|74th Franco-German Consultations (2) |
74th Franco-German Consultations (2)
Statements made by French President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, during their joint Press conference with Gerhard Schröder, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. (Paris, 30 November 1999) - (Excerpts)
(...) Withholding Tax/Euro
Q. - President Chirac, Chancellor Schröder, you discussed next week's Helsinki Summit. Yesterday in Brussels, the Council of Finance Ministers failed to reach agreement on the withholding tax and Mr Eichel, the German Finance Minister, had some pretty hard words to say about the British attitude. Are both of you intending to put pressure on Prime Minister Tony Blair next week in Helsinki ? And do you, Chancellor, share your Finance Minister's point of view that this is harming the Euro ?
The President - As is well-known, there's a difference of opinion between virtually all the European Union countries and Britain on the issue of the withholding tax. This isn't news, it's a fact. So the relevant ministers are seeking ways of trying to close the gap. So far, that hasn't happened, and we don't intend, as you put it, to put pressure on the British government. We are trying to work with it to find a positive solution, but I have to admit that for the moment the two sides are pretty far apart.
Q. - As regards the euro, hasn't the time come to intervene to support it ? Secondly, when is the transport of nuclear waste from La Hague to Germany going to resume, before or after the year 2000 exhibition in Hanover ?
The Prime Minister - On the first point, I think we have to leave the European Central Bank to play its appointed role, to act - we can't avoid public comment on this issue - even though the Economy and Finance Ministers of the Fifteen, and in particular the "euro 11", are, of course, discussing it with the Central Bank's representatives at their joint meetings.
On the second point, I did indeed raise this issue of the return of nuclear waste in this morning's talks with the Chancellor. In our discussion on this, both of us were mindful of the problems and difficulties each country may face, as well as the requirements existing at international and bilateral level. I have just heard what the Chancellor said to you, we discussed it and I think that, when the time comes, we will be able to find a solution.
The President - On the euro, over and above what the Prime Minister has, quite rightly, just said on the role of the European Central Bank, I'd like to tell you that the euro is underpinned by the world's leading economic power, one which, furthermore, is today in good shape. So there's no reason to have the slightest doubt or concern about the euro, which has significant room for appreciation. That's why I can tell you that in France, and elsewhere of course, we have every confidence in the euro.
Q. - I would just like to know whether Turkey's candidacy came up in your talks ?
The President - We did of course talk about Turkey's candidacy. In fact, there's no disagreement between Germany and France here. But it's an issue which has been discussed over the past two months at every bilateral or multilateral European meeting since we all fervently hope that a definitive agreement can be reached in Helsinki so that Turkey is granted applicant status there. I hope so, the Chancellor hopes so, we all hope so, to tell the truth. (...)
Q. - Did you discuss the WTO negotiations which are starting today in Seattle and have you found a solution as regards the successor to M. Camdessus as head of the IMF ?
The President - As far as the discussions which are opening in Seattle are concerned, we, of course, talked about them, but briefly, since, as you know, the Fifteen have decided on a common mandate for the Commission, which is therefore going to speak on their behalf, through the relevant Commissioner, M. Pascal Lamy, in whom naturally we all have every confidence when it comes to defending the European Union's interests. So, there's no disagreement between us on these issues. Discussions have already taken place.
As regards M. Camdessus' successor, we haven't talked about this yet, we will do so when the time comes to choose one.
Q. - President Chirac, you informed us recently, in Istanbul, about the talks you had had with Chancellor Schröder and President Boris Yeltsin on Chechnya. The Russians signed a number of texts at that summit. Yet, for the past ten days, little has been heard from Mr Yeltsin, he has even been hospitalized, Mr Putin has made some extremely tough statements about Chechnya. Yesterday, Mr Ivanov told Mr Vollebaek that he rejected any possibility of OSCE mediation and, for the past ten days, the fighting on the ground hasn't stopped, in fact it's rather the contrary. Don't you think that the Russians are adopting a singular attitude which borders on provocation ?
The President - As I said at the OSCE summit in Istanbul, and I repeat today, the offensive under way in Chechnya is a tragic error for the whole region. The tragic human consequences of the bombing and the very many casualties it's causing are totally unacceptable. That's France's position, and Germany's, and the two Foreign Ministers, Mr Fischer and M. Védrine, got the summit to approve a joint communiqué adopting this position. The military means being used can't lead to a stable and lasting solution, hence our request that they start de-escalating and seeking a political solution which is the only way to halt the fighting and get a resumption of dialogue.
So at the Istanbul Summit, as a result of the efforts of the five Foreign Ministers, those of France and Germany and of the US, Russia and Britain, an agreement was reached, affirming, on the one hand, that the solution could only be political and, on the other, that the OSCE could send a mission, i.e. its Chairman, to Moscow and Chechnya, i.e. Grozny, as soon as possible. We have noted that the OSCE Chairman has had meetings in Moscow, but hasn't been able to travel to Chechnya. We deplore this as we make very clear in a communiqué which you are going to be given shortly. We condemn this state of affairs.
Q. - I'd like to know the itinerary of the visit to Africa which, it's been announced, you're scheduled to be making with Chancellor Schröder ? Are you intending to go to North Africa or Sub-Saharan Africa ? What is the purpose of this joint visit, if it in fact takes place ?
The President - We have decided on the principle, but not the date, of a visit to Africa. Our intention is to visit Sub-Saharan Africa. We haven't yet decided on the destination or the date. The objective is to underline the fact that there's a common Franco-German interest in African issues, whether as regards the crises on this continent, the development which has to take place there and to which we intend to contribute and thus the friendship we feel for it and cooperation we want to develop with it. The aim is to demonstrate a common Franco-German interest in Africa./.
Source: Ministère français des Affaires Etrangères: www.diplomatie.fr