Rise of nationalism one of world’s real dangers - Minister

European Union – Foreign Affairs Council – Statements to the press by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, on his arrival at the Council of the European Union

Brussels, 14 November 2016

Defence Europe

THE MINISTER – This is an important day for Europe. The meeting of the 56 foreign and defence ministers is taking place this afternoon. Europe is achieving a fine result today: asserting its ambition as regards security and defence.

The process was officially launched in June following the High Representative’s report. There was a summit in Bratislava and there will be another at the end of the year, but the joint meeting of foreign and defence ministers is allowing us, in an increasingly uncertain environment and in the face of new threats, to demonstrate that Europe is capable of taking important decisions for the security of Europeans.

There’s of course the issue of border protection, but as regards defence strategy, today is a milestone. In our final statement, we’re going to reassert our desire for strategic autonomy, but also our desire to deploy resources and tools allowing us to act, coordinate military action and also determine all the capabilities we need to ensure the security of Europeans. Finally, this is about a genuine industrial and research policy, financed not only by a defence support fund but also the Juncker Plan’s investment programme. So a milestone has been passed today, especially given an increasingly uncertain context, with new threats.

Q. – Has Mr Trump’s election helped create this fresh impetus for Defence Europe?

THE MINISTER – I don’t believe that’s the reason we’ve moved forward. We’ve done a lot of work, and in this preparatory work there was a huge amount of consultation. There were the Franco-German initiatives, among others, at foreign-minister and defence-minster level. My colleague Frank-Walter Steinmeier and I produced a paper several months ago now. Jean-Yves Le Drian and Ursula von der Leyen did the same, so we’ve put a whole series of proposals on the table. They haven’t all been taken up, but the bulk of them have. Europe moves forward when it gives itself the political means to do so. The world is uncertain; that didn’t begin with Mr Trump’s election. Europe mustn’t wait for others to take decisions. It must defend its interests, i.e. the interests of Europeans, and at the same time assert its strategic role worldwide.

Trump election/transatlantic relationship

Q. – Does Mr Trump’s election provide an opportunity, as Boris Johnson is saying?

THE MINISTER – I’ll leave Mr Johnson to comment. I don’t know exactly what he means. What’s definite is that the Americans have elected a president and he’s their president. He’s going to take office on 20 January; he’s preparing himself, he’s going to name his teams, he’s going to appoint 4,000 people. That’s going to take a bit of time.

For all that, the transatlantic relationship is essential. In the American election campaign, a number of things were discussed and commitments were made by the new American president. On this, things must be clarified. To take one example, the agreement on the climate, which is essential for the future of mankind: any step backwards would be a step backwards for mankind. So Europe has its interests to defend. It’s made commitments and it wants them to be honoured. But it’s also true in terms of security, the fight against terrorism and the fight for development: I’m thinking of Africa. There’s a need not only for a strong, clear, mutually-supportive transatlantic relationship, but at the same time a shared vision of the world. A multilateral vision to overcome all the risks we face. Among the risks is a return to isolationism: it’s an age-old American political vision. Is this a return to isolationism? It wouldn’t be a good thing either for the United States or for the world. Isolationism can also bring out nationalism. One of the real dangers for the world today – it’s also the case in Europe – is the rise of nationalism. We must be extremely wary of this. You’ll remember that historic phrase of François Mitterrand’s, who said “nationalism means war”. I believe war already exists: it exists in Syria, it exists in other parts of the world. There are conflicts, particularly in some regions of Africa.

It’s one of the issues I discussed this morning with the new United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres. We must work for a world of peace, a world of security and a world of progress, while also taking people’s expectations into account. People’s expectations means more work, more education, more health. Those are among the many issues we’ll have to discuss now with the American President-elect.

Trump administration/Syria

Q. – The next American administration could halt assistance to the Syrian opposition. Could France and the European allies make up for this lack of American help?

THE MINISTER – The Syria conflict is central to our concerns; we’re discussing it, incidentally, at the Foreign Affairs Council at lunchtime today. This morning I spoke to the new United Nations Secretary-General, Mr Guterres; this will of course be one of his priorities when he takes office at the beginning of January. The same question is still on the agenda: how to stop the war? How to end the hostilities? How to stop the bombing, particularly of Aleppo, and enable access for humanitarian aid? And there it’s clear the European Union can play its role, to help even further with access to humanitarian aid and, above all, resume the peace process and political negotiation. Political negotiation for a political transition, as the United Nations decided through a Security Council resolution. There will be no military victory in Syria: it can be arrived at only through negotiation. That’s what we’re calling for, so it’s still the highest priority. The Europeans must reaffirm it; that’s what they’re going to do today./.

Published on 03/01/2020

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