Lettre de M. Gérard Errera, Ambassadeur de France auprès du Royaume Uni, à Lord Owen
19 December 2006
Dear Lord Owen,
On GMTV on 11 December, you claimed that Presidents Mitterrand and Chirac had opposed views on NATO and that "President Chirac’s role in helping to destroy NATO was very considerable".
I am not sure that you have fully grasped the former President of the Republic’s positions on NATO or the importance he attached to strengthening the European Union’s role on the international stage. I also think it might be useful for me to provide you with a few facts so that you may have a more up-to-date and better informed view of the realities.
One of the first decisions taken by President Chirac after his election in
1995 was to move closer to the NATO structures, particularly its military ones.
France is among the five leading troop contributors to NATO operations and one of the three largest financial contributors to the Alliance operations with the United States and Germany. France is providing on average one sixth of the manpower of the NATO Response Force (NRF).
Regarding Afghanistan, what you said about France’s role totally misrepresents the facts. From day one, France has been involved in fighting the Taliban and has provided air and maritime support for that operation.
France has also been fully involved in the NATO/ISAF operation, which was led by a French General last year. A French General now commands the ISAF force in the Kabul region. France continues to play a key role in training the Afghan army. Finally, President Chirac announced an increase of our contribution to ISAF during the Riga Summit.
France is providing these contributions for Afghanistan, while at the same time being heavily involved in a number of difficult peacekeeping operations (Côte d’Ivoire, Bosnia, Kosovo, Lebanon).
As regards France’s so-called desire to weaken NATO, it was not President Chirac, or any other French leader but Mr Donald Rumsfeld who stated that "the mission determines the coalition", which is the negation of a permanent alliance.
Finally, as regards European defence, you seem to forget that all the important steps which have been taken in this respect have been the result of a joint Franco-British initiative (Berlin in 1996, Saint-Malo in 1998) and that the development of the ESDP over the past few years has been based on the need to strengthen the European capabilities, which is good not only for Europe, but also for the strength and cohesion of the Atlantic Alliance.
The message from the declaration of Saint-Malo in 1998 was that France and the UK, because they are the two countries which have military capabilities and the political will to act, and are permanent members of the Security Council, have a special responsibility to join their efforts for the good of Europe to meet the common threats and challenges we face. This message is even more relevant today. Now is not the time to indulge in futile ideological quarrels which belong to the past.
cc. Lord Carrington