Intervention of the French Ambassador in the Oireachtas

Intervention of H.E. Mr. Jean-Pierre Thébault, Ambassador of France to Ireland

Joint Committee on European Union Affairs

Leinster House
Thursday 26th November

Dear Cathaoirleach,

Dear Deputies and Senators,

First of all, I would like to thank you Cathaoirleach for your invitation today to discuss the recent terror attacks in Paris. I would like to thank you for this opportunity to engage with you today and answer your questions.

On Friday 13 November in Paris and Saint-Denis, France was hit by a series of attacks orchestrated from Syria by the armed terrorist group Daesh [ISIL].

The scale and level of organization of the attack was exceptional: it is the worst such event in France since Second World War. Beyond France, beyond the 17 nationalities represented among the 130 casualties and 350 wounded, one of them being an Irish citizen, the target was clearly Europe’s security and fundamental values

The attacks targeted a multicultural capital, Paris, and struck at the heart of Europe. Daesh was targeting European security and European citizens in general. Daesh’s claim of responsibility on 14 November mentioned particularly two European countries, France and Germany. Since then, it has clearly confirmed that all countries sharing the same values and orientations were their target at anytime. The mass attacks perpetrated by the same group in Beirut and Tunis exemplify that this terror organization does not intend to stop but intends to wage a global and continuous war.

On behalf of the French people, I want to wholeheartedly acknowledge the mass solidarity and support of the Irish people. Together with the staff at the Embassy and the French community in Ireland, we were overwhelmed by the huge friendship and shared sorrow expressed by the people of Ireland throughout all the country, in each county, each city, each school.

Attacks such as these only reinforce our conviction and determination.

As President Hollande mentioned it before the French Parliament last Monday 16th November, our absolute priority is now to further strengthen the security of our Nation and the one of the European territory, in close cooperation with our European partners and, at the same time, to contribute actively to international peace and security, the security in particular of all countries and territories affected or targeted by Daesh mass terrorism in mobilizing all means necessary to uproot the terror organization at its very source.

So doing, our action will be threefold:

1. A strong military response, in accordance with international law and principles, to an unprecedented act of war.

As stated by President Hollande in front of the Congress (both Houses of the Parliament) on November 16th, “the acts of war committed (on Friday 13th in Paris) were decided, planned and prepared in Syria; they were organised in Belgium, committed on our soil with French complicities.”

An immediate strong military response was needed, to prevent as much as possible Daesh to keep the initiative. It was based on international law.

1.1 Since its start our response has been entirely based on the international law and the relevant provisions of the UN Charter

Article 51 of the UN Charter states that:

Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective selfdefense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of selfdefense shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

- UN Security Council Resolution 2170 unanimously adopted on 15th August 2014 already provided with a legal framework to carry out strikes against Daesh.

Since 2014, Irak has been the victime of an armed aggression on its territory from Daesh which uses the Syrian territory to carry out attacks. Iraq asked for the help of the international community.

The UN resolution condemned in the strongest terms what it called “gross, systematic and widespread abuse” of human rights by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) and Al-Nusra Front. It reaffirmed

the need to combat by all means, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and international law, including applicable international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law, threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts, stressing in this regard the important role the United Nations plays in leading and coordinating this effort,

- More recently, UN Security Council resolution 2249 adopted last 20th November provided an additionnal legal framework

In his speech before both Houses of the French Parliament, President Hollande called for such a resolution to be adopted.

Last 20th November, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted such resolution: its very strong formulation provides us with a new legal and political framework to mobilize and unify the entire international community in the recognition of that unprecedented threat and fight against Daesh.

On this basis France armed forces operated more than 300 air strikes targeting command and control posts of Daesh in Syria, effectively restraining the terror organization in its moves and initiative possibilities.

1.2 A unique and coordinated alliance against Daesh, representing a united front of the international community against an international threat, is however more crucial than ever

We believe there is a need for a coalition of all those who really want to fight against Daesh. This coalition should pursue the following objectives:

- To avoid any ambiguity about who we are fighting: Daesh and the terrorist organisations listed by the UN & not in any case the moderate opposition.

- To put an end to all forms of violence against civil populations anywhere iin the world and in particular in Syria and Iraq, where Daesh, as a totalitarian organization is imposing terror and decimating the populations who have fallen under its control, with mass executions of opponents, prisonners of war, people of different faith or orientation, women, in widely broadcasted scenarized shows of madness.

- To make sure that efforts are genuinely made to start the process needed for a political transition in Syria, according to the Geneva communiqué

We want to build on that resolution 2249 which calls on all Member States to take:

« All necessary measures” against Daesh and determines clearly the threat in the preambular paragraphs: “Reaffirming that terrorism in all forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable regardless of their motivations, whenever and by whomsoever committed,”

In that perspective, President Hollande has initiated a round of meetings with our international partners to discuss stepping up the cooperation in order to fight against Daesh.

Last November 23rd November, the President met with Prime Minister Cameron. On November 24th he met with President Obama in Washington. Yesterday he met with Chancellor Merkel in Paris. Tonight President Hollande will meet with President Poutine.

2. A direct threat to Europe which request a strong, swiftl and in a closely coordinated answer.

2.1 By its mere nature and scale, the content of the claim made by Daesh that it intentionally targeted the way of life of our countries, it is clearly a direct challenge to us all.

2.2 A defense and security answer:

As an immediate reaction in France, the state of emergency was declared and an unprecedented mobilisation of our domestic security forces and armed forces, bringing up to 10,000 the number of our troops, helped boost the security of the Nation.

However, these decisions put special pressure on all our armed forces, our intelligence capabilities, the police and the gendarmerie. And France can no longer be alone in taking on such a significant proportion of the commitments that contribute to the security also of all Europeans.

At the Foreign Affairs /Defence Council meeting which took place on 17th November, France has therefore asked its partners on the basis article 42 (7) of the Treaty on the European Union (which states that

“If a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power, in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. This shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States.”)

- for their bilateral support, according to their capabilities and their international commitments in the fight against Daesh in Iraq or Syria.
- increased support for EU or UN led peacekeeping missions in places where the threat of global terrorism makes it even more important to stabilize today theses countries.

Consensus about recourse to that article testifies to the solidarity among all Europeans and is a strong and unprecedented political move commensurate with the challenges we are facing. We express our profound gratitude to all our partners.

France is studying all the possible options and we have initiated a dialog with the EU Governments and in close cooperation with the UN, when relevant, on the kind of contribution they would be in a position to make within their Constitutional framework.

The confirmation yesterday by Chancellor Merkel of a strong German first military support in Mali is among the first substantial moves announced in this framework.

2.3 An internal security and justice answer

An extraordinary Justice & Home Affairs Council was organised on the 20th. The conclusions adopted accelerate significantly the implementation of the roadmap adopted during the informal European Council which took place after the January terrorist attacks.

Those conclusions address in particular:
- The question of the EU PNR
- The fight against firearms traffic
- The immediate implementation of systematic and coordinated controls at the external borders
- Information exchanges
- The Financing of terrorism
- The Harmonisation of criminal laws regarding terrorism

2.4 Cutting swiftly and effectively the funding sources of terrorism

France strongly supported the adoption of the 4th Directive on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purpose of money laundering and terrorist financing. It will better regulate electronic currencies and restrict anonymity in financial transactions. It will also empower Governments to legislate by decree on these matters. We urge Member States to transpose as soon as possible the 4th directive into their national legislation.

All of these are very important steps, going in the right direction. And yet, we have to move even faster and deeper. As stressed by French Minister for Finance, Michel Sapin in a special address in the Eurogroup, we must ensure that every country, especially in the EU, sets up agencies with the appropriate resources to hunt down illegal financial flows. We must centralize the data collected across the EU and tighten the cooperation between the relevant agencies, intelligence services in order to improve the exchange of information. We must adapt our monitoring devices to new technologies. As an example, 90% of financial transactions are currently operated through the SWIFT system and yet, we are unable to monitor them. For the credibility of our fight against terrorism, this has to be changed.

2.5 Stopping the recruitment of foreign terrorist fighters and fighting effectively the hatred propaganda still need to be tackled

3. The need for a global diplomatic solution

Neither our efforts nor those of our partners will have their full effects if the regional crisis are not dealt with at a political level.

- In Syria: the political transition is the only way of bringing all the Syrians together in a single common objective: the national unity, the coexistence between all components of the population and the fight against extremism.

- In Iraq: the process of national reconciliation is stuck. It is a matter of urgent necessity that the Iraqi authorities adopt with no further delay the measures announced by the Government Abadi in the fall 2014.

- In Libya: the rise of Daesh is fostered by a prolongation of the political impasse and the division of the country. It is a matter of urgent necessity that the Libyan stakeholders sign the agreement concluded under the supervision of the UN and establish a Government of national unity.


In conclusion, the next weeks and months will be crucial.

We count on the full mobilization and solidarity of all European Nations sharing the same values.

Last Thursday 19th November, the Nation Assembly nearly unanismously adopted the extension of the state of emergency for 3 months. 551 deputies voted in favour, 6 against and one abstained. The Seanad adopted the bill with 336 votes in favor, none against and 12 abstentions.

Yesterday, the French Parliament nearly unanismously agreed to the extension of the French Air Strikes in Syria: at the National Assembly, 515 deputies voted in favour, 2 against and 10 abstentions. The Senate approved the bill with 323 votes in favour, 21 abstentions and no votes against.

We will express this solidarity tomorrow Friday by a national day of remembrance in honour of the victims, both in France and abroad. I will personally visit David Nolan, the Irish national severaly wounded in the attack of Paris, to express to him and his family our total support and solidarity and to express to Ireland and its people our eternal thanks.

Beyond that, I would like to assure you of our commitment to democratic principles and the values of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité that we hold dear. We want to fight the threat of an even bigger danger: a well established Daesh, which we would prefer to ignore, and which would be more and more able in the short term to carry out new and even greater mass attacks.

Thank you for your attention./.

Published on 26/11/2015

top of the page