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Liberté, Fraternité . . . Modernité?

Liberté, Fraternité . . . Modernité?

Mini Teaser: As part of a new series expressing the views of foreign policy thinkers around the world, France's new president discusses Franco-American relations, the European Union's future and the Middle East.

by Author(s): The National Interest

Voices from Afar: As part of a new series expressing the views of foreign policy thinkers around the world, France's new president discusses Franco-American relations, the European Union's future and the Middle East.

UNTIL NOW, we have not given enough thought to an essential question: What should be the backbone of our foreign policy? This does not mean that I seek to wipe the table clean: On many points, Jacques Chirac's record in the area was exemplary. But a rapidly changing world is forcing us to make a few changes. In brief, I think the time has come to give French diplomacy a doctrine. . . .

My problem with realpolitik is that it limits diplomatic action in an effort to leave unchanged the reality of the world. "Stability" and status quo are their obsessions. But the pursuit of status quo is not a policy; it is akin to giving up. Stability for stability's sake is not how I conceive the world. The steadfast adherence to stability leads to turning a blind eye to cruelty and injustice.

On Europe

EUROPE IS nervous because we have not had the courage to ask questions about its borders. It is time to do it: Should Europe have borders? My response is yes. The failure of the French and Dutch referenda was in part provoked by hostility to a Europe without borders. Fixing a geographic and political identity for the EU is an essential condition for re-engaging our citizens in the European project. . . .

The addition of a new member is first and foremost a decision that the Union should take for itself, as a function of its own interests, within the limits of its capacities and the will of its people. This comes before making decisions based on what is relevant to the Union's foreign-policy aims and desires to encourage others to reform. The interest for Europe is not to dilute its policies and its institutions to the point where decision-making will be impossible. The interest of the Union is to grow and strengthen to create a zone of stability and prosperity that will be of great benefit to its continental and Mediterranean neighbors. This means that the Union cannot extend forever. . . .

We must distinguish between two categories of states:

First, those that have a natural place within the Union. The European Union is open to all the continental states (Switzerland, Norway and the countries of the Balkans) as well as Iceland. These states will join the Union when they can (the Balkans) and if they wish (the others), on the condition that the Union is, at its end, ready to welcome them from the point of view of its institutions.

The second: Those that do not have a "natural right" to be in the EU are those that border on it but are not European. For those countries of Eurasia and the Mediterranean, our first step should be to establish a system of "privileged partnerships." We can work with them within the limits of our collective interests without making concessions on our values. There is nothing automatic in my mind: Even if all the participants in the "Barcelona Process" have the geographic argument supporting association with us, we must only consider those that have made sufficient progress on the path towards democracy. . . .

Whether Turkey meets the conditions for entry or not does not solve the problem. On this matter, I have always been clear: I do not think Turkey has a right to join the European Union because it is not European. But just because Turkey should not become a member of Europe does not mean that it should be shunned by Europe. Who could seriously argue that the closeness of links between Turkey and Europe, that are the fruit of a long common history and a sincere friendship, should be destroyed if Turkey did not enter the EU? Turkey is a great country that shares a number of our interests and our values. Therefore we must strengthen our ties with the country through a "privileged partnership."

But we should go further and offer to the countries in the Mediterranean the establishment of a "Mediterranean Union", in which Turkey would be a natural pivot. This union would work closely with the EU. It could organize periodic meetings between its chiefs of states similar to the model of the G-8. There could be a Mediterranean Council, like the European Council. The foundations of this area of solidarity and cooperation would be a common immigration policy, commercial and economic development, the promotion of the rule of law, the protection of the environment and the promotion of co-development, with, for example, the creation of a Mediterranean investment bank based on the model of the European version.

France and its Allies

OUR FIRST objective is of course to assure the security of France and its allies. Because our interests are global, so must be our responsibilities. Our security interests are inseparable to those of Europe and our other partners, those who share our goals and values. Faced with a new threat environment-terrorism, proliferation, etc.-cooperation will be the key to success. Our second objective must be to promote the universal values of liberty and the respect for human rights and dignity. I believe that France is only truly itself when it embodies liberty against oppression and reason against chaos. Lastly, our third objective for foreign policy is the promotion of our economic and commercial interests that will strengthen France as it takes on globalization. . . .

The friendship between Europe and the United States is a cornerstone of world stability, period. It is deep, sincere and unshakeable. But friendship means being with your friends when they need you and also being able to tell them the truth when they are wrong. Friendship means respect, understanding and affection . . . but not submission. Friendship is only real when it is honest and independent. I want an independent France and an independent Europe, and I call for our American friends to let us be free; free to be their friends. . . .

This "either-or" approach is outdated. Europeans, like Americans, need both NATO and the EU. Because they complement each other. Let me remind you that of the 26 members of NATO, 21 are in the European Union; and of the 27 countries in the EU, 21 are members of NATO. But Europe needs to make sure that NATO does not become, as seems to be the wish of the United States, an international institution undertaking too broad a range of military, humanitarian and policing missions. NATO should not become a concurrent organization to the UN.

The Middle East

THE MIDDLE East is the crucible of global threats: terrorism and violent extremism, civil strife, aggressive regional ambitions, and ballistic and nuclear proliferation. Each country is currently experiencing some form of tensions-Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine, Iran. In certain cases these countries are destabilized by external interference from other regional actors. . . .Naturally, we must cooperate closely with moderate and responsible governments in the region as well as with our global partners. Because it positioned itself against the war in Iraq, because of its historic relationship with Lebanon, because of its role since 2003 in the Iranian crisis, and because it is a committed friend to both Israel and the Palestinian people, France has an important role to play in the region. . . .

More effort must be made to reach a political settlement between the communities [in Iraq]. This means assuring every segment of the Iraqi civil society and every individual Iraqi equal access to the country's resources, institutions and economic opportunities. Not for that, it is crucial to isolate the terrorists and Al-Qaeda. Concerning the withdrawal of troops, as France does not have any troops on the ground, I do not think that we are in any position to even give our opinion on a timetable. Having said that, it seems to me that there are two pitfalls to avoid: a premature withdrawal leading to chaos and an absence of all perspective in terms of the withdrawal. This would cause the Iraqis to respond with intensified violence-thus playing into the hands of the terrorists. The best plan may be to fix a general horizon for withdrawal, so that Iraqi authorities feel pressured to get some traction on the situation, which they currently seem to lack. . . .

[On Lebanon], the role of France and the international community is to help the Lebanese defend the sovereignty and integrity of their country. This past summer in Lebanon, like all too often in its history, innocents paid with their lives for a conflict that was not their own. But who should the Lebanese first hold accountable for their suffering? My response is clear: First and foremost they must look to Hizballah. Because I think friendship is reinforced by honesty, I must say to our Lebanese friends that Hizballah was the aggressor. But I also say to the Israelis that their reaction was excessive and disproportionate. I have always defended with the same force the security of Israel and the sovereignty and independence of Lebanon. Today, it is essential that the commission of inquiry into the assassination of Mr. Hariri must be allowed to finish its work, and that Hizballah shows that it is a political organization by setting aside its arms. . . .

Essay Types: Essay