|The Spirit of Saint-Malo (2) |
The Spirit of Saint-Malo (2)
France-UK Summit: Statements made by Jacques Chirac, President of the French Republic, during a joint press conference with Tony Blair, British Prime Minister. London, November 25, 1999. Source: French Embassy, London. (Excerpts)
President Chirac - I should like to begin by thanking the Prime Minister and our hosts who, once again, have given us an extremely warm and pleasant welcome in your country, which with great dynamism, success and panache is preparing to celebrate the "millennium".
On defence since Saint-Malo we have made substantial progress, things have moved fast, at all events faster than one might have thought they would. We have reached coherent, serious decisions which have received the approval of most of our partners, particularly our German, Spanish, Italian, Belgian friends and others too, and will make it possible at the Helsinki summit to decide on the blueprint for an efficient and credible European defence system. The aim is in the future, if necessary, to be able to conduct together an operation of the same nature as, for example, the one we are carrying out today in Kosovo. Mr Blair has described the areas on which we agreed, so I shall not of course go back over them. (...)
Q. - Gentlemen, you have summed up everything said on European defence by saying that the aim was in no way, no way whatsoever, to undermine NATO. The Conservative opposition here is saying, on the other hand, that you have a hidden agenda, that it is in any case certainly a French ambition to undermine, go against NATO and that there is no doubt that this will be the result of this effort. Could one, or couldn't one say that the new defence mechanism in Europe will have a purpose only if it does in fact become a bit of a rival to NATO? (...)
President Chirac - Since the questioner mentioned those who think that France wants to undermine NATO, I'd like to add a word.
The measures we have taken have, of course, absolutely no negative consequences for NATO. I'll go further, they in fact strengthen NATO, insofar as it's in the Atlantic Alliance's interest to be able to play a strong role in every possible case. And, by definition, when you improve your hand you don't weaken it. Let me add that France has never had the intention of undermining or weakening NATO. It is deeply committed to the Atlantic Alliance, the transatlantic partnership, whose role is essential for Europe's security. I would indeed like to remind you, as the British Prime Minister mentioned a moment ago, that at the Washington summit, I had discussions about these problems, including serious ones with the United States President and those in charge of NATO, and that everyone at that time was, and I am sure they still are, in favour of this development which, I reiterate, would not undermine NATO, but supplement, in Europe's interest, its potential action. (...)
Q. - Could the French government accept a situation where NATO was first given priority in the management of a future crisis, i.e. with discussions starting at the level of NATO, the Atlantic Alliance and then, if they and the United States decide not to participate, the matter being in a sense entrusted to the Europeans?
President Chirac - That's all highly theoretical. When there's a crisis, of course, everyone talks about it, not only in NATO and the European Union, but also in other fora, including the major international fora such as the G8 and the decisions are taken on the basis of an assessment of the crisis. Is NATO intervening? Does the United States consider it not to be its responsibility? Does Europe have the wherewithal, at that moment, to do what it has to do to defend its interests? That's how things are decided. This question is highly theoretical./.