Speech by the President of the French Republic at the opening of Ambassadors’ Week
Elysée Palace - Tuesday, 25 August 2015
Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Members of Parliament, Ambassadors,
France is preparing to host COP21 and this has been the focus of your work since Monday. It will be a major event and is fully mobilizing not only the highest level of government but also all government departments, all public actors and the many other actors who have a responsibility.
We have a duty to succeed because it is a global issue and because France is the country hosting this great event. Once again, our diplomatic service, under Laurent Fabius, is leading the way. Once again, our country, due to its position, role and influence, is responsible for taking part in negotiations that will decide the future of our planet.
But the planet is threatened not only by global warming, but also by a form of terrorism that is graver and more barbaric than any encountered in recent decades.
Our own country was attacked in January. It managed to react calmly and unitedly, and was supported in this tragedy by exceptional international solidarity, because, for the whole world, France represents freedom.
We are still at risk and the attack that happened on Friday on the Amsterdam-Paris Thalys train, which could have degenerated into horrific carnage, had it not been for a few courageous passengers, including American soldiers, to whom I awarded honours yesterday, that attack is further proof that we need to prepare ourselves for more attacks and protect ourselves.
Our security is decided, first and foremost, within our borders. That is why we launched Operation Sentinelle, which mobilizes police, gendarmes and 7000 soldiers. That is why we recruited more staff for our intelligence services and modernized our legislation, to take more effective action while respecting freedoms.
This is also necessary in order to tackle foreign combatants and to identify and monitor individuals who are linked to the fundamentalist movement.
Our security is also decided beyond our borders. Daesh is the greatest danger. This organization controls a vast swathe of territory in Syria and Iraq, has access to considerable resources linked to trafficking of all kinds, and has a worldwide impact. This organization enrols, indoctrinates and trains people in order to kill on a greater scale.
Muslims are the primary victims in Iraq, Syria, Kuwait and Libya, but minorities are systematically persecuted and tortured. That is why, in a few days, I will open the Conference on Eastern Christians and victims of ethnic and religious violence, organized in Paris by Laurent Fabius.
Daesh also destroys the common property of mankind: in Palmyra, the former director of the archaeological site was savagely beheaded, and last Sunday the Temple of Baalshamin was reduced to dust.
It does so with the same intention, to erase all traces of humanity, terrorize people through horrifying terrorist acts and images, and show that barbarism knows no bounds. We must take action against this too: ten years after the signing of the UNESCO Convention on cultural diversity, I have decided to place the President-Director of the Louvre Museum, Jean-Luc Martinez, at the head of an initiative to protect cultural property in armed conflicts.
France will take all the necessary steps to better protect works of art and sites and also to combat the trafficking which serves to finance terrorism, for behind the destruction of cultural sites there is a trade involving sellers, and therefore buyers.
In Africa, terrorism has taken the name of Boko Haram. Its acts of violence and suicide bombings have claimed many victims: 10,000 since the start of the year. The toll stood at 14,000 last year, including many women and children. All countries in the region are affected - Nigeria first and foremost, Cameroon, Chad and Niger - and we owe them our unfailing solidarity because they are our friends and because the stability of the whole of West Africa is at stake.
In a few days, I will host Nigeria’s new president, Mr Buhari, and I will confirm to him that France is ready to bring together all those who are combatting Boko Haram, as we did one year ago. Not only do we need to coordinate our services and exchange information, but we also need to be able to take joint action in the region. The Minister of Defence is sufficiently aware of the issue to know what we need to do.
The action taken in Mali showed this. Yes, it is possible, with the help of the African Union, the countries of Europe, and the UN, to drive back terrorism. Though in a different form, we are pursuing the same objective with Operation Barkhane: driving back terrorism.
But now more than ever, we are calling on the Africans to build their own forces as quickly as possible. We are prepared to assist, support and train them, and also partially fund them, with the other European countries.
Similarly, we are assessing the challenge represented by Tunisia. That is where the Arab Spring was born. That is where an exemplary democratic transition took place and where terrorism has also struck, at the Bardo Museum and in Sousse, to deprive this country, a friend of France, of the tourism income that is crucial to its economy.
I have therefore appealed to the countries of Europe to move beyond the Deauville Partnership by giving it a security dimension, for we cannot leave this country to fight alone against an enemy that we all share.
Terrorism justifies the use of force, which is why I called on our armed forces to intervene in Mali and to take part in the coalition in Iraq.
The persistently high level of threat has also led us to review the military spending act and to allocate even more resources to this field, despite the current budget constraints. This will enable us to provide our armed forces with equipment and human resources in the long term.
Because if France is to continue leading the way, two conditions need to be met. We must take responsibility when the situation requires and have the capacity to do so. If there is a will but no way, what is the meaning of political action and public declarations? We therefore need the means to shoulder our responsibility.
At the same time, military action alone will never be enough, for terrorism thrives on political chaos. So it is up to our diplomatic corps to find exit routes from the crises that occur.
In Syria, the world took far too long to react. In summer 2012, France raised the alarm and, from the outset, declared its support for the Syrian opposition. I was even the first to consider it the only legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
A year later, we were ready to punish a regime that had, without doubt, used chemical weapons against its people. The international community’s failure to act, after a red line was deliberately crossed, proved very costly: Daesh established itself in Syria, where it had not previously existed in that form, while Bashar al-Assad continued to massacre his people and seems, unfortunately, to still be doing so.
What should we do? We need to loosen the grip of the terrorists without preserving Bashar al-Assad, for the two are hand in glove; at the same time, it is essential to seek a political transition in Syria. The Security Council acknowledged this by adopting a statement last week, the first in two years. This is an important step in the right direction. Russia voiced its support, and a dialogue can therefore be initiated. Conditions must be established.
The first of these is the neutralization of Bashar al-Assad, the second is to offer sound guarantees to all moderate opposition forces, including Sunnis and Kurds, and to preserve the state structures and the unity of Syria. Lastly, the final condition, which will no doubt prove decisive, is that all stakeholders should contribute to the solution. That means the Gulf States. That means Iran. That means Turkey, which needs to get involved in the fight against Daesh and open, or rather resume, a dialogue with the Kurds.
I am calling for widespread recognition of this major issue, which has played an important role in recent months. Terrorism is a threat not just to a few but to all actors in the region, all powers, and everyone must participate if the Syrian crisis is to be resolved. France is ready to play its part.
Until that time, we will continue to help the Syrian opposition that we consider to be moderate, and to participate in the coalition in Iraq, while endeavouring to improve its effectiveness, for there can be no question of mobilizing troops or maintaining a presence if we are not sure of the goals and the means of achieving them.
We will also support the reforms led by the Iraqi Prime Minister, Mr Abadi, to strengthen the institutions, preserve the state structure and the unity of Iraq, and bring together all the communities. In short, to do what was not done a few years ago in Libya, for which we are paying a high price, after failing to consolidate a State following a necessary armed intervention. Libya is a vast territory with a wealth of resources; these have not disappeared, they are taken, for purposes which, it is safe to say, do not always serve the development of the country, and the country is in chaos, and characterized by the fact that it has two governments. Which is at least one too many.
I support the efforts of the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General towards establishing a national unity government which is able, with the support of the international community, to isolate extremist groups, secure the territory, control population movements and combat trafficking of all kinds.
As regards population movements, we are facing immigration crises greater than any we have known since the end of the Second World War. This migration, these flows of refugees, which concern Europe, but not only Europe, are the tragic consequences of the growing number of conflicts. A closer look at the causes shows that it is Syrians and Iraqis who have fled and taken refuge, initially, in countries in the region. Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey are dealing with the arrival of at least 5 million refugees. Let us not forget the devastating situations in Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia, which are a further source of migration, which in turn is facilitated by the chaos in Libya. As a result, over 350,000 irregular arrivals in the Schengen Area were recorded in recent months. It is hard to know how accurate these figures are.
Germany, meanwhile, has announced that it received 800,000 refugees in the past year. It is said to be an exceptional situation, and it is. Exceptional in terms of its scale, its gravity, its consequences, and the tensions that exist. In Europe, once again we can see walls being erected, tanks deployed, barbed wire put up, and refugee centres attacked; that is the reality of the situation and unfortunately, it looks very likely to last, given the conflicts at its root.
Some would have us believe that re-establishing national borders would be a miracle solution. That is a con. But a con that may, briefly, seem convincing. France needs to act at European and international level, with humanity, when it comes to those who are fleeing crises and wars, but also firmly, distinguishing between types of migration. We need to respond to humanitarian emergencies, including the current ones, organize the reception of migrants and shoulder our responsibilities in terms of asylum, as well as ensuring the return of rejected migrants and combatting all smuggling networks.
In June, Europe made some difficult decisions regarding the rescue of migrants in the Mediterranean. These were acted on effectively, which in fact led to more and more migrants crossing the Mediterranean, and unfortunately more and more smugglers too, some of whom leave their boats and the families stowed on them in fatal danger.
Today, disparities between national practices are creating an unbalanced situation for the countries that are facing mass influxes. These include, as we know, Italy and Greece. The situation is also unbalanced for countries that receive a large proportion of the refugees or that must, like France, handle situations that arise on the borders of the Schengen Area, like in Calais.
Alongside Germany, we are putting forward proposals to ensure that Europe finds adequate solutions to the issue we are facing. The French and German Ministers of the Interior have drawn up a certain number of recommendations. I discussed this yesterday with Chancellor Merkel in Berlin and we made some proposals to our partners.
Firstly, we want to speed up the establishment of refugee centres in Italy and Greece, which will be responsible for, indeed obliged to, distinguish between asylum seekers, who must be registered, and migrants who come for other purposes but who cannot be accepted as they are.
Secondly, we need to ensure that refugees are distributed fairly; at the moment, some countries in Europe are refusing to accept any.
We also need to ensure that people who have entered a country illegally are returned in dignity; this is essential if our rules are to be effective and in order to protect the refugees and asylum seekers.
Lastly, we need a unified asylum system with shorter waiting periods and harmonized rules and benefits, and, within Europeans, we must also establish a common list of safe countries, for there are countries that do not meet the conditions required to provide asylum. We must give ourselves the shared means to combat smuggling networks and, in collaboration with the agency Frontex, introduce European border guards.
These proposals, which are in line both with our duties and with the resolute approach warranted by the dangers of this situation, should be discussed at a meeting of the European Council and it should then be possible to implement them rapidly.
The solution also requires an active development policy, and this will be on the agenda of a Europe-Africa summit that we have initiated, which will be held in November in Malta. France wants us to be able to create funds, as proposed by the European Commission: for the Sahel, €1 billion is needed to support the economies of regions affected by migration and to enable young people from these regions to stay there.
The issue of migration may cause disagreement between the North and South, in addition to the tension that it may generate in Europe and within each of our countries, and this could cause great instability. We need to avoid this. We need to work towards joint development, staff training, bringing Africa into line with energy standards, growth, and security.
France, which has strong ties of friendship with Africa, needs to take the lead, in collaboration with its European partners. That is what we are going to propose.
In the same way, France is doing its utmost to promote peace. Just a few weeks ago, the big question that could be asked of all diplomats was whether it would be possible to reach an agreement with Iran to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
This agreement has been reached. And we consider it to be a step forward. France made sure to establish conditions that guarantee a solid compromise, particularly with regard to two points which we felt to be crucial: controls and checks, on the one hand, and the lifting of sanctions, on the other hand, which necessarily depends on Iran carrying out its duties.
Has the crisis been definitively resolved? Time will tell. We will need to make sure of it, but it is clear that what was regarded as a major threat a few months ago has been averted for the moment. I will reiterate here my full support for this agreement and my desire for it to be implemented rapidly by all the parties.
A new relationship with Iran is possible and there are high hopes for it, which must not turn into illusions or naivety. Indeed, the word “naivety” can be misunderstood. Some people are rushing ahead, while we, the French, need to ensure that our bilateral relations can be resumed and we must also ask Iran to help resolve the crises that are ravaging the region.
As I said to President Rouhani when I met him for the first time, just after he was elected: for there to be an agreement, Iran must not only turn its back on nuclear weapons, but it also needs to be a constructive actor in the region, as warranted by its position, history and culture. That was the thrust of the dialogue that I proposed to President Rouhani.
We have established a relationship of great confidence with Saudi Arabia and all countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, as demonstrated by my participation as guest of honour at the meeting they organized in May. France has also chosen to view Egypt as a major player in the Middle East.
Its stability is essential and Egypt is expecting a lot from France. This was once again confirmed to me at the inauguration of the new channel of the Suez Canal.
All these marks of respect towards our country, from countries that are very different to one another and sometimes in opposition, are the result of a policy that we have been implementing for three years. This recognition confers on us a responsibility in the Middle East, and therefore a duty to take action to ensure that the Middle East Peace Process becomes our goal once again. There is no alternative to the two-state solution.
The stalemate in Oslo led solely to a series of crises and acts of violence, like last year in Gaza or a few weeks ago, when unspeakable acts led to the tragic death of a child in the West Bank. The status quo is not only intolerable; it is also dangerous and plays into the hands of extremists. France is therefore trying to preserve a space for peace. That is the idea behind our proposal to extend the scope of international responsibility through a support group that would include the Quartet - the United States, Russia, the European Union and the UN - as well as the Arab and European countries that would like to contribute to this process.
That is also the idea behind our action at the United Nations. The aim is to lead both parties to make the compromises needed for negotiations to resume and be concluded. War, yes, war, which we thought was far from Europe, has also drawn closer to our borders. That is what has been happening in Ukraine over the last few months. We must bear in mind the lessons learnt from history. When the very foundations of collective security are undermined, a firm, rapid response is needed.
That is what we ensured with Chancellor Merkel, to prevent the Ukrainian crisis from worsening. It all began on 6 June, on the Landing Beaches. It was there that we came up with the “Normandy Format”. It was that Normandy Format that enabled the conclusion - though it took a whole night - of the Minsk agreements in February.
This helped to save lives - although not all, for there have been more victims in recent months - and to lay down a path. But we must be realistic: the ceasefire is not always respected, the withdrawal of heavy weapons has not been completed, and Ukrainian people are living in terrible conditions in both the East and the West. It is absolutely crucial to speed up the implementation of the Minsk package.
This was the purpose of the meeting which we held yesterday in Berlin with the Chancellor and the Ukrainian President, Mr Poroshenko. The aim is to be able to organize elections in Eastern Ukraine, as stated in the Minsk agreements. I will have to speak with the Chancellor again and with President Putin to discuss a further meeting which could take place in Paris, as part of the "Normandy Format".
The Ukrainian crisis is having a negative political influence. Relations are frozen between Russia and Europe, with sanctions which have consequences for both the Russians and Europeans. This is clear to see from an agricultural and humanitarian standpoint, with a situation which continues to deteriorate.
France wants to maintain sincere dialogue with Russia, in line with history, with the nature of our relationship, and with our shared interests around the world. France wants to act as it has always acted: fully independently and in solidarity with its partners.
In September 2014, I suspended the delivery of the first Mistral battleship to Russia, due to the conflictual situation. A year later, France clearly could not deliver a force projection instrument to Russia in the current context. The issue was addressed with a strong sense of responsibility from both sides and with mutual respect. I discussed this with President Putin on several occasions.
We were able to negotiate favourable terms, avoiding any penalties and being able to choose freely among any new potential buyers, several of whom have expressed an interest. Furthermore, I would like to invite the people - there are always a few - who declared that France had lost all credibility as an exporter of military equipment to look at the figures. Never has there been higher demand for French products with their cutting-edge technology, and not only the Rafale fighter aircraft.
And the fact that France is a country which manufactures and exports arms does not mean that we can abandon our principles and beliefs. Wherever myself, the Prime Minister and members of the Government travel, we always promote human rights, democracy and the fight against corruption. That is why we are respected as a country, in a central position, and why we can hold discussions with everyone.
It was without doubt because of this status that we were given the honour or hosting the Climate Conference. Holding a successful COP is a major challenge. There are positive signs, progress is being made. The United States has set out a bold plan, with President Obama personally committed to energy transition and a low-carbon economy. In this very room, the Chinese Prime Minister announced that his country would make a substantial contribution to reducing CO2 emissions.
Europe has made commitments which matched our targets. The energy transition law was seen as an exemplary text. As I speak, 56 countries, accounting for over 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions, have submitted their contributions. I call on the many remaining countries to do likewise.
There is also the expression of consciences, and in his encyclical, the voice of the Pope was heard far and wide. That fact that he will attend the United Nations General Assembly to reiterate his appeal will generate significant support. There is no doubt that many actors and non-governmental organizations are also mobilized. Major associations, civil society, as well as many local governments have also taken the initiative. Businesses are now aware that it will influence their competitiveness and their future.
This mobilization had yielded results, but they are not enough. No effort must be spared. I know that Laurent Fabius has gone to great lengths to travel wherever it has been necessary. Ségolène Royal too has travelled to Africa, the Ministers are fully committed to this cause and I know that here, our network of Ambassadors want to convince and inform people of the importance of this issue. At the beginning of November, I will travel to Beijing to work with the Chinese President towards further progress.
I will also travel to Seoul, to the headquarters of the Green Climate Fund, as we know that financing will be an essential issue. As regards the negotiations themselves, on 24 July the working group co-presidents responsible for setting out the draft project submitted a more structured, direct text, which will enable discussions to be held at the session which will take place in Bonn in a few days. So it is clear that we are making progress.
As I have said, the most difficult part, the agreement itself, is yet to come.
We must therefore act more quickly. At the United Nations General Assembly, along with Mr Ban Ki-moon, who will join us today, we want to organize a meeting for Heads of State and Government in order to encourage mobilization and provide the necessary impetus. The aim is not to replace the negotiations themselves, but to set the level of global ambition and the means of realizing it.
For the Paris Conference, I believe that the best course of action is to invite the Heads of State and Government at the very beginning of the Conference, not the end. By the end, it is sometimes too late and even strong appeals from the leaders are no longer enough to convince all Parties and conclude an agreement. They will thus be present at the beginning of the Conference, which is what we learned from Copenhagen. I am well aware, however, that many obstacles remain before us. Firstly, many developing and emerging countries are concerned about the effects of the fight against climate change in relation to their own growth. We must therefore reassure them and immediately provide them with technological solutions, mainly for energy.
We must show that solutions exist for reconciling all the objectives. In the case of India, for example, we have put in place a plan for solar energy, as we know that that great country wants to make solar energy a priority. With Africa too, we have a major plan for renewable energies. But we must also listen to the most vulnerable countries. A few months ago, we travelled to the Philippines with Nicolas Hulot, who I would like to commend for his tireless work. We wanted to launch a call to action, the Manila Call to Action, to show that although these disasters may first and foremost affect the most vulnerable countries, it is an issue which affects the whole world.
I also travelled to the Pacific and the Caribbean to spread the message of the Small Island Developing States, for whom the Paris Conference is not just another negotiating session, but one which, in 10 or 20 years' time, will impact their very future. For a successful conference, we must naturally have political commitments, an agreement and, crucially, financing. It is in this area that we must mobilize all our solutions and energy. $100 billion for 2020.
It was a promise made which was not kept, and now it must be an obligation.
This financing is absolutely essential in order to form an agreement. Without the $100 billion, there will be no agreement in Paris. Because this funding is essential for adaptation efforts and technology transfers.
We also held a Summit in Addis Ababa, which was also an important milestone for development financing. There too, there will be an impact for the Paris Conference.
I would like to take this opportunity to state that our development policy has to change, that it must be reformed and that the tools currently being used for it must be strengthened even further. I have therefore decided, in collaboration with the French Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Finance, to initiate a major reform, creating closer ties between the French Development Agency and the Caisse des Dépôts group.
The agency will draw on the combined financial power of the Caisse des Dépôts and the French state. Following in the footsteps of countries like Germany and Italy, we will thus have a genuine finance agency which will be better funded, better equipped and will have closer ties with local government and businesses, in the same vein as what the French public investment bank (BPI) has already done for domestic financing.
The French Development Agency will gain further support from this, as well as further resources, and will be given a new project, with new resources, to further the development of the energy transition and France's outreach.
Unfortunately, today's world is experiencing crises and wars, is facing many challenges and remains hugely unstable. An example of this is the stock market activity in recent days, which is of concern for Asian countries and China in particular.
The subprime crisis left a deep imprint and was only overcome by time and by corrections which came at a heavy price in terms of growth and people's quality of life. Decisions were made, firewalls were set up, in Europe via the banking union, but it is now the Asian markets which are the most vulnerable, following a wave of speculation which, like all speculation, was completely at variance with the real economy, which is nonetheless strong in China and Asian countries.
We must not deny that this difficulty exists but rather meet it head on, while remaining aware of what it could mean both in terms of duration and scope. I am confident that the Chinese authorities can overcome this stock-market crisis. They have the resources to act, and Chinese growth, although slowing, remains at an enviable rate. I will refrain from saying their growth rate so as not to influence our own.
We want to urge China to shoulder its full responsibilities as regards global governance and the implementation of mechanisms. China is the world's second largest economy and must adapt: adapt its capital markets, adapt its structure, adapt its growth to the level of objectives which can be global objectives, including in the area of regulating currency and financial flows.
China must play its part in global governance. Next year, it will chair the G20, and France has decided to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a new multilateral bank, as we want to be actively involved in current and future growth and investment in China.
I would like to conclude by discussing Europe. I have stated our main priority today: to be able to control migration, against a backdrop of international crises which we must resolve. To be able to deal with ongoing tensions which, as we know all too well, can be exploited by extremist movements. To be able to provide reassurance and protection at the same time. We have a duty to protect. To protect our territories, our populations, while remaining true to our principles of humanity and determination. We must do so as a country which must shoulder its responsibilities, do so within Europe, for Europe and with Europe, and this is the significance of the European Council meeting which must take key decisions, based on proposals which we have drawn up and which others can enhance.
But there is also growth in Europe. There too, there are signs of improvement. There has been a shift which was more growth-oriented than had been previously envisaged. The Juncker plan was launched.
And at the same time, Europe was hit by a new crisis, or at least new obstacles, due to the situation in Greece. The choices which were made, again after lengthy all-night discussions, were in line with the principles which I set out at the opening of negotiations. Greece remains in the eurozone, a financial programme has been put in place by the institutions to encourage a return to growth and, ultimately, keep its debt levels in check. Alexis Tsipras made bold decisions. He could have made other choices: some were proposing that Greece leave the eurozone, devalue a currency which would have been brought back, a national currency, and then draw up a programme with even harsher adjustments. They proposed that he should remove his country from the general movement and seek unlikely alliances with countries which - even beyond their solidarity - would have been unable to provide Greece with the necessary funds. He refused to compromise his principles of justice, reform and progress, and France did not ask him to do so, as Europe cannot seek to impose policy, but simply a need to face reality. Alexis Tsipras thus made bold economic and political decisions; he has appealed to his people and he will receive his reply.
We too must learn lessons from this. I am not referring to lessons on knowing whether to adapt to reality or not, whether to govern or not; at some point, the purpose of politics must be to provide governance and leadership; otherwise it is a different concept, such as resistance or protest.
But we must also learn lessons on what the economic and monetary Union should be. We cannot simply be an economic area with minimal rules, whose solidarity can only be expressed during crises. We must project a new outlook for Europe. Otherwise, as we have seen, countries will retreat behind their own boundaries and national self-interest will increase, which will spell the end for the European project.
So, as always, France and its partners, in particular Germany, must make proposals and forge ahead. I have proposed that an economic government be formed, so that it can have the authority to ensure that commitments are met, the accepted rules are observed, and to act in the interests of the eurozone.
Firstly, we must remain within the framework of the current treaties, especially at a time when there are calls for them to be renegotiated.
I propose that we set a goal to create the best possible environment for investment and financing which Europe can present to the world. Europe already has everything it requires to achieve this if it streamlines its mechanisms. The first pillar is banking union.
We must also give the eurozone more ability to take action, meaning that mechanisms must be simplified and coordinated, and governance - in particular the Eurogroup - must be more efficient, easier to understand, and in a way, more democratic, with the objective of majority rule.
Within this framework, there can be fiscal and social convergence between economies and we can also claim additional rights, including in terms of labour laws, so that Europe can have a common set of rules and avoid dumping.
Next, Europe, through the eurozone, must have an additional budget, its own budget, to make the necessary investments for energy transition, the digital economy and youth employment. We must therefore consider new resources and guarantees to fund this eurozone budget, with compulsory Parliamentary oversight as soon as resources and investments are planned.
Naturally, not all States are obliged to go down this road. First and foremost are the States which are not eurozone members and do not intend joining, and then the others which are members but who may not want to move as quickly as ourselves, what I have called "differentiated integration".
At the same time, we must provide an outlook for Europe as a whole. This outlook is the ability to be an area with laws and principles, but which protects its people and its jobs, and provides more scope for growth, which requires investment, competitiveness and innovation.
There is also the issue of the United Kingdom. This is by no means a new issue, but one which has resurfaced due to the proposed in-out referendum. France's position is simple. It wants the United Kingdom to stay in the European Union. I believe that this is in the interests of both the UK and the EU, but the process must take place in line with the common rules laid out in the treaties.
Dear Ambassadors, France's external action serves the goals which we have set for our country to succeed. There is no split between internal and external policy. Regardless of our sensibilities, we all want to further our country's outreach and influence. We remain one of the few countries in the world which can set a course to be followed, take initiatives, initiate processes, sometimes avoid the worst and find solutions. Our country must maintain its outreach, protect its economic interests and ensure its security. There are 2.5 million French nationals living abroad, and I would like to commend those representing them here today. These expatriate citizens are relying on you, the diplomatic and consular network, to stand up for their interests, not only in times of need, but when they are travelling, when making plans. It is important that their needs are met, because these French people, living far from France but with inextricable ties to it, are furthering our country's economic development and cultural outreach, and are great assets to France. They must feel that they have our full support.
Thanks to our businesses and in line with the aim of economic diplomacy, we are winning contracts which are strengthening our economy, and I ask that you fully exercise your authority over all departments and operators at your disposal, in order to provide day-to-day support to French businesspeople abroad.
I would also like to commend the role of our cultural, scientific, educational and academic network overseas. On trips abroad, myself, the Prime Minister and other Ministers get a chance to pay tribute to these establishments and their dedicated staff. Ours is a significant network, and few countries have this capacity. It also has other ambitions, as it aims to promote the French-speaking world, encourage people to speak and write French and welcome all cultures, including within our establishments. It aims to ensure that France is fully visible and meets its expectations, and in that sense, your work, what this network is able to promote, is essential to the French ideal.
We also want to welcome artists, students, researchers and entrepreneurs. We have simplified the visa system, and I would like to thank the Ministers behind that initiative. Although it is combating terrorism, must control migration and fulfil its duty towards refugees, France has a universal vocation. It must not retreat into itself, it must not be afraid to ensure that the world's best minds turn towards France to bring us ideas which were conceived in their own countries and which they want to share with the world through France. The battle of ideas is underway and once again France must be at the forefront.
Part of diplomacy means promoting our country, and I know that this is the job which you have been given. Territorial attractiveness must encourage investments which can generate innovation and employment.
There is also tourism, which is simply promoting our landscapes and heritage, as well as the dedicated tourism-industry professionals, not forgetting our gastronomy.
So far this year, France has received over 85 million visitors. We are on course for a record year, with France being the world's number one tourist destination. We must make this situation, which ultimately is also the result of hard work by all our committed professionals, a force and an asset.
Laurent Fabius has set in motion a reform of our external action, which I would like to mention here. This is an important initiative, because France's external policy goes beyond upholding its own interests. By virtue of history, our position in the world, our own will, our exemplary nature - I have mentioned energy transition - we have the ability to act, once we supply the resources to do so. We must take action for ourselves, for our interests, for the security of the French people, as well as for our ideals and the preservation of the planet. This is what we are doing through the Climate Conference. I once again mention the Conference because its success is inseparable from our action for development, for security and for peace.
It is because we uphold these values that terrorists want to attack us, but it is because we are the guardians of this great idea of progress, this great idea of France for the world, that many countries have expressed their solidarity and many peoples are grateful to us.
It is because we are aware of our responsibilities that we must work even harder to extend France's influence in the world.