Europe needs radical reform, says French President

Foreign policy – European Union/fight against terrorism – Excerpts from the speech by M. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic, to the Parliament meeting in joint session

Versailles, 3 July 2017


Building peace

As we know, the world in which we’re mapping out a path for France – both a new one and one in keeping with its ancient tradition – is a dangerous world. There are growing threats to our environment, including our immediate environment. With each new crisis, the shadow of war itself looms. A global deflagration is no longer the bogey raised by pessimists: it’s a serious possibility for realists. Assertions of power are returning or emerging. Terrorist movements are developing in many regions, with capabilities that increase their ability to do harm. They are there in our societies. Regional wars are reaching new levels of barbarity. Yesterday’s alliances are crumbling away, the multilateral order is unsure of itself, and authoritarian regimes and “illiberal” democracies are flourishing.

Cyberspace is spreading and amplifying the instruments of this dog-eat-dog war. The world’s downward slide is imposing its erratic pace, its excesses of all kinds, destroying mankind, uprooting it, wiping out its memory, disrupting its imagination. That’s the world we’re living in today! It’s not about understanding this in a defeatist way – no! It imposes duties on us – no doubt the most serious ones a nation can bear: to keep open everywhere the path of negotiation, dialogue and peace in the face of the most sinister endeavours.

France’s role and being true to its history mean being able to build peace and promote human dignity.

This is why we must take action everywhere, firstly to protect our interests and, first and foremost, our security. This is what led me to reaffirm our engagement in both the Sahel and the Levant, to combat terrorism and all fanaticism, not only in our interests but also in those of the peoples concerned. And on this point I’m aware of the daily commitment our armed forces have been making for so many months. But such action can be effective only if it’s over the long term and therefore seeks to build political solutions enabling crises to be overcome, and therefore [we must] be able, in all those regions, to talk to all powers, including those which don’t share our own ultimate goals or our own values, in order to find a solution and build it!

In this framework, I won’t propose that we usurp the role of other peoples because we’d like to impose our principles or values elsewhere, because I don’t want new failed states to appear.

France must always be respectful. At the same time as combating terrorism and all excesses, at the same time as protecting its own security and values, it must respect peoples’ sovereignty. But wherever freedoms are not respected, we’ll work, through our diplomacy and our development actions, to help minorities, work to support societies to ensure rights are respected. This requires demanding, sometimes lengthy and thankless work, which is necessary in order to put France back at the heart of dialogue between nations. I’ve been busy doing this for several weeks, from Mali to Ukraine, from Syria to the Gulf, talking in depth to all the world’s leaders. France must help build or rebuild many different balances everywhere, even if they sometimes remain fragile.

Armed forces

In this context, our military tool takes on major importance. I’ve already ordered a strategic defence and security review. With the guiding principles of independence and autonomous decision-making, our armed forces will carry out the missions I’ve entrusted them with: deterrence, the cornerstone of our security; protecting our fellow citizens and our interests; and intervention wherever compliance with the law and international stability are under threat. The prevention and resolution of crises will be handled comprehensively, never forgetting that only stabilization and development will allow us to create the conditions for lasting peace.

This ability for dialogue, this French credibility and this ability to build peace everywhere depend on our armed forces. And yet, this independence I aspire to doesn’t mean solitude. France will be loyal to all its alliances.

Our armed forces will undergo strategic and tactical modernization over the coming years. I know they’re ready for this, because they’re at the forefront of today’s world, showing a vigilance and commitment that are a credit to our country.

As you see, the threats have never been so great, and the multilateral order is no doubt more fragile than it’s ever been, divided, shaken, at a time when it’s probably more necessary than ever.

In the coming years, France’s role will be to defend security and equality in the face of excesses, defend freedoms, defend the planet against global warming – defend everything which makes up our common universal good and which today, in too many places, is being undermined!

Global upheavals/migration

Let me highlight the unprecedented time we’re living in. Since the 18th century we’ve built ourselves [a society] on a balance we thought was everlasting, between democracies, liberal values, our freedoms and a market economy that enabled the middle classes to move forward. All this has now been fundamentally shaken, transformed, threatened.

Authoritarian regimes succeed in the market economy. Democracies which we previously thought were allies forever are threatening the international order and beginning to doubt their own rules. Our destiny, our role today – even more than yesterday – is precisely to reiterate them, promote them, create them and stick to them. This will be my goal, our goal, and no other.

These developments in the world are, in a way, testing our endurance and cohesion. For example, it’s what we’re experiencing with the major migration crises currently gripping Africa, the Mediterranean and, once again, Europe. In the coming months we’ll have difficult decisions to take, and we must anticipate them more effectively by means of an ambitious security and development policy covering all fragile conflict zones. We must explain again and take action everywhere, when there’s war and when there’s global warming, which so destabilize those regions.

But we must also curb this major migration more effectively through a policy to monitor and combat people-trafficking. To this end, in a coordinated way in Europe, we must take effective and humane action enabling us to take in political refugees, who are in genuine danger – because those are our values –, without confusing them with economic migrants and giving up the essential maintenance of our borders.


To stick to this course successfully, we need a stronger, overhauled Europe. More than ever, we need Europe. But then again, it’s no doubt more weakened than ever by divisions and by the doubt that has taken hold of our people.

However, Europe is in our country as much as we’re in Europe, because it’s impossible to think of our continental destiny other than through the European project. We are Europe. It’s a project of peace, of freedom, of progress, which was conceived and implemented bravely by the generations who preceded us and lived through the war. Today we’d like to forget all that! To believe that the response to divisions, to Brexit and to so many upheavals in history is even further diminution, a kind of renunciation, a faltering of history.

To neglect Europe, to get used to making do with it, to blame it for all our misfortunes is to betray those generations who went before us. It is to betray what enables us today, in our current position, to freely debate Europe, to love it or not.

But to neglect Europe, to get used to making it solely the focus of technical negotiations is also, in a way, to abdicate our history and diminish France.

The European enterprise today is also – we really must say and see this – weakened by a proliferation of bureaucracy and the growing scepticism that stems from it.

I firmly believe in Europe. But I don’t always find that scepticism unjustified. That’s why I’m proposing to you that we step back, escape the tyranny of timetables and calendars, the technical maze.

The decade which has just ended was a cruel one for Europe. We managed crises. But we’ve lost our way. This is why it falls to a new generation of leaders to take up Europe’s original idea, which is in essence political, a voluntary, realistic and ambitious association of states determined to ensure useful policies prevail on the movement of people and goods and particularly young people, on security, on monetary and fiscal matters and also on political and cultural ones.

The European countries – for which Europe can’t simply be reduced to a market, but forms an area where a certain idea of mankind’s value and the requirement for social justice are acknowledged as pre-eminent –, those states, those countries must once again seize a decisive project and organize themselves accordingly – even if this means examining unsparingly the way we currently operate.

We have a daily task to carry out, humbly – I’ve started it, thanks to the mandate from the people –, to have a Europe which affords greater protection, to undertake essential reforms and to uphold Europe’s ambition on the many subjects which are part of our everyday lives. But this won’t be enough. It’s up to France to take the initiative and I’d like to do this, in the coming months, through the close work I’ve already begun, with the Chancellor of Germany in particular.

By the end of the year, on these foundations, throughout Europe we’ll be launching democratic conferences to radically reform Europe precisely on the basis of this essential political project, on the basis of this essential ambition which unites mankind. Everyone is then free to subscribe to them or not.

But gone are the days of tinkering around the edges. We must go back to where Europe started, if I can put it like that, to its very beginning, and in doing so revive the desire for Europe, not letting demagogues or extremists monopolize people and ideas or making Europe a crisis-management body which daily tries to extend its domestic regulations because the neighbours don’t trust it any more.

We’ve got to rediscover the initial inspiration for the European commitment. The certainty found in the visionaries of past centuries and the founding fathers of Europe that the finest part of our histories and our cultures would express not through rivalry, still less war, but through a uniting of powers. Not through the hegemony of one party, but through a respectful balance which makes us all succeed.

The times we live in need this union. Because it’s this union alone that will enable us to take up the challenges of modernity. Because clearly it’s in this Europe that we share a common view of the world and mankind, a view steeped in the same beginnings and forged by the same trials of history.

These challenges are the environmental transition, which puts the relationship between mankind and nature on a new footing, the digital transition, which rewrites social rules and forces us to reinvent continental law, whereby for so many centuries we’ve wanted rules to respect mankind.

Finally, there’s the challenge for contemporary humanism faced with the dangers of fanaticism, terrorism and war, which we’ll respond to through more European defence, which is being built, and also a Europe of culture and innovation.

Peace isn’t just Europe’s foundation stone. It is its ideal, always to be promoted, and only Europe, and France in Europe, can achieve this today.

So yes, we’ll make a break from the easy ways out that we’ve given ourselves in previous years, so that we’re equal to what the times demand of us. (…)./.

Last modification: 16/10/2021

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