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Rio+20 - Interview given by Pascal Canfin to the 20 Minutes newspaper (12 juin 2012)

Finding compromises

The Rio+20 sustainable development summit begins in eight days’ time. France will be well represented in Brazil: François Hollande, one of the only heads of state to make the journey, will be accompanied by the Environment and Foreign Ministers. The environmentalist Pascal Canfin, Minister Delegate for Development, will also be there. In an interview with 20 Minutes, he outlines the challenges for the summit and his ministry.

Q. – What will France be standing up for in Rio?

THE MINISTER – France has three priorities. Firstly, to secure the establishment of a United Nations environment agency to coordinate all the international discussions. Secondly, to develop innovative financing. I’m thinking, of course, of the financial transaction tax, but also of other tools like auctioning carbon quotas. Thirdly, the post-Rio agenda. We must ensure development policy is infused with the principles of sustainable development.

The French government is very active on those three points. We won’t necessarily win, but the battle – being fought in conjunction with European diplomacy – is by no means lost in advance.

Q. – President Hollande has banned Françafrique (1). Does Africa nevertheless remain a priority?

THE MINISTER – Africa is no longer the private hunting ground it was 20 years ago. That idea has disappeared on the ground: French investors and NGOs are competing with the Chinese, Brazilians, British, Germans etc. France’s relations with her former colonies are no longer a given. But we must be there to support the emerging continent of the 21st century, which is also the place where the international community has failed most in the fight against poverty: half of children under five have growth problems. It requires a new, normalized partnership model.

Q. – You’re known for your commitments against tax havens and deregulated finance; won’t your room for manoeuvre be reduced now that you’re a minister?

THE MINISTER – I’ve been an MEP (Green) and one of the negotiators of European texts governing finance. I’ve led negotiations on complicated subjects. You mustn’t forget your ideals, but you must be able to move forward step by step. We won’t be imposing anything on China or India. That’s in the past. We must find compromises.

(1) France’s former, somewhat proprietorial Africa policy often based on personal relationships.


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