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Jacques Chirac on Europe’s Future

Does France’s leader have the cure for what ails Europe?

September 9, 2005

Does France's leader have the cure for what ails Europe?

As the French President prepares to leave a Paris hospital and get back to work, Europe’s future is on the top of his agenda. In this Globalist Document, we present Jacques Chirac’s vision for guiding Europe through these dark days, while remolding Europe as something more tangible in the minds and lives of Europe’s citizens.

A strong Europe contributes to the vitality of balanced transatlantic ties, which are required for world stability and grounded in a relationship based on cooperation and confidence with the United States, with which we share the bond of many common values.

For these reasons, we must seek, in the crisis Europe is now going through, the strength for a new European impetus.

To do this, we must take on board the anxieties and expectations expressed on May 29, 2005. We must forge a new consensus on, indeed a new allegiance to, the European project among our citizens.

We must offer the French a different, more democratic way of building Europe that gives them a greater role in arriving at the decisions that affect their future.

In the debate now getting under way on the future of Europe, France will reiterate the need to renew and adapt the institutions. I will be strongly reaffirming the French vision of a political, ambitious, social Europe rooted in solidarity.

This is a vision that France shares with Germany and which our two countries, the irreplaceable engine of European construction, will continue to jointly support.

Europe is not destined to become a vast free trade area diluted in the globalized economy. Europe is first and foremost a political project based on common values — a project based on rules, on pooled resources, on cooperation and on common policies.

The heart of the European project is first and foremost a call for solidarity. Solidarity to enable Europe to better defend its interests in a world in which economic competition is sharpening. Solidarity to support a European preference and to vigorously defend our trade interests against unfair competitive practices.

The European project is also based on a call for harmonization. Europe is not a race to the bottom as regards taxes and social benefits. Europe stands for common rules to harmonize social legislation upwards, to defend consumers and public services and to protect the environment.

France will be very vigilant regarding the new Services Directive proposal and in the discussions on the Working Time Directive.

Europe must not confine itself to abstract and normative institution building. It must — if it is to exist in the hearts of its citizens — take shape in concrete and tangible projects that respond to the expectations and concerns that have been voiced.

Let us do our utmost to foster research and innovation, as we have begun to do with Germany. Let us make the most of our industrial assets to create great European champions.

Let us resolutely strengthen economic governance within the eurozone through a more demanding dialogue between the Euro group and the European Central Bank on exchange rate policy and more generally on ways to stimulate growth and employment.

Let us accelerate construction of the great Transeuropean Networks, especially to strengthen ties with our new partners. These issues will be the focus of proposals that I will put forward at the informal European Council meeting in October 2005.

Europe must also continue to make progress in the area of defense, in terms of outside commitments, resources and training.

The need for Europe is now felt on all the continents. In the Balkans, the Union must continue its action in Bosnia and lend greater support to moving Kosovo toward final status, taking over the policing task of the United Nations.

In Africa, France is prepared to place its RECAMP program in the European Union framework in order to more efficiently and effectively support the efforts of the African Union, as it has done in Darfur.

In Asia, the mission of the European Union in the Indonesian province of Aceh reflects Europe's wish to be a strategic partner for ASEAN.

But to be recognized in the world as a global player in the field of peace and security, Europe must continue to reinforce its collective instruments. The European Union Operations Centre must be in a position to conduct further autonomous military operations along the lines of Operation Artemis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Europe must be at the leading edge of military technologies. The European Defense Agency must be given a genuine research and development budget and must forthwith take on responsibility for concrete projects, such as drones and tanker aircraft fleets.

Last but not least, our military personnel will increasingly be called upon to work together. We have worked with Belgium to submit proposals on fighter pilot training. I hope that a similar discussion can be held on the training of our Naval officers, based on a European training ship.

It is through enhanced integration of our defense and security assets that we can give Europe resources to support its influence and prestige.

France has resolutely taken up the global economic battle.

By seeking to conquer new markets and by successfully taking up new opportunities for our economy, we will accelerate the creation of jobs in France and sustainably reduce unemployment. This is one of your responsibilities.

France has the brainpower, the talent, the industrial capabilities, the technologies and the know-how to accommodate the development of its partners and contribute — through its momentum and investments — to meeting the needs of rapidly expanding emerging markets.

By winning the competition to host the ITER site, it has again demonstrated its appeal as a location for researchers from all over the world.

We must do a better job of leveraging these assets and resolutely look beyond our traditional European markets. We must make up for lost time.

It is my intention in the coming year to strengthen our ties with our major partners in order to promote the advanced technology capabilities that underpin the reputation and the strength of our country and to boost France's political, economic and cultural outreach on all continents.

Adapted from remarks given by French President Jacques Chirac at the 13th French Ambassadors’ Conference at the Elysee Palace on August 29, 2005. For the full-length speech, click here.