United States of America – Speech by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to mark the inauguration of a new Statue of Liberty at the French Residence (14 July 2021)


Secretary of State, cher Antony Blinken,

Ladies and gentlemen,

As I said to the French people in the United States whom I had the pleasure to meet this morning, 14 July is a day to celebrate everything that makes our country strong, which includes the ties uniting us with our partners, our allies, our friends in the United States. For more than two centuries, across the Atlantic, from one shore to the other, from one generation to the next, from one ordeal to another, we have written a story together based on liberty and fraternity.

Fraternity not only of arms, but also a fraternity of the heart, and together with Antony Blinken I have just awarded the highest French distinction, the Légion d’honneur, to four Second World War veterans who, like thousands of young Americans of the time, had the boldness and courage to leave everything behind to help liberate a country and continent for which others, 20 years earlier – sometimes their fathers – had already risked everything and too often lost their lives. And like too many of those men’s companions, those of ’44 also lost their lives and now lie at rest in that land, France, which owes them so much. A moment ago I conveyed to them our gratitude and what they still represent for us all today.

The statue standing before us has also crossed the Atlantic. From Paris to New York, like her elder sister before her: Lady Liberty lighting up the world, donated by the French people and who, for generations of new arrivals, was the first face they saw of America.

It will be here at the French Residence: the face of that demand for justice inherited from the Enlightenment, which in today’s world still underpins the model of progress we must absolutely continue to champion together. This battle to give liberty the concrete meaning which only democratic institutions and the rule of law can give it is not a battle of the past; I would even be tempted to say it is no longer a battle of the past. Both in our countries and on the international stage, new challenges, new threats have emerged which remind us at once of the fragility and the resilience of what we have built – a fragility we must face head-on with no illusions, and a resilience we must absolutely support and encourage.

That is the meaning of the new transatlantic impetus begun in January and at the recent G7, NATO and EU-US summits, which were the first highlight. This new transatlantic impetus, which I have come to Washington to deepen by meeting members of Congress and of the new administration, has enabled us to come together and start building again a multilateralism commensurate with the 21st century, in other words a multilateralism which brings results and provides practical solutions to the major upheavals of the pandemic crisis, the environmental emergency and the deepening of global inequalities; in other words, a multilateralism of values, starting with human rights, values which have universal reach and which are all the more dear to us because they are also responses to every aspect of the world’s brutalization.

A multilateralism of today, open to all energies, all forces of progress. This new impetus also allows us to begin rebuilding a more balanced, more sustainable Atlantic alliance, thanks to the Europeans’ increased defence efforts and the European Union’s strategic awakening, and, of course, to begin rebuilding – or rather, reinventing – the friendship between France and the United States.

A shared responsibility to foster this invaluable legacy in the present is both what we are determined to do and are doing. Our military cooperation is developing, as the Armed Forces Minister emphasized yesterday during her visit to Washington. We have had recent deployments of French air capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region, and as our American friends’ valuable support for our commitment alongside our partners in the Sahel reminds us, our economic partnership is booming, as evidenced by the 1.3 million jobs our businesses have created on both sides of the Atlantic, making France one of the leading investors in the United States and the United States one of the leading investors in France, as evidenced also by the dynamism of the French Tech communities. The success of our space cooperation is another example. And because ever since Bartholdi, and even long before he began to picture the Statue of Liberty, it has always been our artists, creators and thinkers who have written our common history.

This new impetus calls for the creation of a new French cultural institution in the United States, Villa Albertine, which will welcome its first residents across America this autumn.

That, Antony Blinken, dear friends, is what I wanted to say to welcome Washington’s new French icon. It just remains for me, therefore, to thank our partners, whom we have to thank for it arriving safe and sound: the French National School of Engineering and Technology, CMA CGM, New York’s customs and port authorities, the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, the District of Columbia National Park Service and, of course, cher Tony, the State Department, and I take the opportunity to hand over to you./.