Members of Parliament,
Directors, dear friends, ladies and gentlemen,
We find ourselves together again, for this 29th Ambassadors Conference, the second to include women ambassadors in its new title (Conférence des Ambassadrices et des Ambassadeurs in French, NDLR):
We have more women ambassadors than ever, and they now represent more than 30% of the total number, for the first time. Nobody could reproach me for celebrating that, and for believing that we are all the better for this promise of equality, which is the hallmark of our Republic and must also be the hallmark of our diplomacy. With the support of our Secretary-General and our Director-General of the Administration, we will continue to further our work in this area.
Ambassadors, we have chosen one slogan which will be the theme of our meeting this year: “Assert our principles, interests and solidarity.” It is an ambitious, but necessary theme, and therefore I am inviting you to return to the basics of our diplomacy.
1/- Just this once, I would like to begin by talking about us. Because we cannot assert our principles, interests and solidarity without asserting the tool of diplomacy itself.
In that respect, the turning point that the Ministry has just experienced is an historic one, in the literal sense, after 30 years of continuous cuts to its resources.
The Foreign Service Review, in which you actively participated, as so many Ministry personnel did alongside Jérôme Bonnafont and his team, launched this movement to “re-arm” our diplomacy, which I called for in front of you last year, because it was essential.
This movement will be led in the long-term by new resources announced by President Macron himself, on 16 March this year, with a budget increased to €7.9 billion in 2027 and an additional 800 full-time job positions over this five-year term.
For 2024, the increase in resources will be €288 million and 150 full-time job positions, on the condition Parliament approves, and I commend once more the eminent representatives present here this morning.
But as I already mentioned, asserting an ambition for our diplomacy cannot be simply doing the same thing with more resources.
Let’s take advantage of this new era to do better, by doing things differently if necessary. The innovation funds that I had announced to you last year are a success, because they forced us to start with the desired outcome rather than how to use the existing funds. That is clearly a model to be followed.
What is expected from us is to invest as a priority where our interests are at stake, where we will have an impact in defending our principles, and where useful forms solidarity are to be built for the future.
The Head of State and the Prime Minister are also asking us to act as “Team France”, because faced with the determination of our competitors, we must make use of all of our leverage, in terms of political issues and in culture, consular matters, economic relations and security.
So this is the first message I want to give you today: you are essential in this action. And not only because the texts require it, but because a well-conducted foreign policy must use all resources at its disposal. The essential aspects all come down to you, your discernment, your experience and your action.
In an excerpt of his Complete War Memoirs, General de Gaulle describes Molotov, who he meets for the first time, as “a perfectly installed cog in a relentless machine”, who “did not stray from what had been prepared and decided elsewhere”. That is the exact opposite of what we might expect from you. The direction and strategy are set in Paris, but we do that, with the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister, based on your analyses and proposals.
When times get tough, our compatriots know that they can count on you. That was the case again this year, in Sudan and Niger. The Crisis and Support Centre, in perfect cooperation with the Armed Forces and our embassies in question, fulfilled its tasks.
We also had what it took in terms of perseverance to achieve the release of some of our fellow citizens. In Mali, I am thinking of Olivier Dubois, and in Iran, of Benjamin Brière and Bernard Phelan. And we will continue to be involved for those who are still arbitrarily detained.
The French people also count on us in peacetime.
We all know that the consular service is our storefront, whether for services for French nationals which we must continue to modernize and make more accessible online, or, of course, visas. In this area, we must show rigour and high standards, and I am counting on your personal dedication.
New tools exist, such as the consular support centre, the creation of which I announced last year. At your sides, the new Director for French Nationals Abroad and Consular Administration, Pauline Carmona, will be tasked with continuing to reduce any problems in the year to come.
The other major service to French nationals that you are partly responsible for is support to our businesses: President Macron strongly emphasised that yesterday. Four million jobs in France are a direct result of our exports. They depend in part on your ability to support our businesses.
The Prime Minister will announce to you tomorrow, with Minister Delegate Olivier Becht, whose work at my side I commend, a new strategy in terms of support for exports. I am also counting on you to continue to attract foreign investments. In 2022, half of them went into regions with less than 20,000 inhabitants. It was a great success. The French people can tangibly measure the effects produced by an economic diplomacy.
So, if I look at how far we have come in just over a year, I think that we have had a clear strategy on the two fronts that have kept us all busy: the home front and diplomatic action.
Regarding housekeeping, the internal modernization projects are now well underway. You are aware of them: human resources reforms, related to support for officials and posts; efforts to improve quality of life at work; recruitment of new staff from the beginning of this year; the development of communication and influence functions in Paris and abroad; the upcoming creation of a directorate dedicated to global challenges within the DGM; the reorganization of the DUE; and the setting-up of the Tremplin programme to boost our female talent pool.
And I could go on. In a few days, I will present an initial progress report to the President of the Republic on the implementation of our modernization programme.
If I am investing so much energy in these internal matters, it is because I have a belief, which you share, I am sure: the diplomatic apparatus concerns us all. Without it, without the diplomats in its service, obviously, no diplomacy is possible.
Regarding our diplomacy, I focused our action on the three areas mentioned together at our previous meeting.
Firstly, and naturally, is the response to the war in Ukraine: our support to Ukraine has been constant and has been expressed in all fields.
Politically speaking, France’s aim is to assert, obviously, solidarity with Ukraine and to rally as many as we can alongside us and our shared principles, impacted by this war: we did it with the overwhelming majority of more than 140 votes against a handful at the United Nations General Assembly.
In terms of equipment, our military support was furthered by an unprecedented effort in the humanitarian field, with €300 million already invested on the ground, and, on 13 December last year, a major international conference that helped raise €1 billion in funds dedicated to the civilian resilience of a country in which the energy infrastructures in particular were under Russian fire.
Our support is also legal, with the work carried out towards an international tribunal to try the crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine, and the support we provide to the International Criminal Court and the Ukrainian investigators. With the firm belief that justice is one of the necessary conditions for peace: I had the honour of chairing the first ministerial session of the Security Council dedicated to Ukraine, and specifically to the fight against impunity, in September 2022.
Next, our second focus area, is the reduction of the fractures occurring on the international stage, with the consolidation of partnerships with India, Indonesia, South Africa, Brazil and Saudi Arabia. I wanted us to be in contact with those who do not always think like us, to find common ground where we could take action together.
Taking action together also means finding tangible solutions to the challenges of our times: the June 2023 Summit for a New Global Financing Pact and our action supporting global food security, which led me to Ethiopia with Annalena Baerbock, for example, are just some of the indications that France is able to speak to everyone and maintain cooperation areas, which the community of nations so desperately needs.
Lastly, our third and final focus area: last year, we noted together that the diplomacy of a democratic State such as France simply cannot ignore the issue of rights and the issue of freedoms. The implementation of democratic resilience plans in your embassies, our action in support of those who, on the ground, are fighting to preserve democratic spaces: journalists, human rights defenders and gender equality activists were central to your action once more this year, and I thank you for that.
2/- But enough about what we have done together for the past year; let’s get back to the theme of our Conference this year and the international arena in which we must assert ourselves.
Everything has been said about the “brutalization of the world” taking place in recent years; rivalries getting worse, authoritarianism growing stronger and the risks of confrontation.
I won’t go back to that, but it is true that we are seeing too many fractures and too many unashamedly resorting to lies, attempting to establish an actual parallel reality that does not aim to convince but to disarm the mind.
I would not say that there is disintegration, but the truth is there is a danger, when all of a sudden we are seeing a rise in extremisms and populism and the loss of a sense of nuance, and sometimes even rationality; rationality as understood during the Enlightenment, hoping that it would govern humankind.
Yes, the international arena is brutal. It is also more unsettled. For example, six new countries will soon join the BRICS. We maintain excellent relations with the majority of them: Argentina, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia, as we do with some of the current members, starting with India and Brazil, who are key partners for us. The frameworks of global governance are changing, and the coalitions created therein may vary depending on the topics.
Of course, complexity is not a problem in itself for diplomacy and diplomats: it is their natural environment, in a way. But our modern world adds confusion to the complexity. This confusion, if I may say so, is created by at least three overarching factors.
To begin, it is created by habit, which can result in us considering something as normal when it is not. It has now been 18 months since Russia unleashed a merciless war on Ukraine. Eighteen months of war crimes and crimes against humanity, which have been referred to the International Criminal Court, and which have resulted in an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin in one of the most despicable cases among those he has specialized in: the abduction of Ukrainian children, forcibly deported to Russia. Eighteen months that Russia has been destroying all the legal and moral frameworks that govern the international order and form the basis for global peace and stability.
The constancy of the crime does not make it any less serious. We must not become accustomed to it.
And we must remain clear-headed in the face of a Russia that is draining its people, resources and reputation in continuing an imperialistic pipe dream that it refuses to accept is dead. A Russia where a militia chief executes the dirty work, then challenges the power, is qualified as a traitor, before being pardoned, but subsequently dies in an unfortunate accident; we must remain clear-headed. In the face of lies established as a method of government, and the sham elections to endorse annexations, we must remain clear-headed: we will not recognize these annexations.
Ukraine, where I have been on four occasions, has all our support and will continue to have it for as long as necessary. To Dmytro Kuleba, our guest of honour, I will say that France’s support – military, political, financial, and humanitarian – is determined and will continue, because it is law and ethics that are at stake, along with our interests, the security of Europe and international stability. The Russian aggression must fail.
Confusion can also be created by relativism. You have heard these voices that say that human rights are not universal. That equality doesn’t apply to Afghan or Iranian women. That democracy isn’t for everyone, in particular the Sahel. Or that the Ukrainian victim provoked the aggression of Russia. Because every millimetre yielded is definitively lost, we must stand firm.
We are not defending Western values, but common principles: equal rights for women and men, freedom of expression and belief, and equal rights to human dignity.
Another form of relativism can sometimes be observed, which involves judging certain groups according to different standards, placing an equal sign between the very real imperfections in democracies and the massive crimes committed elsewhere. The surrealism of the preaching done by countries that trample human rights would be a cause for laughter if it didn’t reveal their cynicism and the ambient confusion.
Lastly, confusion can also be spawned by naivety, or a type of more or less wilfully blinkered vision. Without alluding to André François-Poncet or Jules Cambon, diplomatic history is filled with stories of both excessive optimism and ignored voices, because their realistic doom mongering was unappreciated.
In the world of so-called open information, available everywhere, your understanding of the intentions and motives of our competitors and partners is more necessary than ever.
Confronted with certain actors who do not hesitate to turn our principles of openness and tolerance against us, we must be doubly vigilant. That is why I called on the European Commission, with Laurence Boone and Gérald Darmanin, regarding the financing of associations linked to radical Islam operating behind a mask of anti-racism.
If we condemn the coup d’état in Niger, it is because behind the “good governance” and “salvation of the fatherland” façades, there is nothing more than the denial of democracy. Sometimes we need to come back to simple realities: there are no democratic putschists, just like in the past there were no moderate Taliban. We cannot base a foreign policy on illusions.
3/- I would now like to make a few requests. Against this backdrop of interference with all aspects of the debate, we must maintain what has become our trademark and our added value, i.e. our keen analysis and sense of perspective which enable us to create new diplomatic concepts. But we must keep some clear principles for action in mind.
The first principle is the need to be clear-sighted. In this confusion which I have described, humanity seems to be ignoring the mortal risk facing it, that of climate change. Given that we have just had another summer with record-breaking temperatures and nowhere in the world has been spared, we clearly must take action.
In September, after the G20, we will assess the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals in New York, and then the implementation of the Paris Agreement, in the United Arab Emirates. But the IPCC has already warned us that we are not on target. We are not on track to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C. We must thus take action and convince all our partners, in particular major emitters, to take decisions to avoid climate destruction.
I also want to highlight the quality of the French energy model. Thanks to this model, France remains the lowest CO2 emitter per person among all industrialized nations. We can say it humbly but proudly: our country can serve as an example to those who want to quickly reduce their emissions and help combat global warming.
The second principle of our action involves upholding the rule of law, for which some parties have no respect.
I have already spoken about Russia and its nonsensical war. Anyone who downplays it is wrong to do so. Invading your neighbour, trying to redraw its borders, not allowing it to freely choose its allies, subjecting its people to the most despicable crimes, and then using hunger as a weapon to force them into silence in the face of such systematic transgressions, these are not just a series of events, but a genuine turning point.
Whether we like it or not, the world changed on 24 February 2022. The end of this war will have a huge bearing on our future world and the future of international governance.
And France will always stand up for rights. The right to self-defence, which was reiterated with others last July at the Vilnius Summit. The right to fight impunity, with our support for the ICC and Ukrainian jurisdictions. The right to decent living conditions, which explains the extent of our investment in global food security. While Moscow promises a few thousand tons of grain to countries which are reduced to vassals, we are increasing our food assistance to over €800 million.
There are those who starve others, and those who take action. We can be proud of France’s firm choice to do the latter.
In other regions, the use of force is seeking to overcome law and order. I will not go back over all the crises in which our diplomacy is involved, especially since yesterday President Macron set out his roadmap on a number of them, but I would like to cite a few topical issues.
We are working to lay the conditions for a fair and lasting peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan, enabling border delimitation between the two countries and offering the people of Nagorno-Karabakh the option of living there in full compliance with their rights, culture and history. The repression strategy aiming to cause a huge exodus of Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh is illegal, as the ICC set out; it is also amoral.
This is also the case in Cyprus, in recent weeks, with the unacceptable attacks against peacekeeping troops, which were condemned by the Security Council. Here too, France is continuing to work towards a negotiated solution, in line with law and not faits accomplis.
In the Palestinian Territories also, we are naturally expressing our strong concern at the actions of Palestinian terrorist groups but also those of groups of Israeli settlers. Israeli democracy cannot turn a blind eye to this violence without going back on everything it has stood for. The principle of law must apply, here and elsewhere, fully and with no exceptions. Only the path of law and negotiations can help us emerge from this circle of violence which is becoming established. It must be followed by compliance with the agreement parameters and relevant resolutions, with a view to a fair and sustainable solution enabling both peoples to live side by side in peace and security.
Similarly, in Syria, there is a legal framework, set by the United Nations Security Council, for a resolution to the Syrian tragedy, marked by suffering endured by a population which an unscrupulous regime has uprooted, starved and literally asphyxiated via chemical attacks documented by the OPCW at the initiative of France and its allies.
I would also like to mention Sudan, where a horrendous war has been raging for over four months. The international community has provided humanitarian assistance, and France is making a considerable contribution to these efforts, but for now it is unable to achieve a ceasefire.
However, alongside the AU, the IGAD, the League of Arab States and our European and American partners, we remain active and determined to use all leverage at our disposal so that a political solution can bring an end to this conflict and re-establish a process of transition, bringing together all Sudanese political stakeholders. As well as this ordeal for the population, the stability of the entire region is at stake.
The Sahel is another region facing huge challenges. In Niger, those who were supposed to serve the legitimate authorities cynically chose to seize power and detain the democratically-elected President. Noting good can come of such actions.
Sadly, this can already be seen by the deterioration of the security situation in the country. Previously, the jihadists were losing ground. Now, they have stepped up their attacks and are proudly proclaiming their victories.
Today, France is calling for a demanding path, that of the return to constitutional order based around President Bazoum. Although others have hesitated, we are doing so out of pride in democratic principles, but also because the path opened up by this putsch is guaranteed to lead to disaster, the risk of a collapse in security in West Africa and a worsening of economic and social crises, all in our immediate neighbourhood.
We cannot ignore the warnings from the ECOWAS countries about the seriousness of the situation, we cannot turn a blind eye to the path taken by Mali and Burkina Faso.
But obviously, current events also mean we can learn lessons from our policy in the Sahel for the past ten years. We made huge investments, at the request of our partners, for development and security in these countries. And we should take credit for that, but the risk was we were too visible, and thus could be held responsible for the difficulties in these countries.
Furthermore, recent events remind us of the vital importance of solid democratic institutions. Without them, there can be no development or security.
The positive and ambitious choices made by our country since 2017, those of a modern partnership, have been the right ones. We must doubtless take them further by talking to more people, supporting those who fight for democracy and human rights, working hand in hand with diasporas, creators and entrepreneurs. The juntas will fail. In fact, they are already failing. For our part, we can and will remain on the right side of history.
I am convinced that relations between France and African countries have a bright future, and that the populist instrumentalization of pockets of anti-French discourse must not overshadow the quality and depth of the vast majority of our relationships.
In an emerging continent, we have assets to bring to bear: the expertise of our companies, the excellence of our universities, the creativity of our cultural life, the vibrancy of our young people and diasporas.
African countries are also essential partners as we take on numerous shared challenges. That is also why we support the AU joining the G20 and increased African influence at the United Nations Security Council.
Now for the third principle of our action: asserting France’s role on the international stage is now more than ever achieved through its status as a solidarity power.
With an increase in official development assistance from 10 to 15 billion euros per year, significant progress has been made since 2017. This year, France overtook the United Kingdom as the world’s 4th largest contributor.
The effects of this have been very concrete, particularly regarding our humanitarian action. Our country, which six years ago had become an actor on the sidelines, is today back among the world’s top 10 contributors. This autumn, at the National Humanitarian Conference, we will announce a consolidated path, with the goal of €1 billion in commitments by 2025. And by the way, I would like to commend the work carried out alongside me by Minister of State Chrysoula Zacharopoulou.
In recent months, the Presidential Council for Development and then the French Interministerial Committee for International Cooperation and Development helped set the course and make important decisions. This was first of all the end of ex-ante geographical concentration, and a move towards a more political assistance, more in tune with our bilateral priorities.
This involves strengthening your role and that of our political directorates to achieve management which remains strategic but that is more precise, working country by country. The same goes for the local management of agencies, with the right of initiative and the binding opinion of ambassadors for donated AFD projects, single strategies, setting up unified local communication under your leadership.
I would also ask you to pay very careful attention to project visibility, to strengthen our influence and establish ties with our priority targets. A year ago, we created numerous tools for financing quick, small projects in close proximity to our recipients. This is a tangible result of our process of transformation. You must continue to seize these opportunities.
But essential as it is, ODA is not our only solidarity instrument. Realists tell us that countries have no feelings, only interests. But international relations are not purely the mechanical result of careful calculations. The perception of interests is always the product of a long-term vision, which each of you is helping to shape.
Let us take India, for example. Our solid strategic partnership, which was clearly embodied during Narendra Modi’s visit to Paris on 14 July last, can also be explained because we have always stood by India in hard times. Our strategic partnership has become a partnership for the planet, and we are now seeking to build new solidarities with it in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific.
In this way, we will continue to build and consolidate new solidarity partnerships in the years ahead. And particularly in the Indo-Pacific, where our diplomacy is asserting itself to serve our sovereignty interests, in compliance with the law, while refusing dependence and alignment, but with a clear concept of our alliances and thus with no equidistance.
This is what we are doing with Japan, which for decades has been an exceptional partner, and now with Indonesia. We are creating a unique approach with the Republic of Korea, which I visited in April, and we are strengthening our historic partnership with Singapore.
We are also laying the foundations for a new relationship with Australia, not necessarily the relationship we might once have imagined, but based on strong friendship, as we have much in common.
France must also boost its presence within regional organizations, starting with ASEAN and the Pacific Islands Forum, and must build bridges between its partners in ad hoc formats, such as that which I launched with my Indian and UAE counterparts on the one hand, and that which I revived between my Indian and Australian counterparts on the other, which are especially promising.
Our assertive approach in the Indo-Pacific is based on our overseas territories as much as it serves them, as we fully embrace this unique position of being both a European and Indo-Pacific nation.
At the end of July, during an unprecedented tour of our island partners, the President of the Republic set out a renewed ambition, with a unique increase in resources. We will also continue to support the EU-Indo Pacific Strategy, which must be more visible and concrete.
I have spoken about solidarity and ties, and this is also true of the Maghreb.
Tunisia is currently facing significant economic and migratory difficulties. We are standing alongside the Tunisians with a vast cooperation plan, both bilaterally and with the EU.
And as President Macron recalled yesterday, we have spared no efforts as regards Morocco and Algeria. And we will continue in this vein, as we firmly believe that this Mediterranean space which unites us can become a space for cooperation in our mutual interest, benefiting the environment, biodiversity, trade and energy.
Lebanon is also a special country which France will not abandon. With the President of the Republic, and with Jean-Yves Le Drian, who has been named personal representative of the President for Lebanon, and whose work I would like to commend, we have done our utmost to create options and try to move the situation forward. Now, a few openings are appearing. On that basis, we will continue our work.
Finally, in the Middle East, we will continue working to make the third Baghdad Summit a success, because there too, we are helping to move things forward, in a region undergoing fundamental change, as can be seen by the spectacular rapprochement between Riyadh and Tehran.
And now the fourth and final principle of our action: independence. All over the world, France will continue to refuse bloc geopolitics to promote the freedom of choice which enables each State to assert its sovereignty.
This in no way detracts from our exemplary involvement in our alliances. We have fully proved this and will continue to do so. The United States is our oldest ally, with which we share the most fundamental values: the same commitment to the spirit of the Enlightenment, to universal values and rules-based international order, and the same will to uphold them.
And that is precisely why we are stepping up our commitment within NATO. By including a message of deterrence in Article 5 which has kept Vladimir Putin at bay, NATO has fully proved its relevance. So it is important that France, one of NATO’s three nuclear powers and the only one in the EU, can act as an ally by helping strengthen NATO’s posture on its Eastern flank, in Romania and in the Baltic States, as it is currently doing.
But we also know from experience that it is useful for the transatlantic community for different voices to speak within it. In Iraq, in 2003, we warned of the consequences of military action. In 2012, we spoke early of the risks of getting bogged down in Afghanistan. In 2013, we regretted the American choice not to enforce the red lines set down together when it came to Syria. France will continue to have its own particular voice.
Which brings me to mention the relationship France intends to continue developing with China.
It is nothing new, as next year we will celebrate the 60th anniversary of General de Gaulle’s recognition of the People’s Republic of China as the sole representative of China. It is fully in line with the triple framework drawn up by the European Union, which defines China, as you know, as a partner, a competitor and a systemic rival.
We will continue to treat China as a partner, as we did at the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact in June, and that is why we are against the idea of decoupling from China. But we will also continue, clear-sightedly and determinedly, to highlight our divergences, particularly on universal values, to defend our world view, the stable rules-based international order, and to seek an equitable economic relationship.
This last point will be discussed at length in our session on the fight against economic interference. In recent years, we have constantly called on European countries to strengthen their strategic autonomy, in accordance with a strategy of reducing our excessive external dependencies. This does not specifically refer to China.
It is also our unwavering spirit of independence that allows us to remain a driver of ideas in service of a renewed and strengthened multilateralism. Within the international community, France is a leadership power.
We demonstrated that in June, working to renew North-South ties, when we held in Paris the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact, proposing tangible solutions to fight at the same time against climate change, biodiversity loss and poverty. It produced immediate successes like the signing of a Just Energy Transition Partnership in Senegal and the agreement on Zambia’s debt. Above all, it sketched out a long-term trajectory.
This multilateralism of results is alive and well and we are fully committed to it. I have in mind issues like plastic pollution, which is invading our lungs and habitats. I have in mind the protection of the oceans, which needs to be strengthened through the implementation of the convention on biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction and through success in June 2025 at the UN Ocean Conference, co-organized in Nice with Costa Rica.
On human rights, too, France is on the front line, alongside those who fight to preserve spaces for democracy, in places where they are tending to shrink. France is the only country in Europe to grant asylum visas to female Afghan activists and to Syrian journalists.
That is why we will make the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man in December a high-level diplomatic event.
4/- And as we have every reason to be proud of our principles, we need to go further when it comes to stepping into the ring and asserting them.
Next year, 2024, will be a busy one.
A lot has been done in one year, with the reinforcement of the Communication and Press Directorate, and particularly the creation of a new department that is so very useful for detecting and responding to information attacks.
I also realize your contribution to this patient work as a network with audiences, journalists, influencers and opinion leaders, that you are best placed to know. Starting in 2024 and in the coming years, strengthening the communication resources of embassies will be a priority to better explain and illustrate our work.
In Africa in particular, we remain ready to counter anti-French attacks and discourse. We will now face Wagner’s troll farms and clones, its lie factories, with a swift response, including in local languages, across all mediums and social media.
Disinformation is moreover a key issue, because access to free, independent and reliable information is essential for democracy. This issue will be central to the consultation on information, called for by the President, the conclusions of which are expected by summer 2024.
I want to confirm to you that support for the press will remain a priority in the coming year. Cooperation with media abroad will be bolstered by a first “Media and Development” roadmap for 2023-2027, drawn up in liaison with our CFI agency to strengthen the coordination and efficiency of French initiatives to boost media pluralism and freedom of the press.
In November, I will also have the honour of handing over the first Politkovskaya-Soldin Prize, rewarding the courage of journalists working in dangerous areas.
In a context of heightened strategic competition, France’s image and its role in the world are assets that must be consolidated constantly. The President of the Republic has entrusted us with the drafting, coordination and details of a national soft diplomacy strategy. We are working on that at the moment.
We will be able to draw on what has already proven its effectiveness, such as the success of the first France Alumni Day, organized by Campus France in liaison with embassies. I want this initiative, that I launched right here a year ago, to become an annual one, fostering a network of primary importance for our global outreach.
And we will be able to draw on greater resources. For communication, as I have said, and budget programme 185, which will go up by €50 million in 2024, which is an unprecedented rise, set to continue in the coming years, with a particular focus on our cultural, scientific and academic cooperation.
This action will be able to draw on the international events that are being held in France in 2024, like the end of work on Notre-Dame, and the 80th anniversary of the Normandy Landings and the Liberation. Above all, there will be the Paris Games; and in the next few days, there will be the Rugby World Cup. These are all opportunities to renew our narrative and how the world sees us.
When it comes to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in particular, you will be directly involved, not just to issue visas to members of the Olympic family or provide information to delegations, but through promotional work through your programming and communication, as is already underway in the 140 embassies with the Terre de Jeux label. You will discuss this later with Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, whom I would like to thank.
In 2024, we will also be hosting the 19th Francophonie summit, for the first time in 30 years, which will be preceded by the inauguration of the Cité Internationale de la Langue Française in Villers-Cotterêts this autumn. You are aware of the ambitions set by the President, and this is a unique opportunity to send a strong message concerning the French language and its use, its importance for youth employability, and the intellectual debate and creation internationally.
5/- Lastly, you know, and I will end with this, that the next year will be focused on Europe, with the democratic event of European elections in June.
As the far-right weaves its web in Europe, we have the collective responsibility to drive a positive and ambitious European project. I know I can count on the invaluable help of Laurence Boone in this respect.
It is also notable that the populists who have made it into power in Europe have constantly sought to maximize what they can get out of a Union that they hate, and that the great promises of Brexit are struggling to be met in the United Kingdom, a friend and country that we miss so much within our Union.
But more fundamentally, we must never forget to say that the European project is a political project, a peace and democracy project, and a framework for our prosperity and our freedom. At a time when war has returned to the European continent, we must never forget what this European ideal is, never forget to speak of it, to defend it and to embody it.
It is true nonetheless that while our citizens are broadly aware of the usefulness of Europe, it is up to us to explain all its advantages. Up to us to make Europe as tangible as possible. Up to us to demonstrate that national withdrawal and the short-sightedness of individualism run contrary to our interests. That is the great challenge of the European campaign to come.
That means recalling where the strength of European unity comes from.
Firstly, I will cite the refusal of hegemony. Europe has managed to bring an end to 1000 years of infighting and rivalry, and nobody can seek to dictate what their neighbour must do. In our Union, there is no first or last country. There is a community united around shared principles: principles that we also aim to disseminate via the European Political Community.
For these principles are the second reason for the success of the European project. Nobody can impose anything, but everyone adheres freely to a legal system and values that unite us, for they form the common ethos of Europeans: individual freedoms, the rule of law and democratic governance are central to our common identity and we must honour them.
And thirdly, we have a common destiny and course to guide us. That is the sovereignty agenda that was set in Versailles last year. Strengthening our defence capabilities, reducing our dependencies and supporting a European industry capable of producing more, and faster, are goals to unite our Union around a strategy that will, by strengthening our community, strengthen each of its members.
The second major European subject of our time is of course Ukraine. We cannot escape the fact that Ukraine’s destiny is a moment of truth for us all, collectively. As the President said at the GLOBSEC Bratislava Forum on 31 May, we are not helping Ukraine to answer its legitimate request or a request for burden-sharing; we are helping Ukraine because the fate of the country, the outcome of this war, are crucial to our security, our prosperity and our lifestyles. The war in Ukraine is already transforming our continent: the historic decision to open a path to EU accession with Ukraine clearly sheds a new light on the question of enlargement, particularly in the Balkans. In this respect, Europe has a unique opportunity to at last fix its borders and stabilize its institutional functioning as, as the President recalled yesterday, this vaster Europe will not be functional under the current rules.
On all these major subjects, our European course is therefore simple: strengthening Europe everywhere and at all times, as in doing so, we strengthen ourselves. In this respect, we should uphold the fact that this policy is designed by and for the Europeans, to defend their interests and their jobs, with no naivety whatsoever as to the heightened international competition. In short, we should be clear that it is a policy of European preference, because the Europe we want is not a mere consumer market: it is a genuine economic power.
We should welcome the Commission’s drafting of a comprehensive economic security doctrine, particularly as we still have major tasks ahead of us when it comes to protecting European interests, to respond to the subsidy policies of our competitors and to ensure a favourable economic environment, with a level playing field and standards that reconcile encouraging innovation and preserving our rights, including, of course, those over our data.
That is the course, those are our objectives. Peace and prosperity are a promise that Europe continues to keep. Europe is not a mere project, it is “the route which ensures our future”, as the President said at the Sorbonne in 2017, and its importance is clear every day.
We should therefore seize the opportunity of the coming year to foster this promise and advance this positive, inclusive and useful Europe. Nothing great will be possible for France without Europe.
Ambassadors, my motto this year is simple, ultimately: “assert yourselves”.
Assert yourselves as the drivers of clear foreign policy, deployed in every field. Assert yourselves as the representatives of a country of which you have every reason to be proud. A country committed to the universality of rights, to multilateral regulation of the international order, and to solidarity.
A country that keeps its word and of which the reliability never wavers.
A country capable of protecting its people across the world.
A country that knows that Europe strengthens it, rather than competing with it.
In short: be proud to be the Ambassadors of France!