A french diplomat on the current European affairs


After a intensive month with the visit of the French President and Prime Minister in Spain, Philippe Richou, the press and communication counsellor of the French ambassador in Spain has accepted to answer to some of my questions focused on Europe.  I wanted to cover three important topics: Terrorism, Anti-Europeanism and The Ukrainian conflict, with the point of view of the French State.

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The press and communication councellor, Philippe Richou.

First of all, as a civil servant, Mr Richou wanted to insist on the fact that it was not his role to comment the current events but to inform on the action of his country and the relation between Spain and France.

 On the question of the terrorist threat, the counsellor answered that we need to preserve our democratic model.  After the attack of “Charlie Hebdo”, an old debate emerged in the French society on freedom and fighting against terrorism. The French authorities want to preserve the model of public freedom and face terrorism. “We have to get tools as efficient as possible in order to restrain the terrorist menace and warranty freedom and security.” One of the main ideas of the government is to enable a register in the Schengen Zone for the plane passengers and exchange better data with other countries. This measure is discussed at the European level, and “France hopes that this project is going to progress in the European Parliament”.

But for fighting against terrorism, European member States also have to focus on what is going on outside. Some countries are participating to military interventions against terrorist movements in other continents. Mr Richou reminded that it is the case of France in Sahel or, in Iraq, in the framework of the international coalition against ISIS. Since the 9/11, the fight against terrorism has become more important.  Today, countries are cooperating at a European and Extra-European level. In Our continent, some work has been done but there is still a lot to do. The French position is “that Europe has to be more efficient and improve this coordination.”

After what occurred in Denmark and the attack of a French ambassador, I also wanted to know if embassies changed their security measures. Philippe Richou answered that embassies are open places and their objectives are to create cooperation with different countries but security measures are taken in order to protect this administration.

On the difficulties of the European Union and Anti-Europeanism, the diplomat reminded what he said before “It is not my role to judge or qualify a legal political movement”. There is a big expectation of the European citizens, the results of the previous European elections showed that some citizens don’t trust Europe and are convinced that things are not working in the economic plan.  In answer to these expectations, “the position of the French government is that austerity cannot be the only answer to the crisis and Europe has to be factor of growth”.  With the Junker plan, Europe points out one of its basic principles that is helping States, this is why the French government supported it.  What is sure is that electors are worried and vote for parties against this system.  As a civil servant, he wanted to add: “But we must not judge the electors, it is important to understand why these citizens make these choices.”

On the Greek situation, the French position is to hear the democratic claims of the Greek population, but also to remind that the Greek State underwrote commitment with the members of the European Union. “We have to find “la Sintonía fina”, as the Spaniards say, so as to find a deal between the democratic demands and the European rules accepted by the Greek.”

To finish, on the Ukrainian conflict, the counsellor said that in the case of the cease fire between Ukraine and rebels, European Countries such as Germany or France have played a role. Third parties as our countries “can manage to reunite the belligerents, and try to propose realistic propositions in function of the interests of the different concerned parties. “ But this ceasefire cannot last if there is not interest to stop the hostilities. This agreement is meaningful if the belligerents take advantage on the peace so as to find solutions to the problems that were at the origin of the conflict. The role of member countries of the European Union is to do their upmost in order to create a dialog and end this conflict. “The ceasefire is provisory, it is almost in the domain of the” tactical”, after there is the “strategic” issue and, for us, this strategic issue is peace.”

Nicolas MARTIN

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