these global problems we need international institutions in good
shape. And I say that because it's important in this country to understand that
the U.N. is not your enemy. The U.N. is at your disposal to help. And you are
very influential inside the U.N. You are by far the most powerful actor inside
the U.N. institutions. And you need the U.N. when you want to solve the AIDS
problem or the poverty problem, or the global problem of climate change, and so
on and so forth. So that's the French world about the multi-polar world. And I
hope that having heard me you will consider that this is not an act of
aggression against the United States of America.
Question: Mr. Ambassador, I had a question about Turkey. It seems
to me that the French government is split on this thing, I think Minister
Sarkozy and the prime minister, Raffarin, being against it, when President
Chirac and I think Dominique de Villepin are for it. And it seems to be the
same in the Socialist Party. What is the official position of France on the
Jean-David Levitte: President
Chirac said time and again -- and for 30 years now -- that France is in favor of
full membership of Turkey in the European Union. Having said that, we have to
look at the facts, and Turkey is not a little country. Let's put aside the
question of Islam, because that is not the question in this debate. First, Islam
is the second religion in France. We have five million Muslims living in France.
Second, most probably other Muslim countries will join the European Union before
Turkey -- for instance, Albania -- Albania is a Muslim country -- no debate --
no debate because Albania is a small country and it's easy to absorb the shock
of the expansion towards Albania, like Bulgaria, and so on.
Turkey is a different story. Turkey has now more than 70
million inhabitants. The process, if the discussion goes well, will last for 10,
15 years. It's not an anomaly. It's always a very long process when you want to
become a member of the European Union, because you have to follow what we call
the Acquis Communitaire -- 300 laws and so on. So it's a long process. But at
the end of this process Turkey will be by far the most populace country of the
family -- probably 100 million inhabitants. And if you look at our constitution,
the one I mentioned, it means that according to the rules set by the
constitution, Turkey alone will have half of the minority blocking power. That
is let me explain it in American terms. It is as if California alone could have
half of the votes required in the House or the Senate to block any decision. So
it's not a little problem.
Money -- money is important too in our daily life. The first
evaluation shows that the cost of membership of Turkey will be as important as
the 10 newcomers -- Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and so on and so forth
together. That's another big problem. So these are the problems which will have
to be addressed.
We have now the recommendation of the commission. The council
of head of state and government will meet mid-December to decide. And if they
decide to open the door to the negotiating process, then a negotiation will
start. And my concluding remark on this very important issue is that you should
give time to time. What seemed impossible only 10 years ago is now a fact of
life. What seems to be difficult today -- membership of Turkey -- maybe will
slowly evolve and become a fact of life. I say that -- just think of the euro.
Just 15 years ago nobody was considering the euro as a possibility for a
long-term future. Now 300 million Europeans have the euro in their pockets. So
time is of the essence on European affairs.
Question: Yes, thank you. I'll be happy to ask you a question
about the religion freedom, both in Europe and the U.S. It seems like we both
recognize it of course, but we have a different way of implementing it -- not
only implementing it, but even from the role it has in the political arena is
much more significant than in Europe. And in your views, what can we do to
actually help both Europeans and Americans understand the difference in the
issue instead of keeping on criticizing each other about it?
Jean-David Levitte: Yes, I think
it's very important to organize quiet dialogue on this societal issues. You
mentioned religion -- I could add the death penalty. You have the death penalty
-- not everywhere in the United States. We should accept that. I say that
because in Europe it is criticized. But we forget that only 20 years ago also we
had the death penalty -- in France and all over Europe. So who are we to give
lessons to our friends in America.
It's the same thing for religious freedom. It is as important
in Europe as it is in the United States, but we have different traditions. And
for France you have to understand that for centuries we had religious wars --
massacres between Catholics and Protestants. And when we decided to become in a
rather brutal way a republic, we decided also to adopt a separation between the
state and religion. Before that the religion of the king was the religion of all
citizens. After that, being a republic, we decided to protect the religious
freedom of all minorities, and we were the first country in Europe to give not
only religious freedom but equal status as citizens to the minorities; that is,
the Protestants and the Jews at the time. But we had a big debate about school,
because the programs were based on Christianism, Catholicism. So slowly we
separated these two and we adopted one century ago, in 1905, a law of strict
separation of religion and public schools. Public schools no religion --
religion being a private matter.
And then it worked well, but we had a problem, because slowly
in two generations an important Muslim minority coming from Maghreb countries --
Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia -- became an actor, and we had in our schools around
2,000 -- not much -- but 2,000 girls wearing veils. But this was the most
obvious problem. But there were other problems. For instance, the parents said,
We want separate classes for boys and girls. And for us teaching boys and girls
together is a basic principle of our public schools. It's equality. And the
parents wanted only female doctors for their girls, and no gym for their girls,
and so on and so forth. So what was at stake in this debate was the very basis,
foundation, of our public schools, our republican values.
So President Chirac decided to establish a commission with
all the religions represents, and unanimously this commission decided to
recommend the reaffirmation of our law of 1905 -- not change, but reaffirmation.
That is, in our public schools no place for religion. And it was adopted in the
form of a law massively by 90 percent of the two chambers, the Senate and the
And it works. And we have to do a better job in France in
terms of integration of our Muslim minority. We know it. It is a big challenge
for French society, simply because in only two generations -- less than two
generations -- we have this massive immigration, with concentration of Muslim
population in impoverished suburbs. To compare with the United States, it is as
if in 40 years or so you had the immigration of 25 million Muslims in the United
States -- just to give you a comparison with our population. And we have
problems with some elements of the second generation Muslims, and we know what
we have to do is to offer them a better future; that is, a good place for
Muslims in France, for Islam in France -- almost. We have now an overarching
organization representing all the Muslims in France. We are building schools to
train French imams, because so far we are importing all our imams, and those
coming from Algeria and Morocco and Tunisia are the most extremist -- not
because these three countries want to create difficulties in France, but they
don't want to have these imams at home. So they offer these imams to the French
republic. And we prefer now -- and we will do so -- to have schools to train
French imams with great knowledge of Islam of course, but also our republican
traditions, and so on and so forth.
Now, living in the United States I know how important
religion is in your daily life. Just to give you -- and that's my final comment
on this question -- a comparison. If I read correctly your polls, 40 percent of
American citizens are going to church or mosque or synagogue once a week. In
Europe -- not only in France, in Europe -- it's only 5 percent. So we are in a
very different situation. We have to accept that as a fact of life, and we have
to engage into a dialogue to better understand how come we are so different
sharing the same values.
Question: Ambassador, two questions for you, if you will allow me.
I'm wondering if you see any lessons learned, the United States on the one
hand and Europeans should draw from the Iraqi chapter of the relationship, and
if you have any concrete suggestions of what --
Ambassador Jean-David Levitte:
Can you speak a little louder?
Question: And if you have any suggestions what the United States
and Europeans should do in the future to avoid such disagreements?
And the question number two is if you could comment on the
current development in Russia on the President Putin. And I'm wondering whether
your government is ready to evaluate its policy toward Moscow. Thank you.
Ambassador Jean-David Levitte:
Thank you very much. Of course we have to do a better job in the future, and try
to prevent this kind of clash which happened on Iraq. We all know that. If I had
to draw a lesson from this bitter experience, I would say the lesson is let's
hear in a better way the views of the other side. It's very important that we
can organize our dialogues, and not only between the U.S. and France, but
between Europe and the United States, in a better way. When I described this
divorce during winter and first few months of 2003, I considered it a disaster,
such a situation. And there was a moment when the dialogue was not possible any
more. And that's where we have to draw a lesson. The lesson is as friends and
allies we can never accept to be in such a situation unless there is an imminent
threat. Of course if there is an imminent threat against the U.S. or France you
have no time for consultations. You have to react. Everybody understands that.
Our view is that in spring 2003 there was not certainly
imminent threat. Maybe you can disagree on that, but the lesson we draw in
France from this frustrating moment is that dialogue and dialogue is absolutely
key to solve our differences as true friends and allies.
Now, on Russia, let's understand from where Russia comes and
what are the problems of Russia. We are old democracies, and we still are in the
learning process. Russia was a democracy only between 1905 and 1917 maybe. And
you can discuss that. But they have no long-term experience of democracy. So
they are discovering, inventing their own way to implement democratic values.
And they are doing so while they are confronted with two problems: the first one
is that the state structure generated from the communist rules and days
collapsed, and Gorbachev, Yeltsin, Putin, had to deal with a situation where you
had practically no state and no budget for the state. And so the first priority
-- not only for Putin, but for the Russian people -- is to rebuild the state
The second difficulty of course is terrorism. You may have
different views about the situation in the Caucasus, in Chechnya, in Ossetia,
and so on and so forth. But it is a fact that Beslan was a criminal act
committed in cold blood to kill children -- massively. No government on earth
can accept that without a strong reaction. So, please, let's understand what is
the situation in Russia today before we blame them. Of course nothing is perfect
in France -- certainly not. In Russia certainly not. But let's have everyone's
view about the situation before we condemn.
Question: Thank you. I have two questions, two different regions
of the world, first the Balkans. I'd be interested in, since you said the
purpose of the European Union is to prevent war in Europe, what you see the
way ahead with regard to Macedonia, Kosovo and Bosnia is. And my other
question, another part of the world is China: Does the French government
support the need to promote democracy in China by supporting democracy in
Taiwan or does France believe that commercial interests are paramount and that
arms sales to mainland China should be permitted?
Ambassador Jean-David Levitte:
First, the Balkans.
When I said that the goal of the European Union is to make
war impossible in Europe, let's recognize that we failed miserably in former
Yugoslavia -- Bosnia, Kosovo. We succeeded with Macedonia. We sent with the U.S.
a force to prevent a collapse of Macedonia. But Kosovo and Bosnia are two
interesting examples, because for once it was the Europeans who wanted to go to
war, and especially the U.K. and France. At the time I was the diplomatic
advisor of President Chirac, and I remember vividly that it was not so easy to
convince President Clinton to go to war for Bosnia and for Kosovo, and for good
reasons. You don't have any strategic interests in Bosnia and in Kosovo. But
precisely we had long discussions, and at the end of the day we were in
agreement, strong agreement, and NATO was key to solve the war in Bosnia. And
then we had the Dayton Accord, and to win the war in Kosovo. But slowly this
role of NATO is being replaced by a leading role for the European Union in terms
of police and now in terms of troops. And I'm pretty sure that the war is over
in former Yugoslavia once and for all, because these people understand that
their future is in Europe. And to open the door of the European Union they have
to follow what I call the acquis communitaire.
What is the meaning of a border that is between Serbia and
Kosovo or Serbia and Montenegro or Bosnia and Serbia when your future is to
dismantle all the borders? That's their future, because that's our present. When
you want to go from Paris to Berlin, you don't need a passport. It's like going
from New York to Chicago. So if you explain what is the future to these people,
they don't need a border, they don't need a currency -- the euro will be their
currency. They don't need to invent strong structures, because they will be part
of the European structures and so on and so forth.
So I am very optimistic about the Balkan region, even if it
is still fragile, even if we will have from time to time confrontations between
this and that population.
Of course we are in favor of democracy in China,
as we are in favor, as you do, of democracy all over the world. Now, I am
supposed to be a specialist of China. I speak Chinese. I lived in China 30 years
ago for some years during the Cultural Revolution. Let me say from my personal
experience that if you compare freedom, liberties, market economy, in the days
of the Cultural Revolution and today it is a totally different world. Now young
Chinese are on the Internet freely -- of course you may say there are
restrictions and so on -- not so much. They are traveling in the country. The
economy is moving, and so on and so forth. And my personal conviction is that
you cannot deal a strong market economy competing so well in the world, this
globalized world, without building at the same time, even without knowing
democratic values, because market economy brings democracy. You cannot build a
successful company in a globalized world if you don't travel, if you cannot call
on the phone freely, and so on and so forth -- if you don't have a bank account,
if you don't have -- and so on and so forth.
So if I compare with only 20 years ago, it's a different
China. And what we want between China and Taiwan -- and you know that we, as you
do, consider it one country -- is a peaceful solution of their differences. And
my view is that slowly this convergence of the economies, with Taiwan investing
so heavy in mainland China, this convergence will have results in the two
different regimes, because they will slowly converge.
We can have one more question -- perhaps a last question.
Mr. Calleo: If we don't, I have
a couple of historical observations. I mean, one is that I suspect Napoleon
would be delighted to hear that there will be a new Grande Ecole for Imams. And
the second is that even though you -- it's very nice of you to give so much
credit to my friend Joe Nye. You should not forget your own colleague Tallirand
had something to say about multi-polarity.
Anyway, I'm delighted that this tradition of ours is alive
and well, and thank you very much for continuing it.
Ambassador Jean-David Levitte:
Thank you. It was a great privilege to be with you tonight. Thank you very much.