1 December 2023 - Check against delivery
SPEECH BEFORE STUDENTS OF JAGIELLONIAN UNIVERSITY IN KRAKOW
Ministers, Ambassadors, Consuls, Professors,
Students, ladies and gentlemen,
Dzień dobry, Bardzo się cieszę, że jestem dzisiaj z Państwem w Krakowie.
I am going to interpret your applause as an urgent request to stop my attempts at Polish and return to French. Don’t worry, I won’t continue. Thank you, Professor and Rector for your words and your welcome.
I must say I am extremely happy to be in your city, Poland’s former capital, a few moments ago I was with your Mayor, and to be at the Jagiellonian University, which educated such universal figures, as you mentioned earlier, including Nicolaus Copernicus, Karol Wojtyła – who would later become Pope John Paul II, and has been home to the soul of Poland for many centuries. For me, it is a great honour to be with you today because our two countries, our two peoples and, therefore, the young people from our two countries have a deep-rooted friendship, some of which can be seen here in these somewhat special ties.
The millennia-long history which links us was born here, in the capital of the kings of Poland, by sacred intellectual ties, when Saint Stanislaus, the patron saint of Poland, chose to go and study at the Sorbonne before coming back as canon and then bishop of Krakow. Since, our friendship has not stopped growing.
In 1400, the reform of the University of Krakow desired by King Władysław II Jagiełło was inspired by the Sorbonne. It is not by chance, as you reminded us Rector, that these universities, your university and the Sorbonne, are linked by a new alliance and a dream, the dream of creating the European university in which I so believe, UNA Europa. It will renew these historical ties and spearhead a contemporary ambition for a Europe of knowledge and youth. I will come back to this in a moment.
While every French person doesn’t know this story, they are aware somewhere deep down and this explains why France has never been indifferent about Poland’s fate.
Our two peoples, that have never faced each other in a millennium of wars, are indeed so close. We share the same ardent aspiration for freedom, the same visceral attachment to both the practical and the ethereal, a genuine sense of history and the nation that brings us together.
Relations between our two countries could never be taken for granted. It is a passionate relationship, an encounter between a Latin and a Slavic people, distant descendants of the Franks and the Sarmatians, and it is no coincidence if several famous Poles found France to be a particularly fertile land where they could express their genius, Poles such as Adam Mickiewicz, Juliusz Słowacki, Frédéric Chopin and Maria Skłodowska-Curie,
Adam Zagajewski and many others.
The French people also remember the thousands of Poles who fled following the November Uprising, the 1848 revolution, the January Uprising and then, at the turn of the 20th century, thousands of Polish workers who came to France. Just ask those who live in the Hauts-de-France or the Lorraine, regions which are close to my heart. They all remember the incredibly hard work of their Polish brothers, whose descendants are now fully integrated in the French community, while never losing sight of their roots. They can be found even in our country’s current Government.
All these intertwined destinies are ties between our two countries which create a unique relationship that history has never stopped feeding because every time hopes of freedom and independence developed in Poland, France was there.
Of course, there were times when we couldn’t mobilize the necessary forces, but many times we were there alongside Polish patriots:
Napoleon Bonaparte, who even features in your national anthem, created the Duchy of Warsaw. Georges Clémenceau, who now has a square named after him in your capital city and who received an honorary doctorate from this university for having ardently defended the Polish cause in the negotiations of the Treaty of Versailles.
The soldiers of 1920, including the young Captain De Gaulle, who responded to Marshal Pilsudski’s call. While you are celebrating the Miracle of the Vistula, a French detachment of our soldiers deployed in Lithuania as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence will visit Warsaw to pay tribute to this brotherhood of arms.
Lastly, François Mitterrand who defended the intangibility of the Oder-Neisse line before Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
So many illustrious and anonymous French citizens who gave their sweat, and sometimes their blood, for the legitimate cause and the greatness of Poland at the heart of Europe. And these dates resonate in Krakow as they do in Paris. 1831, 1848, 1863, 1980, so many moments when the people of France saw itself in the fight of the Polish people against tyranny and then totalitarianism.
What unites us in this common story is, I believe very deeply, in Poland and in France, being patriotic. When we find our histories they have always given something universal which is bigger than us. We must never forget this. Don’t forget this.
Being a patriot is also about fighting for freedom as an example. This is what La Fayette had in mind in 1833 when he said: “all of France is Polish”. This is what resonated in the words of March 1848 which covered the walls of Paris: “Don’t forget Poland. It is not just a nationality, it’s a principle. It is the principle of fraternity, of independence of nations, that you have proclaimed and that you must defend”.
It was for the same fight that the French found themselves in Poland when, in 1981, thousands of them pinned the Solidarność symbol to their jackets.
And now it is my turn to come here today and tell you that France never forgets Poland, this country that we carry so highly in our hearts and minds, that France loves Poland, never forget it because France and Europe cannot be great without a proud Poland.
So, now that we have recalled this history, what brings us together, what made us, we have great challenges before us. And I am standing here before the young people who will have to deal with these challenges. In a country or a Europe which are sometimes gripped by doubt, crises, troubles. And I would maybe just like to simply share some thoughts with you. These thoughts fall into three categories. Firstly, a thought about time, then a thought about geography and the politics of Europe, and then several convictions about what our Europe will enable us to take out of the project that we can take forward together, Poland and France in this Europe.
For my first thought about time, I am referring to your generation which is up and coming. This generation is facing huge numbers of challenges - I was talking about this yesterday with Polish intellectuals. I have spoken about this with your leaders, but we have a history to carry forward. You have a history to carry forward. We, Europeans, have a history to carry forward and we have not come out unscathed from the 20th century. And I am also saying this at a time when many world powers, many regimes are trying to revise this history, as a way of preventing the present or the possibility of a future. And I must also try, by speaking to you here today, to say how I see this history and the 20th century which rocked us.
Firstly, there is the Polish 20th century, which is not exactly the same as the French 20th century. And I am not underestimating what your country went through, a newfound national independence, and then the disruption of Nazi domination, and then Soviet domination.
These scars, these impacts of the 20th century have fed several feelings, and I fundamentally believe this. Feelings of humiliation, on several occasions, and of injustice, feelings of abandonment, including towards Western Europe which let a curtain fall across the middle of Europe, its comrades of freedom swept under Soviet subjugation after having suffered from the Nazi yoke. And even when freedom was found again, maybe something of a shared promise was lost.
The 20th century saw a series of deep-rooted traumas take place and your generation now has to carry those and we, together, have to understand them. And I am not underestimating this task.
You have led miracles, the miracle of independence, and you have led, I must say, one of the great miracles of freedom of the 20th century, and I am saying this for your young people because you must not let your history be stolen from you. One of the best stories of freedom and liberation of the 20th century happened here, the one I spoke about earlier when I mentioned Solidarność.
It is a story of bravery. The bravery of Lech Wałęsa, Bronisław Geremek, Jacek Kuroń, Adam Michnik, the chaplain Jerzy Popiełuszko, Jacek Woźniakowski, Kornel Morawiecki and many others. Nothing was written, but they created a story of liberation and freedom for your country and, in doing so, made this possible in the rest of Europe.
And in 1989, thanks to the determination of all these committed individuals, it was in Poland that the cracks were made in the Berlin Wall. And as they had conquered freedom and democracy, these brave individuals were destined to gain much more. They would reconquer Polish memory, that of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the Warsaw Uprising, the Katyn massacre, the exterminations carried out in Auschwitz, Majdanek, Sobibor, Treblinka. These tragedies that some people wanted to erase. Essentially, they conquered the possibility for Poland to choose its destiny.
Of course, I am aware that these dramas, these deaths, these destructions, may be a painful burden for the people of Poland. And even when in 1989 at the start of this movement, this ability to look history in the eye, to revisit it, which swept throughout Europe, this same current, this possibility also to build our joint history, it’s as if something came to a halt in recent years in Europe, here and in the view that others wish us to have of ourselves and in the revisionism of the 20th century which is starting to take hold. Russia’s current discourse about the history of World War II or the 20th century springs to mind, as does the history that we officially want to reinvent here, in your country. And I am saying this for your generation – because you cannot be happy if you don’t understand your past and look it in the eye in all its aspects.
Looking history in the eye means being proud of this chapter of extraordinary liberation, this fight, these dates that are one of the best European conquests of the end of the 20th century.
It is also when we look history in the eye, that we know how to say loud and clear that no, Poland never chose to be, in the night and the fog, the place of horrors and the unspeakable. That no, Poland is not responsible for starting World War II. It was the victim, the country which for the size of its population had the biggest number of deaths. These are the historical scientific facts. I want to reaffirm here that France stands beside Poland against those who are trying to deny this reality.
Looking history in the eye, also means saying loud and clear that the Polish people are a brave, inventive, entrepreneurial people, a people infatuated with poetry and traditions, a viscerally European people, who have always been deeply European, profoundly with a crushing majority, and a people which fed the conscience of humanity with two Nobel Peace Prizes and five Nobel Prizes for Literature to whom I want to pay tribute here today.
Looking history in the eye also means accepting to confront the darker aspects that lie in any people and that there was and may still be today in Poland, and that there was in France too. Antisemitism, hatred of the other and the ability that we sometimes had to carry these feelings and not fight them vigorously enough.
Looking history in the eye means knowing that Poland’s history is always a European history. Poland is itself only in European commitment and respect for the values of Europe, a humanism it carries high, especially here in the University of Krakow. And at the same time, this irrevocable tragic side which brings all Europeans together.
We will not forget the drama of Smolensk.
We will carry the memory of Katyn with us all and your dead are ours.
The memory of Auschwitz, and its one million victims, is a European memory.
By analysing central European thought, that of Geremek, Patočka, Bibo, Havel, Milan Kundera spoke of a “long meditation on the possible end of European humanity”. This history of Poland is a European history because Europeans know deep down the infinite fragility of their civilization and their model.
But also the force of their awakening, because it was Polish thinkers, Polish legal experts, Lemkin and many others who, as soon as the guns were silent, were able to conceptualise, think about the genocide, the crime against humanity for the Europeans and by Europeans. We must not forget this inheritance, this ethics that we all have on ourselves, this ability that the Europeans had to state their crime, and look at the unspeakable acts that happened on our continent.
And what I wanted to say about this free reflection on history, is that we are not building Europe by forgetting Europe.
We are building Europe by knowing its history, by preserving any attempts to falsify, rewrite any parts of the pages of history, of all eras. We should not shy away or repent, but simply be clear-headed. We should not erase any traces but accept the conflict between historians and historiographical debates to try to create a form of truth which is the story of our nations and our Europe. We must construct, and I think this is one of the key challenges for your generation, a shared European memory.
The risk that I can see is that of bringing out fantasy national memories. I see sometimes the temptation in Poland to erase 1989 and this history of freedom. I see the deliberate Hungarian policy to review all 20th century history. I see the Russian attempt to reinterpret the World War II and make the Polish people feel guilty. I see the risk of our memories becoming fragmented by revisiting or revising our history. There are facts, there are traces, there are historians, there are truths. And I believe that your young generation, the academics and the politicians have a duty to build this European memory but also this European history which has yet to be built. It is an eminently political project but where politics must protect the history of truth, the historical dialogue, the debate about the evidence. And I think that this is a challenge for your generation.
We must have a European history, not an unequivocal history nor one that forgets any of its responsibilities, but we need this European history to ensure that our past, especially things that have never truly been confined to the past, doesn’t trap us in hate or nationalisms that people have struggled to deal with. Universities and our researchers have an essential role to play in this.
I believe this is an existential political project for Europe. Just as Kundera said “European: one who is nostalgic for Europe”. I don’t know if Kundera’s nostalgia is the nostalgia for a past that was at the heart of a Europe that was never what we fully hoped for. But it does mean that there is no Europe without the ability to think about and digest its history.
And this will make it possible for hope to come out of this memory. The hope of a European renaissance like that which we saw and which shone here in Poland as well in the 16th and 17th centuries and in which we travelled a moment ago and which, I believe, is still possible if our continent knows how to unify itself through intelligence and this ability to capture time.
The second area I would like to reflect on with you – and for your generation today – is the geography and politics of Europe.
We talk of Europe, but the Europe we speak of is made up of an enormous number of misunderstandings, for when we talk of Europe we have not always had the same borders in mind. France no doubt has its share of responsibility for this. We have not always had the same map in our minds and we have not always had the same political content. And I believe this issue of geography and politics is also essential for your generation, if we are not to be unhappy Europeans.
Europe and its geography, first. I am deeply convinced that Europe is a unit, a geographical unit, and that for a very long time we failed to rethink the map as a whole. I also think that that is still one of the problems today, and I spoke about that with a few people yesterday.
What happened on 1 May 2004 when Poland and the “Eastern” countries acceded to the European Union was not an enlargement like a body that expands. It was a reunification. It was a reunification of Europe, after the fall of the Wall.
And I think I can say that Western Europeans, and perhaps the French more than some others, failed to sufficiently see, say, think and conceptualize that. Which may have led to humiliation – a sentiment of humiliation – or incomprehension. I understand that as what perhaps led us to stumble collectively in recent years.
And we no doubt spoiled our reunion because of that. I believe that time has done its work, and I believe profoundly that today, for your generation and the same generation in France and across Europe, the map of Europe must be that of a unit. We must not consider that there are countries to which Europe was enlarged, as if they were not fully in Europe from the outset. That is false, totally false.
For a time in the 20th century, Europe lost its unity because it was slashed and torn asunder by the games of the powers and by the division of Europe between them. But that is not Europe’s profound meaning or history. And we need to keep this geography in mind today, for the decades that are to come, and promote it forcefully.
And at the same time, we need to view our Europe in its unity and we need it no doubt to have a better or stronger consideration of its borders, surroundings and neighbours. And I am struck when I hear our contemporary debates by the degree to which we are making the same mistakes again. We have almost no real neighbourhood policy, and we are not considering our surroundings. We consider our surroundings only in terms of enlargement, as if Europe was a geography that could only consider its borders in expansion. And we consider our neighbourhood very little because thus far we have always delegated it to others. We will only be a united Europe, including geographically, if we consider all countries as being part of Europe. Look at the position of Mitteleuropa: many used to consider it was between Brussels and Lyon, yet it is much further east. But we also need to rethink our surroundings and our relations with our neighbours. And that is why I do not regret bringing our relations with Russia, as well as the Middle East and Africa, into the debate, something that has sometimes been misunderstood. They are Europe’s neighbourhood and we need our own policy on that neighbourhood. We need a vision, we need to build the architecture of security and confidence that we, as Europeans, want to have for ourselves and our neighbours.
And thinking of this geography in the light of history, with great humility given what Poland has experienced with some of its neighbours – I have in mind Russia, and contemporary tragedies. But we now need to find ways and means of apprehending this geography.
This geographical misunderstanding has, I believe, worsened trauma, and I would hope we will succeed in building this new ambition with the right map, as it were, and as such, the right ambitions. And our duty, as Poland and France, is no doubt greater today than it was in the past, now that Brexit has happened. For we are great geographical, economic and strategic powers of this Europe and we have to see ourselves as such, build together as such, and move forward as such.
But as I was saying, Europe is not just a geography and a geographical unit. It is also profoundly political.
And I believe that that is another ambiguity, one which has been fuelled perhaps more on the Polish side. Deep down, if I may propose an interpretation that is no doubt imperfect and lacking of what has happened for us in the last three decades, the dream was to access democracy, freedom, the market economy, economic empowerment and Europe.
All that has happened, but is Poland happy? The European enterprise has been built, I believe, on a form of misunderstanding whereby there was the idea of accessing an existing enterprise – we should not be excluded – that is a form of market. In any case, that is the idea that some put forward.
Europe is not a mere market. It is a market, of course. Europe has made it possible to build freedom of movement, a history of prosperity and freedom of movement for capital, services, persons and knowledge. That is an incredible history and achievement, but above all, it is a political project. It is a peace project.
This European Union is a mad project, where those who waged war against one another decided to stop, by pooling coal and steel firstly, the instruments of the civil war of the time, and then deciding to unite in unprecedented, unhegemonic political integration. I believe that has perhaps been poorly understood, or at least underestimated, because we need this political integration. I know how important the single market is in Poland, how strong and dominant it is. Because it is a driver of integration and prosperity. It needs to be strengthened, but that also requires the fight, which we must all wage together, against dumping and European divisions. We all need to adhere to the profoundly political and therefore civilizational side of the European enterprise.
What is this political side? It means that Europe is not simply a market. It is a foundation of values, rights and freedoms. They are not afterthoughts. They are existential, truly existential. That is what we decided with the Council of Europe, in our founding treaties: the relationship with freedom, the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary and personal freedoms. That is Europe’s essence. And these balances, between freedom and equality, which exist nowhere else, make our project a political one, and so in 2004, Poland joined a political project in the deepest sense of the term.
When I say that, I get the feeling that there has perhaps been an idea that the European enterprise was first and foremost one of adapting to Western economies, adapting in a way to a model of prosperity that might exist. No doubt, moreover, in the context of an acceleration of history that vastly shook up social and cultural balances in a way that I would not like to underestimate here. I speak of this with much humility. This acceleration has a result, if you will: this path was taken too quickly, and a Polish truth has re-emerged. In any case, this is how I understand the political project and how I respect it. You are a democracy, suited by one side of Europe, the single market, prosperity and structural funds. But that democracy might distance itself from the side of Europe that no longer suits: a certain relationship with the law, with fundamental values and the political aspect of the European project.
I believe that is a profound mistake, but one that we no doubt contributed to: that of a path that was taken too fast and created a cultural and civilizational malaise, which could lead in a way to a nationalist resurgence denying European political principles.
I do not believe that that is possible. I say that here, once more, with a great deal of humility, for no country should be lecturing another. I said it yesterday, in frank, private discussions with the Polish President and the Prime Minister. And I said it when I spoke about the ongoing reform of the judiciary: it is not up to France to say what is alright and what is not. A Member State has no instructions to give to other Member States, but it is France’s responsibility to defend the principles of the European Union as set out in our texts, in our history and in the political project we promote, and as defended by the Council of Europe and the European Commission. That is our responsibility. And with this Commission and this Council that uphold these principles, I call for an effort of coherence with the political side of Europe that I mentioned earlier.
Let us not politically repeat the error that we have already made geographically. Europe cannot be amputated of some of its principles. If Europe is no longer anything but a market that expands, then it is no longer a political project. If Europe is a market that can abandon its values and what holds it together, then it has lost its unity. So we would dive back into the most profound divisions, and I believe that our political project is one that fosters contemporary balances and the deeply held aspirations of Poland’s young people, its people, because it means you can be a patriot and a European.
No text says you cannot love your country. I am deeply patriotic, personally. I love France. I defend it, I promote it. But I am both French and European, a patriot and a European, and I think it is possible to be both a patriot and a European today because we have built a political project that is one of both unity and diversity.
Umberto Eco magnificently said, “the language of Europe is translation”. Look at this unprecedented geographical area that we have managed to build in the last 70 years. Nowhere in the world is there such a concentration of cultures, differences and languages. For millennia, that produced civil wars. In the last 70 years, we have managed to build peace through translation, respect and exchanges. That is a treasure that forbids us from allowing exclusive nationalisms to be reborn. It must not however lead us to forget that Europe is not a project to homogenize or negate cultures; it is a political project that marries diversity and unity.
Your generation has an extraordinary responsibility: you have to understand and foster that project. You cannot allow history to repeat itself and fall back into its old torments. It is your responsibility not to consider that the solution to today’s challenges lies in a weakening of Europe, because it would allow the weakening of its political project, or in withdrawal from Europe, on the basis that the right answer for Poland would be a form of political isolationism.
I know how deeply European you are, and when I talk of this political project, I talk of reconciled unity and diversity, but also about a form of European singularity, and underpinning that, sovereignty. You have perhaps often heard me use this term.
Singularity, because our Europe is, and I believe this very deeply, a civilization – yes, that is the word I want to use, as I often do – which has religious and cultural roots, histories of religious – yes – and philosophical conflicts and emancipation from religion, and which, from religion to politics, has built a history of freedom, equality and fraternity. I say this not simply because this is the motto of the French Republic, but because it is also central to Polish history, as I recalled earlier in the words of 1848 in honour of Poland. We share unparalleled political, sociological and economic balances.
The United States loves freedom as much as we do, but they do not have the same ideas of equality, cultural diversity and pluralism. China is opening up to the market economy. It does not have the same ideas of freedom and equality that we have. We are genuinely a singular continent and political power in our collective preferences and philosophical roots.
And so I believe very deeply that we must not forget the political side of our project, this sovereignty, which underpins our ability to build, preserve and promote the independence of the political project.
We therefore need to think about things we had forgotten. We need to be clear that Europe conceives the concept of power by itself and for itself. When you want to be a political and geographical power, you need, in geographical terms as I was saying, to consider the relationship with your neighbours and surroundings. You also have to consider it in political terms.
Europe needs to think again about its demographics. In recent decades, we have stopped talking about demographics. Our demographics is today in the process of structuring a new form of European political crisis: our insecurity with regard to migration and above all, most profoundly, the question of the status, almost, of Europe, which Europe asks itself, and the moral impact that has. Several of the region’s intellectuals are conceptualizing that most fruitfully, but I believe today that a political, sovereign Europe must also take into account its demographics.
Europe’s population is aging and falling in both relative and absolute terms in many countries, particularly in the East and the South. Some forecasts suggest that, while North America’s population will grow by 75 million by 2050, Europe might lose 50 million inhabitants of working age. That is not economically neutral, and not politically neutral either, because regions and nations which gradually empty out or age no longer have the same vision of the future or the same idea of themselves. That is what is happening in Europe now, and what has also been happening in some European countries for 20 years. We have let it happen insidiously because, on top of these figures I have cited for Europe as a whole, there has been a phenomenon of brain drain and, fundamentally, a great wave of emigration that has emptied several countries, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe. We cannot accept and resign ourselves to the departure of the lifeblood of many of these countries. These people, who often trained there, leave forever.
Some European countries – imagine these figures – lost a quarter of their population between 1989 and 2017 – a quarter! They have lost a quarter of the population that was of working age, that could build and change their countries. That cannot be a fatality, but what does it tell us? That during these years, we behaved as if Europe was a market. Look where that has led us. When we say that it is a market where people are free to move, and that there is no more political project, or not sufficiently, then that is ultimately unsustainable because it means we empty certain countries, that we weaken them and that they begin to doubt Europe. And look: it is in those countries, which have suffered unspoken demographic crises in recent years and decades, that populism is stronger, that the extremes have risen the most, and that doubt as regards the European project prospers, because Europe is seen as an unjust project. Europe is seen as a project that allows some to emigrate, but does not allow the country as a whole to get better, or in any case to look to the future.
I believe very deeply, through this reflection on European history, geography and politics that I wanted to share with you, that your generation has an immense challenge ahead. I don’t want to overwhelm you, but I want to tell you how much confidence I have in you. Because yes, we need to consider Europe’s unity and diversity once more, its ability to move forward and coordinate projects, its sovereignty. But this geographical, political, sovereign and contemporary Europe is what will allow both our countries to rise to these challenges.
And it is on this issue that I would like to conclude my speech, which in essence involves trying to share with you how a renewed, more political, more sovereign Europe, in addition to what I have already said about history or demographics which I believe to be very important, how a renewed Europe must enable us to meet modern-day challenges, because I believe that they can be met in and by Europe.
Our first challenge is our collective security in a world shaken by tragedies.
I already spoke about this at length yesterday, so I will not take long today. But as I was saying, this powerful, geographical Europe must consider and reconsider its security and its protection. Your generation will have to build this European transformation which we began just over two years ago, and which had been overlooked in Europe, including by France, since the mid-1950s: a Europe of defence and common security.
Your generation will have to live in a world where the rules of multilateralism are increasingly weakened, in a world facing threats and, as we have seen in recent years, where the arms race has resumed. In light of this, we must have military and strategic influence at European level.
As I said earlier, we must do this while re-examining for ourselves, by ourselves, our relations with our major neighbours, including Russia. I will not take very long, but I will be very clear. This is something I said yesterday several times.
France is neither pro-Russian nor anti-Russian. It is pro-European. This means that I am convinced that we can only build an architecture of stability, peace and trust in Europe if we can talk with Russia, not to yield ground to it, I am under no illusions, not to forget what it has done and is still doing, but to demand de-escalations, to create our common spaces and limits and to build the rules which we have set for this shared area from the point of view of arms but also cyberspace and space.
Two examples demonstrate why I believe this to be the best approach: Unless we have a demanding dialogue with Russia, we will not be able to make progress on a solution for Ukraine. The resumption of this dialogue showed, with the Normandy Summit in Paris on 9 December, that progress is possible if the right type of pressure and demanding dialogue are put in place.
Similarly, for several years now, Poland has no longer been protected by international treaties, given the deployment of Iskander missiles by Russia, whose scope is not covered by historic treaties between the United States and the then Soviet Union, but especially because Russia has gradually decided to no longer comply with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and the United States, without consulting us, last year tore it up. There is thus no longer any text governing arms control and which would protect us, and protect Poland. There can only be a solution by re-engaging Russia with demanding, meaningful, truthful European dialogue, with verifications, as given our geographical realities, this is the only way to build this security.
So everything must go through a Europe which views its strategic and military power in new terms. We have done this through strengthened cooperation, a European Defence Fund, a European Intervention Initiative.
We must continue to do so in strategic terms and by emphasizing that this European defence structure is not an act of hostility or defiance towards NATO but an essential addition. The European defence structure and NATO are two pillars of collective security in Europe.
We must view them as one, and for Poland and France, undoubtedly even more so than for others, with elements of shared commitment and solidarity in this area. On this point, in the years ahead we must continue to consider our relationship with power from a strategic, military and technological point of view.
This also means that as Europeans, we must decide to invest in areas which we no longer or rarely discuss. Space is once again an area of power. Our seas have once again become an area of power to protect the freedom of sovereignty in certain parts of the world, such as interconnections and cables. The Internet has become an area of power where we must be active.
This is also why thinking of power means thinking of our technological sovereignty, our own technological independence, as Europeans. We cannot be the open market for other powers which shape the world. And our armies and equipment cannot simply be open markets for the United States or China. We need true sovereignty, a true European project.
The second major challenge of your generation is the climate, as you young people know well, as you have shown strength and inspiration as you rightly stood up to world leaders. The climate and biodiversity challenge is ahead of us. We can only tackle it at European level. No one country can do it alone, and should a country try to do so, it would meet with strong reactions along the lines of “our neighbours aren’t doing it, so why should the entire burden be on us?”
We have an existential duty to meet this climate and biodiversity challenge. And we can only credibly do so at European level. When Europe moves, others move along with it. Because Europe has taken action on climate, because Europe has led the Paris Agreement, it has been able to resist American attacks, convince China to take climate action and prevent our shared commitment from falling apart in recent years. We must do much more in the years ahead, such is our European ambition. The European Commission and Parliament will continue to work steadfastly on this issue.
Among our commitments in the European campaign was a Green Deal, an ambition to increase the funding for new technologies, to reduce emissions, to change financing and the production model, to increase CO2 prices in Europe, while at the same time setting up a carbon inclusion mechanism at our borders to prevent ecological dumping from other powers or regions.
But significant efforts will be made in many countries. And all this, I have seen it and our country has lived through it, and with all humility I know that I have made mistakes myself with regard to this challenge, believing that we can move quickly and forcefully, but this climate transition is also a social and sometimes even moral transition.
When we ask regions to change their lifestyles and production methods, this can also affect how we live and our social balances. Therefore, we must find the mechanisms to support our citizens from whom we are requesting the biggest changes. This is what we will do at European level, it is what each country must do.
Europe will set up mechanisms for Poland, some of which will be large-scale, such as the Just Transition Fund. And I know how important this challenge is to your country and I know that we must be just towards you.
You did not choose the coal model; it was set up by your occupiers. But it is a reality and this production model has been passed down to you. And it is not a matter of singling out millions of citizens working in the sector, who have lived with dignity from it and who are proud that it is part of their lifestyle. This is the challenge ahead of us. And so we must make this change as fast as possible so that air quality improves and the climate challenge can find an answer. But we must do so while respecting everyone living in these regions and earning a living from this economy, enabling them to build a future. Your country will have to begin serious political work, with the full support of Europe because we cannot repeat the mistakes of the past. We have a debt in this regard, as you have been neglected in the past. In a sense, we abandoned you when others forced this model on you.
And so Europe must show financial solidarity with Poland in order to ensure a successful transition, and historic solidarity to help achieve it.
I strongly believe that through this strategy of energy change and transition, your country will be able to embrace the 21st century. And it is also for all these reasons that I believe that Poland can only effect successful change through and with Europe.
Make no mistake, Poland will never be able to produce such a change on its own. It can only do so through Europe, with Europe, for Europe.
And once again, make no mistake: don’t believe those who tell you that “Europe will give me money for the climate transition with one hand while letting me keep my political choices with the other.” This is not true.
Europe is a bloc, as we used to say about the French Revolution. Europe is a bloc, a bloc of values, of texts, of ambitions. It is this bloc which we have made a sovereign decision to embrace, because as I remind Poland like I do France, we made a sovereign choice for Europe and we decided to do it.
And then the third major challenge is clearly to build an innovation, growth and knowledge economy throughout Europe. We live in a changing world increasingly influenced by digital technology, with sea changes in our daily and working lives, which requires a Europe of knowledge, of training and of investment in these major innovations. Today’s Europe is too risk averse. Let me be honest: I’m not sure that I will win this battle at the next European budget because I think we need much more investment. A Europe with a budget of about 1% of its gross domestic product does not have a true policy, especially when everyone is obsessed with redistribution to their own country.
We need massive policies for artificial intelligence, knowledge, universities and research which will give our continent sovereignty in the area of knowledge.
That is your third major fight: security, climate and knowledge. Each of our countries will have to invest in these areas. But it is through Europe that we can do much more by spreading intelligence, as the European Universities Initiative has led us to do, but also by setting out an essential ambition, innovation and future policy. As I have said, our future budget will have to be discussed. I will do my utmost to achieve this.
But beyond that, in the years ahead there will be risks to take and new solidarity to be built in order to rebuild in some sense an affinity for the future in Europe.
And to conclude, I have spoken to you of our history, I have spoken to you about Europe as a geographical and political project, encouraging you not to repeat past mistakes. When geography or policy is cut from the project, things go wrong.
But I have tried to explain to you how for France and Poland, Europe is the best way for each of us to be bigger, respectful of our differences, and to take on these three big challenges of security, climate and knowledge.
But all this goes hand in hand with something which we must once again learn to appreciate: an affinity for the future. The people of both Poland and France must develop a much greater affinity for the future. We must not forget the past, we must not underestimate any present difficulties. But we must regain an ability to nourish hope, to look ahead.
Because it was this ability of Europeans to look ahead that created cathedrals, great monuments, great works of art, great projects. Do you think that in the aftermath of World War II, those obsessed with division, separation and nationalism would have built Europe? Of course not. They would have led us into World War III! Do you think that those obsessed with small day-to-day difficulties, which at the time were a lot bigger than ours today, would have produced the great achievements that shape our lives today? No way. The people of Poland, France and Europe have only achieved great things when we have been bigger than ourselves in space and time.
Think far, think big, think bigger than ourselves. I promise to fight my hardest in my lifetime to resist anything that could take us backwards, but above all to try to take a new step forward. But your generation will have to do it. Don’t yield to any negativity or lies.
On my way here, I was thinking of the wonderful phrase by the great French and European writer Romain Gary, who as a child lived for a few years in Warsaw and who has also been quoted by several of my predecessors: “Patriotism is the love of one’s own people. Nationalism is the hatred of others.”
And this sentiment evokes the poem which has long been taught in Polish schools and which so eloquently expresses Polish patriotism, I will just quote the beginning so as not to overly distort your language:
- “Kto ty jesteś?” And the reply was:
- “Polak mały.”
- Who are you?
- A little Pole.
And today, Polish children can proudly say “Polak i europejczyk mały” (A little Pole and a little European).
Not that Poles have anything to prove. They are at the heart of Europe, because they can freely claim this double sense of belonging, just as we French can.
True French patriots love freedom and universalism. I deeply believe that true Polish patriots love freedom, their country and universalism, and that this is linked to something bigger than them. It is Europe which has set the tone and continues to set it. And it is also this which will enable us to embrace all these contemporary challenges and concerns.
“Jeszcze Polska nie zginęła.” “Poland is not yet Lost.” This is the first line of your national anthem. And neither, of course, is Europe, despite what some may think.
Europe is an impossible adventure, thought up by dreamers and led by the people. The cynics have always sought to destroy it. Responsible people have always sought to slow it down. Let’s be crazy, let’s be dreamers! Don’t let others write your future. Don’t let them lie about your history, but remember each day that nothing was possible for this Europe in which we live. Nothing. It was built by dreams and desires and, I believe, intelligence. Europe is a fight. It is not an inheritance. We have an incredible opportunity. People have fallen to build it. Your duty is to reinvent it with the same courage and spirit.
That was what I wanted to say to you here today. I know that on some issues there has been a lack of understanding. Sometimes, as I have said, a feeling of neglect or humiliation. But I think something is stronger than that: the conviction of a shared destiny among our people. Your generation will have to promote it within Europe and for Europe. Your generation will have to want it very much.
So never be afraid. Never be afraid. You love it. Do it. Never be afraid. “Nie bójcie się.” Don’t be afraid of Europe, to get involved, to promote the values of freedom, peace and solidarity. Don’t be afraid to look to the future with your heads held high, your future, our future.
Long live Poland!
Long live France!
Long live Europe!