French President Nicolas Sarkozy visit to Britain, 26 - 27 March 2008
State visit to the United Kingdom speech by M. Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic to the British Parliament, 26 March 2007
For the President of the French Republic, it is an exceptional honour to address both Houses of the British Parliament.
It is within these walls, within your walls that modern political life was born. Without your Parliament, parliamentary democracy would not have existed in this form in the world. And it is thanks to the parliamentary practice begun in this place that you have imposed parliamentary democracy as the best guarantee against tyranny.
The history of your institution, of your Parliament, still today influences most of our contemporary political regimes. Your Parliament has become what it is through the protection of individual freedoms - it's a lesson that you, the British, have given the world. This Parliament, yours, was the first in the world to achieve the results of parliamentary democracy which make you what you are, and you represent the cornerstone of all our democracies.
It is here that parliamentarians have gradually developed what is a party, an electoral programme and finally a majority.
And it is through this institution that the United Kingdom's greatness has emerged. And I am so honoured to address you precisely because the political heart of the United Kingdom beats under this roof.
You see, I profoundly believe in the strength of politics. I profoundly believe in the ability of politics to improve and influence the fate of the peoples.
Institutions, however much you upgrade them, exist only inasmuch as they serve the people. And the strength of the British people is that of a free people taking their own decisions and ready for the greatest sacrifices to defend their freedom.
How many invincible armadas has your nation defeated? How many battles has your nation won which everyone thought lost? And your nation has succeeded in taking up so many challenges which seemed out of reach precisely because you were convinced that your cause was just, because you had confidence in yourselves and in your values, and because in all circumstances the British nation has demonstrated a determination and courage which has won the admiration of the whole world.
In this respect, the Battle of Britain was a magnificent achievement.
Even in the hearts and minds of those who fought against you, your nation has stood out through your respect of the Other, your tolerance, your way of life, your freedom of spirit which you have forged throughout a long history full of sound and full of fury. In all circumstances, you, the British, have succeeded in remaining yourselves, you have continued thinking for yourselves, and that was enough for you to embody in the eyes of many people a human and political ideal.
So if there is one people with whom you have forged exceptional ties, it's definitely the French people. Our two countries' destinies have been closely intertwined for nearly 1,000 years. From the time when William the Conqueror set off from Normandy to seize hold of the throne of Edward the Confessor to the reverse journey made by hundreds of thousands of young Britons to participate in the liberation of Europe, our destinies, French and British, have constantly intersected. Now, admittedly, France and England fought each other for centuries, each asserting her identity by opposing the other; we fought not because we were too different, but very probably because we were too alike. And we have together laid, each in our own way, the foundations of the union between State and nation, which France and the United Kingdom have best embodied in Europe.
Yes, our nations fought one another for a long time, until the magic day when, at last, the British and French understood that what brought us together was more important than what divided us, that we had interests to defend and, even more important still, common values to embody and offer the world.
This alliance had a name: the "Entente Cordiale". Honestly, given the time that has passed since we stopped fighting each other, we should speak of the "Entente amicale". After centuries of hostility and suspicion, which led us to confront one another in the most terrible ordeals, suffering and misfortune shared in the brotherhood of arms, a profound respect was engendered between us. Let's try and turn this respect into a sincere friendship.
To those who want to create opposition between the cultures and traditions of the Germanic, Latin and Anglo-Saxon worlds, I want to say that we all share what's most important: the same humanism, the same idea of man and what we call Western civilization, what we call progress, democracy, freedom are - beyond all the ups and downs of history - the fruit of centuries of uninterrupted dialogue between our philosophers, yours and ours, between our politicians and our peoples.
We have to keep on constantly reminding ourselves of what unites us rather than what divides us.
I want to say something on behalf of the French people: France won't forget, France will never forget that when she was verging on annihilation it was Britain who was at France's side.
On behalf of the French people, I have come to say an eternal thank you. We haven't forgotten because we haven't the right to forget what young Britons did for the freedom of the French people.
France will never forget - because she hasn't the right to do so - the English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish blood mixed with the French blood in the mud of the First World War trenches.
France will never forget the welcome the British people gave General de Gaulle and Free France.
France will never forget the British people's heroic resistance, without which all would have been lost.
France will never forget that the Queen, during the Blitz, chose to stay with her family and remain there as a sign of solidarity with her people.
France will never forget the fine young people who came from all over the British Empire to lay down their lives on the Normandy beaches and in the surrounding bocages.
As the last century's wars have shown, like two brothers, what the French people and the British people can accomplish together is far greater than what they can achieve separately. Together we are stronger than alone, either beside or in opposition to one another. This is the political message I wanted to share with you this afternoon.
And it doesn't much matter that similarities are taking precedence over our differences. A Frenchman will always remain a Frenchman and a Briton always a Briton. So, of course, they have both retained their originality. You stayed a monarchy when we became a republic. We remain committed to the harmony of Roman law, the vitality of our native soil, everything that so many Britons love in France. And you have always favoured contractual freedoms, the dynamism of metropolises, traditions which find their full place in the present, all the things so many French love in your country.
But this is no longer what's most important. Today, we have to ensure that through these differences we complement each other. France and the United Kingdom have never been so close, had such close ties with each other. And with your permission I salute London which has become the seventh-largest French city! Today, the number of British citizens who have chosen to set up home in France has never been so high.
We have learned to understand each other in many fields. I'm going to tell you something: you British, you have become a model, a benchmark for us. And we must draw inspiration from what you have succeeded in doing regardless of the political colour of your governments, over the past 20 or 30 years.
Perhaps what we most admire is this ability your people have always had to change to embrace - and often steal a march on - world progress, while remaining true to yourselves.
This is how the United Kingdom has carried out of her own accord, without hesitating, many revolutions which so many other peoples have decided to do only when forced to. Yet you have never given in to the temptation to opt for the tabula rasa. Never have you denied either your history or your identity. And while you have changed throughout your history, it has always been so that you can remain yourselves.
The United Kingdom has shown that in the global economy there was a path to achieve strong growth, full employment and solidarity.
This path is that of reform.
Well, the principles allowing the challenges of globalization to be dealt with successfully on one side of the Channel must allow them to be dealt with equally successfully on the other. And I haven't come to say: here's what France can bring you. I have come to tell you that France must also learn to look at what her neighbours have managed to do better, more successfully and before her. A country saying that isn't a weak but a strong one, capable of recognizing what others have done better on the path of reforms than it has.
The vital objective for us is to draw inspiration from the lessons of a successful experience, yours.
France has started moving again. And I can tell you one thing: I shall see the reforms through. Because one firm belief has inspired my whole political life, because one firm belief has driven me since the French entrusted me with the highest office of State: I wasn't elected to bow to fate. And if politics means anything, in the United Kingdom as in France, it is that our peoples expect us not to bow to fate. I was elected to create opportunities, to change France though a continuous process of far-reaching reforms.
I say "yes" both to globalization and to protection for the workers. I say "yes" both to free trade and to defending European interests, with the hope that in Europe people understand the meaning of the word "reciprocity". I say "yes" both to the market and to a judicious policy to help strategic sectors, and "yes" to the common policies which do not undermine the identity of our nations.
In the space of one generation, globalization has taken a new turn.
Yesterday condemned by a whole school of thinking, nations and States - the word "nation" doesn't scare me - must find an answer to the concerns and anxieties of our fellow citizens. The world is going through huge changes and the nations need facilitators to take them from one era to another - we are living in the twenty-first century with the rules of the twentieth -, this is the role our two countries must set themselves.
Globalization, which had brought so many answers, opened up so much hope, has generated new questions, brought different forms of suffering calling for radically new remedies.
In the face of all the completely new problems which are going to have to be resolved, the United Kingdom and France have a major role to play.
By adding our forces together, we can contribute to the emergence of a new globalization which is freer, fairer, more responsible and more just.
The truth is that to measure up to their responsibilities, our two countries today need one another.
On behalf of the French people, I have come to invite the British people to write with us a new page of our common history, that of a new Franco-British brotherhood. A brotherhood for the twenty-first century.
We're keen for more harmony and more cooperation between us. Everything justifies it: your and our common status as permanent members of the Security Council and as nuclear powers, the influence we each exert in a part of the world, our common membership of the European Union and our passionate commitment to democracy and freedom.
Our countries have comparable influence and strengths. France and the United Kingdom have the same population size, a virtually identical GNP and the same defence priorities. We have 15,000 French soldiers in all the world theatres, you have 15,000 British soldiers deployed in all the operational theatres. Our two countries must make their ideas heard the world over. Our two countries can, if they want to, complement each other.
To forestall the danger of the clash of civilizations, the world needs our two old nations because they are aware of the depth of history and know the importance of the long term when it comes to understanding the feelings of the peoples.
Ladies and gentlemen,
If the United Kingdom and France together want more justice, the world will be more just.
If the United Kingdom and France fight together for peace, the world will be more peaceful.
If the United Kingdom and France unite to brave the rising economic storm and jointly propose the necessary reforms, the world will be less uncertain and more prosperous.
If the United Kingdom and France together reflect on the future of financial capitalism which has to be reformed so that entrepreneurs once again take precedence over speculators, so that the global economy does not continue to rest on a mountain of debts, if the United Kingdom and France speak with one voice, who can refuse to heed us?
If the United Kingdom and France speak with one voice against climate warming, this voice will be heard even by those who doubt the gravity of the threat hanging over our planet. I am thinking first of all of the United States, since to prevent an ecological disaster the world needs the Americans. And who better than their most sincere friends can convince them, remind them of their global responsibilities in the name of the values we share and for which we have shared so many sacrifices.
If the United Kingdom and France, who have both opted resolutely for nuclear energy, together assert the incomparable advantages of this energy for combating climate change then this argument will have a new reach and force.
If the United Kingdom and France together express their refusal to see the world of the twenty-first century governed with the institutions of the twentieth, leaving on the sidelines the main emerging powers and their two and a half billion inhabitants, then the United Kingdom's voice combined with that of France will be heard throughout the world.
Ladies and gentlemen Members of Parliament,
What we do together will be meaningful only if we do it first of all with Europe, which is the name we have always given our common destiny.
Whenever Britain's fate has been at stake, Europe has been the theatre. Whenever France's fate has been at stake, Europe has been the theatre. I know, it's a sensitive issue. It's good for politicians to have the courage to talk about sensitive issues since if we, the political decision-makers, refuse to talk about them, the peoples will remind us of our duty. This issue of Europe is sensitive in the United Kingdom. You know, I come from a country where it's also sensitive. Because a few years ago, France said "no". And I know what it's like, I who voted "yes".
The European Union - I want to say this because it is my deepest belief - is our common achievement - yours and ours. It is one of peace, prosperity and democracy. It is an unprecedented adventure in the history of mankind after centuries of wars, deaths and suffering in which Britain and France have played such a big part. Europe's peoples have decided sovereignly - without anyone forcing them to, driven only by their hearts and minds - to build their future together.
No one will ever forget that the first great voice which rose up after the war to call on Europe's peoples to unite was that of the statesman who had alone embodied the passionate resistance of the British nation. I mean Winston Churchill.
35 years ago, the United Kingdom chose Europe.
I have come to tell you, dear British friends, that Europe needs the United Kingdom, and I've some credibility in saying so since, as my British friends know, I've always thought this for a very long time: we cannot build a prosperous, effective Europe without the United Kingdom. And it's a foible of mine to think that, regardless of the firm beliefs, which I respect, we, the United Kingdom and France, need Europe. Who can think that Europe would be stronger without British dynamism? Who can think that the United Kingdom would have more influence in the world if she returned to splendid isolation? Who can think that the challenges facing our nations today could be resolved better in a strictly national framework?
Now I'm going to go still further: no one is asking the United Kingdom to give up the extremely brotherly and deep-rooted ties which for three centuries have united her with America, or to abandon her very special relations with the Commonwealth.
That would mean asking you to give up being yourselves. That would be stupid since it would above all deprive Europe of the most valuable asset the United Kingdom can bring it: this openness to the world, this exceptional international influence and this culture of diversity Europe needs so much. In Europe we need the British, the real British, not different British.
And Europe's position in the world does not depend only on the number of its inhabitants and quantity of its resources. It depends on our ability to spread our influence on every continent. And I've said this for the British, but I say it too for France. What would Europe be without France's ties with the international Francophone organization? What would Europe be without Spain's ties with the Hispanic world? What would Europe be without Portugal's ties with the Portuguese-speaking world, or, of course, Britain's with the English-speaking world? There's no incompatibility. Europe has to be built with nations which aren't afraid of defending their identities.
But our old European nations can hope to play a role worthy of them only if they decide to act together.
Europe is our nations' most remarkable achievement of the past half century.
Both our countries want a Europe which respects national identities. During my election campaign I wasn't afraid to say that identity isn't a pathology. Besides, I'd like those advocating diversity to explain to me what would become of diversity if you abolished identities. For there to be diversity, identities have to have been respected. We want a Europe which rejects bureaucracy, which doesn't seek to impose the same standards everywhere. We want a Europe capable of taking action.
My dear British friends, if we want to change Europe, and we French do, then we need you inside Europe, not outside, since who can hope to influence developments in Europe if they stay outside Europe when Europe needs to be changed from the inside? This is the message the French have asked me to convey, the 55% who voted "no" in a referendum.
For too long, we Europeans have, admittedly, made mistakes, we have devoted our energy to institutional debates which divided us instead of bringing us together and which bored our peoples stiff and, it has to be said, us as well. Now, the Lisbon Treaty is imperfect but it puts an end, for a long time, to the clashes of the past.
And now we have to devote our energy to concrete projects: the battle against climate change, energy, immigration, development, security and defence. On these issues, which will be at the heart of the French EU presidency starting on 1 July, the United Kingdom and France must act together with the aim of achieving the same goals.
And if I may I'll take a few examples.
The United Kingdom wants a Europe which is a model in the fight against climate change and in environmental protection. France wants this too. The planet's future depends on our response, the one we Europeans give. It's for us to give the lead to all the others: the United States, China, India. It's for us to invent a new strong and sustainable growth. And Europe has an essential role to play to achieve a universal agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol. But to be credible, Europe must set the example, show the way, and who can convince Europe to do this? The United Kingdom and France.
The United Kingdom wants a Europe capable of controlling immigration - and I believe I have worked well with our British friends on the issue of immigration and Sangatte. France wants this too. It would be totally illusory to believe that we can still have 27 national immigration policies in the era of the great European market. France and the European Union are well aware of this, we have developed exemplary bilateral cooperation. I consider it essential for us to give ourselves a European immigration pact. How can you resolve your immigration problems if France doesn't resolve hers? And how could France resolve hers if the United Kingdom and France haven't got the same political will? And what would be the point for us in Schengen of building the Schengen Area if we don't take on board its consequences vis-à-vis a joint immigration policy?
The United Kingdom wants the agricultural policy to be reformed. France is ready for this. We will see the first stage in the reform between now and the end of the year. I hope this will be the opportunity for a calm and constructive debate, allowing us to find common ground on some major principles: food safety - what are British, French, European consumers going to eat tomorrow if we go on importing under any old conditions products when we don't know whether these products comply with the public health conditions our consumers are entitled to demand? I know we can discuss and find a common path on product quality, consumer protection and food safety. Of course, there will be budget debates, we'll have them, but let's talk about it all.
* * *
Ladies and gentlemen Members of Parliament,
France and the United Kingdom are together confronting the challenges of peace in the world. We are engaged together in the Balkans. We are engaged together in Afghanistan. France and the United Kingdom, the two of us, account for two thirds of the defence spending of our 25 European partners, and double their research efforts. So I beg you, let's drop theoretical - I was going to say theological - disputes about the Atlantic Alliance and Defence Europe.
It is in our and our allies' interest to strengthen both of them by developing in Europe the military capabilities that are essential to our security in today's world. It is said that the United Kingdom and France have contradictory conceptions of Europe and that the clash between our two countries is a structural given of the European enterprise. I don't agree, I firmly believe that here too we can form an alliance. I believe in the necessity of NATO. I said so in my election campaign. I believe in the historic friendship with the United States of America and no one will convince me to renounce my belief. And, at the same time, I think that if Europe wants to be worthy of this name it must be capable of ensuring its security. It can't be capable simply of ensuring its prosperity.
Of course, for we French, Franco-German friendship is the basis of European reconciliation. But I am convinced that in today's Europe the Franco-German engine is still essential. But it isn't enough. And to rally the 27, we need first of all this new Franco-British entente.
Ladies and gentlemen Members of Parliament,
Our two countries have an important place in the institutions that emerged after the Second World War: United Nations, International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. I think, like Gordon Brown, that these institutions must be reformed because they have become outdated, because they aren't strong enough, they aren't fair enough, they are no longer sufficiently legitimate. I shall fight to get the G8 gradually to open up to become a G13 or G14 to reflect more accurately the world's new balance. Frankly, do you believe it's reasonable for eight of us to meet to talk about the world's great problems and on the last day invite for lunch two billion six hundred and fifty million inhabitants? Is it reasonable, regardless of whether you're a conservative, liberal or labour supporter, to imagine that we can be effective on climate warming without having China, Brazil and India at the table? Can we ignore the G5? But one day, if we're not careful, it's the G5 who will no longer invite the G8 and it's the G8 who will have become out of date without even noticing. Well, it's up to the United Kingdom and France to promote this message which is one of justice, clear-sightedness and common sense. The world of the twenty-first century has to be run with the institutions of the twenty-first and not twentieth century.
Together, our two countries are determined to remain engaged, side-by-side, with all our allies in Afghanistan, and I'm not afraid to say this: in Afghanistan a vital struggle is being played out. France has put to her Atlantic Alliance allies a coherent, comprehensive strategy to enable the Afghan people and their legitimate government to build peace. If these proposals are accepted, at the Bucharest summit France will propose strengthening her military presence. We cannot accept the return of the Taliban and al-Qaida in Kabul. For us, defeat is not permissible, even though victory is difficult.
Together, our two countries must make a major contribution to peace between Israelis and Palestinians. We can't accept democracy and hope being trampled on in Lebanon. Lebanon has to be a free country. And everyone has to understand this. And in the first place Syria.
Together, our two countries are determined to put a stop to Iran's nuclear ambitions. We refuse the trap of the alternative between the Iranian bomb and the bombing of Iran.
Together, our two countries are resolved to do everything possible to end the tragedy in Darfur. We can't accept what is happening over there.
Together, we shall continue to be the most determined advocates for Africa and its development.
Together, we must fight for human rights, respect for cultural identity and respect for religious identity. This is the message the United Kingdom and France have to convey to the Chinese authorities with respect to Tibet, emphasizing that there will be a solution, within the framework of Chinese sovereignty, only through dialogue between the Dalai Lama and the Beijing government.
On all these issues, we have to act together!
So, ladies and gentlemen Members of Parliament, we have the same vision of the future of the world and the same resolve to act. Our two peoples are equally complicated to govern and lead.
We want the same reforms of the international organizations, we want to commit ourselves to achieving peace and security.
The nature of the challenges has changed, but what hasn't changed - I'd like to tell you this from the bottom of my heart - is the need for our two old nations, our two great nations, to stand shoulder to shoulder conveying the same civilizing message.
The time has come for the French and British peoples to carry out a profoundly political act: to put our old rivalries behind us and together build a future in which we will be stronger because we are together.
May a French president, whose youthful dreams were often inspired by Britain's greatness, convey a brotherly greeting from the French people to the British people and thank them for giving a warm welcome to the delegation I have the honour of leading and to my wife.
Believe me, your welcome will remain etched in my memory and my heart.
So, yes, from the bottom of my heart,
Long live Franco-British friendship!
Long live the United Kingdom!
Long live France!./.
Source: French Ministry for Foreign Affairs, www.diplomatie.fr.
Interview given by M. Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic, Broadcast on BBC Radio 4, 26 March 2008.
Q. - (…) How would you describe the relationship with this country you want to see?
THE PRESIDENT - Well, there's a difference between what other presidents have said and what I'm going to say. Since I went into politics I've always thought the same thing, namely that the UK and France needed to trust one another. That we share the same values, that we share the same questions, the same aspirations and hopes, that we have the same adversaries. I have always believed that Europe needed the United Kingdom. I have never reduced France's European policy simply to our friendship with the Germans. The Paris-Berlin axis is of the essence but it is not enough, and I have never ceased wanting to work in close cooperation with London. When I was Minister of the Interior, when I was Minister for Finance and now as President of the Republic.
Q. - So what do you do to make that happen in specific, practical terms in the next couple of days?
THE PRESIDENT - Well, first of all, I do have some experience. When I became Home Secretary, there was a problem at Sangatte. This was a very serious problem for you, the British, and I went to see David Blunkett, my counterpart at the time, in Britain. That's when I met Tony Blair. And I said to the British, this Sangatte, are you going to be able to sort it out alone? Of course not. You need the French to help sort it out. And we in France, are we going to be able to sort it out by ourselves? Of course not, we need the British. Now, on defence. We are the two nuclear powers, should we not work together? Both of us, Britain and France, are permanent members of the Security Council. Now it so happens that we have the same vision as to the need to reform international institutions. Do you not believe that the UK and France are stronger together working hand in glove than turning our backs on one another?
Q. - But you talk about reforming international institutions, Mr President, and that means, in your vision, as we've heard you say, France perhaps coming into the military structure of NATO. But of course if you were sitting in Washington - and you want to be friends with the American administration just as you want to be friends with London - they say that is not reforming an international institution, it's threatening it, because a European arm of NATO would destroy the Alliance, in their view, as it has been since the Second World War, and that, as you know, is a problem for Gordon Brown. How do you get round that?
THE PRESIDENT - Well, we are not the same. It was your Queen who said "vive la différence!", which is a beautiful form of words, "long live difference". But I don't see that we have to choose between a Europe of defence and NATO: we need both. I spoke before the US Congress in support of this idea, which has been understood by our American friends, and I know the historical alliance between the UK and the US. But it so happens that I am a friend of the Americans. Why should we be in opposition on that one? Why not work together? Who can imagine that we could build a Europe of the future without Britain? And who could imagine that Britain could live, survive, alone, outside of Europe, or simply blinkered vis-à-vis Europe - which is only 30 kilometres away from its shores? You know, what I've understood in Europe is that one cannot succeed alone, we need others. Angela Merkel cannot succeed on her own. Gordon Brown cannot succeed on his own. And tomorrow, whomsoever the British leader may be, he will need others, other Europeans. And how can we do without your strong economy, your language, which is the most spoken language throughout the world, do without your defence, which is the most significant in Europe? I want a new Franco-British brotherhood, as it were.
FRANCE/AFGHANISTAN/EU CONSTITUTION/SIMPLIFIED TREATY
Q. - I want to come back to the European question in a moment, but specifically on defence and NATO, are you going to send more troops to Afghanistan, and is that something which you will announce in the course of your visit?
THE PRESIDENT - Well, first of all, can we afford - that's with the Alliance -, can we afford to lose in Afghanistan? Of course not, because in Afghanistan, what is at stake is part of our battle against world terrorism. Secondly, do we need a new strategy in Afghanistan? Perhaps. Placing more trust in the Afghans themselves? The answer is "yes". The third question is: is the only response in Afghanistan military? Obviously not. Fourth question: does France want to pull out? Obviously not. But obviously we have to see how long we are prepared to stay because it's a long-term exercise. Now, if all the terms and conditions are met, why not send in more troops?
Q. - It seems clear that that sends France on a different course, symbolically, emotionally almost, with respect to troops, NATO engagement, outside its traditional area. Is that a message you want to send to Britain, and indeed to Europe and the world?
THE PRESIDENT - You know, I'm the president of a country that actually voted "no" to the European Constitution, and it wasn't a minor, whispered "no". I mean, I say this to our fellow citizens who are listening to us this morning: 55% of French people said "no". I voted "yes", and yet I was elected President. So I heard what this was about, I understood what this was about. This was about the fact that Britain, that people wanted a different Europe. And we have achieved that thanks to the simplified treaty which we have now adopted. So I want to say to the British: help us build this different Europe. But for this Europe to be different, you must be part of it. How can it be different if you are not part of it? And this message is a message I want to get across to the British who are pro-European as well as the Eurosceptics. If you want to change Europe, then have both feet inside of Europe, otherwise you are never going to be able to change it. And I do have some credibility for saying this because, again, I come from a country that initially said "no". And might I add that, prior to the elections, I said to my fellow-citizens that I would not call a referendum. Why? Because, for me, Europe was of such importance that I had to be clear about my views before the elections. Yes, we need you. We need you, the British, within Europe.
Q. - But if that wish on your part is going to be fulfilled, you need to carry people with you, and you've said yourself that they lost faith to some degree in the institutions of Europe. A lot of people listening to you now will say, ok, in Britain - and indeed there are many people in France - will say: give us a vote on the treaty. Why not?
THE PRESIDENT - Well, this treaty respects differences. No one is asking Britain, the United Kingdom, to change its real identity. Keep your language, your culture, your interests. That's precisely what we want here in France. But let's face it, thanks to the simplified treaty, we're going to have a common immigration policy. Don't you think we need this on the British side? Do you believe that we can contain the migratory waves from Central Europe and Africa working against one another or working together? And the very first thing we're going to do is tackle a European immigration pact. Secondly, the fight against terrorism, we have the same enemies - don't we need to work together? We'll be stronger that way.
FRENCH REFORMS/BRITISH EXAMPLE
Q. - So you are saying that a Sarkozy presidency brings something to Britain. What?
THE PRESIDENT - No, I wouldn't claim that, I'm not saying that. What I'm saying is that what you have done over the last 20 years in the UK is quite exceptional. You have modernized your economy, you have injected new dynamism into your society, and in some way what you have done has paved the way on flexisecurity. Be it right or left, Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair, you've been able to implement reforms. You have given us a lot and we need you - we need your strength, we need your stamina, we need your potential, we need your dynamism, your importance. And, might I add as an aside, as London has become the seventh-largest French city, this is a way of mobilizing the whole of France to call the UK to take its full place in Europe.
Q. - Let's not bring Arsenal into it!
THE PRESIDENT - Why?
Q. - What's interesting, Mr President, about you, of course, is that you come from somewhere different: you sprang from Eastern European and Southern European roots. You came to Western Europe in a way that none of your predecessors had. How important is that in shaping a different view of where Europe and the Transatlantic Alliance goes from here?
THE PRESIDENT - Now, you know, coming from Eastern Europe has taught me a lot of tolerance, vis-à-vis the latest members to join the family. I believe the unification of Europe was an excellent thing. For me, this is an opportunity. It's an area for prosperity and progress. And furthermore, I do not see Europe as a machine whereby we should use it simply to distrust the Americans. We are on both sides of the same ocean. I am a friend of the Americans. It's a number one democracy in the world. It's a model of tremendous success.
But we have to be bold enough also to say we don't agree with the Americans on everything. But the Americans should spearhead what we do in environmental matters in order to save the planet and protect the planet. I've said this to them time and again. But this shouldn't in any way undermine the historical alliance between them and us, and I perfectly understand that Britain should wish to keep its special relationship with the United States. But that does not prevent Britain from taking its rightful place in Europe. You see, I have never distrusted or mistrusted the British ever. And you know, it's a great honour that has been bestowed upon me to be able to speak to both Houses of Parliament and to be received and welcomed by the Queen.
I think this is a historic responsibility. The Entente Cordiale is one thing, I am for the "Entente Amicale" - in other words, the "entente" of friendship. Cordiality is one thing, I want to talk to British people about friendship. You know, it has been long enough now that we have not been at war, that we're not wrangling. Perhaps we can move from being cordial to being friendly. That's my first message.
My second message is that this friendship shouldn't simply be a matter of principle. I want this fleshed out by concrete projects on the economy, immigration, security, defence. Yes, I intend firmly to work with the British, hand in glove. Now, we're not asking you to join Europe by giving up what you hold dear, but by bringing in everything that you have achieved, and that is a lot.
Q. - Are you influenced in that view by the fact that your father, leaving Hungary long before you were born, could have gone to the United States, or indeed to Britain? I mean, you could be British!
THE PRESIDENT - Well, I don't know what that would have spelled for my own life, but I often go to London, and I know London isn't representative of the whole of Britain, but I get the sense we are so close. Often it is our differences that are underlined and underscored, but I want to say one thing: of course there are some visible differences. But we enjoy the same music, we like reading the same authors, we have the same enemies throughout the world, we have the same aspirations. You began reforming before we did, and better than we did, and that has been a tremendous source of inspiration for me. Your politicians are increasingly young - I'm thinking of Mr Cameron, Tony Blair when he was Prime Minister, and the leader of the Liberal party, the Lib Dems. You are one of the very first parliamentary democracies to have appeared in the world. I don't look at what gulf there might be between us, I only see similarities. We like your, we love your music, we like your actors, your films, your literature. I want a new Franco-British friendship, a real friendship. And I'm speaking as President of the French Republic, who is a friend, a close friend of Britain, that I'm coming on this visit and full of admiration for so much of the work that you have done, and perhaps it's even stronger that I say so myself when not British. And I'm not going to talk about football, or Arsenal, even though I have to say that we did give you a hell of a helping hand by sending you the team we did!
PRESIDENT SARKOZY/POLITICAL STYLE/UK/FRANCE
Q. - You also talk, Mr President, as a child of the 'fifties. So you have a different style, you're younger than anyone who has sat here before. And of course that style, your personal ways, have caused you political difficulties, we all know that: the polls are bad, local elections, the usual stuff. Do you find that, as President of this Republic, you are having to change as you go along in ways that you hadn't expected?
THE PRESIDENT - Well, first of all, it's always very important to listen to what people have to say, and I'm not the sort of man to listen to flattery and to refuse to listen to criticism. I take account of both - compliments and criticism. Now, obviously I've had few compliments coming to me over the last few months, but I've had my fair share in the past. I take account of what people say to me. But if the only thing, the only criticism people have to level at me is on my style, it simply means that in substance there's nothing else to say. So, I would say to my British friends: France is changing. If there's a style problem, well, so be it. I hope that you will appreciate the outfit that I had made for the banquet tomorrow night.
Q. - The last one. What do you think most British people today think of France, and what would you like them to think of France?
THE PRESIDENT - Last question, but not least! I would like the British to love my country and to see my country through today's spectacles and not yesterday's spectacles. Not simply a country where it is pleasant to live, but a country of intelligence, of hi-tech, a country that is thirsting for a future, a country that can be trusted. I would like you to see us as historic allies for the future, as definitive friends, friends forever. And I would like you to join in the shaping and building of Europe tomorrow, and join in the building of European institutions for the future. And for me, within Europe, there is definitely your country./.
(President Sarkozy spoke through an interpreter.)
Source: French Ministry for Foreign Affairs, www.diplomatie.fr.