-Speech by Défense Minister Michele ALLIOT-MARIE to the diplomatic corps-excerpts-paris
(...) 2005 was a difficult year on the international front. (...) It has confirmed an underlying trend : the increasing prevalence of security and defense issues on the international scene. 20 years ago, national defense essentially involved defending our territory against risks of invasion. Today, with the diffuse and cross-border threats of terrorism, proliferation and the repercussions of regional crises, security issues are at the heart of current concerns.
France has given herself the capabilities to provide a strong response to crises. She is shouldering her responsibilities to serve peace and security in the world.
[AFGHANISTAN/BALKANS] In Afghanistan, the French soldiers are deployed in containing terrorist groups, rebuilding the country and helping train the national Afghan army. We shall be stepping up our presence this year, in particular taking command of the Kabul region.
In the Balkans we’re helping, alongside our allies, restore the rule of law. In Kosovo, we mustn’t lower our guard before the successful conclusion of the final status negotiation. Beyond that, we’ll have to think about enhancing the European Union’s role in Kosovo. In the Caribbean and Indian Ocean, the task is to deprive terrorists and criminals of the means to perpetrate attacks by preventing the trafficking and flow of arms.
[WMD/PROLIFERATION] In addition to these operations and missions, France is actively participating in the international action to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and WMD-related materials. Today my country is particularly concerned about the nuclear programmes developed by Iran and North Korea. Together with her European partners, France proposed to Iran a set of measures capable of dispelling these concerns and strengthening regional security. This European action is supported by the international community. So we disapprove of the unilateral decisions Iran has recently taken in violation of the Paris Agreement of November 2004. The international community is currently looking into the reactions called for by this attitude. We are warning Iran against any action which could aggravate the tension. We should like this great country to behave as a responsible player in the international community.
[FUTURE CONFLICTS/CAUSES/COLLECTIVE RESPONSE] Because crises will be increasingly complex, we also have to anticipate future challenges. (...) We have to prepare ourselves to respond to them with all the means at our disposal : political, diplomatic, economic, social and military when necessary. (...) Nevertheless, our action in response to the current crises has to be collective. For this we need to improve the instruments of international action.
[UN] The UN is, and remains, the only source of international legitimacy. Today, the organization’s credibility is, however, suffering on two counts : the representativeness of the Security Council and efficacy of the UN peacekeeping forces.
The United Nations Security Council needs to be reformed. So I find it regrettable that that the attempts to do so at the Secretary-General’s initiative were not successful. We must also think about the efficacy of the UN peacekeeping forces. The blue helmets, particularly in Africa, are confronting a twin problem. The Security Council’s mandate is often insufficiently clear on the rules of engagement. This has already presented many problems. Moreover, the make-up of UN forces is too diverse and there are sometimes operational difficulties.
I welcome the fact that reflection has now begun on strengthening these forces’ efficiency, since it is essential for the UN to have the military capabilities to enforce the Security Council resolutions. Unenforced resolutions signify an institution which has lost its credibility.
[NATO] On its side, NATO must continue modernizing its structures. France has always supported the effort to transform NATO to make this military organization less bureaucratic and more efficient. This is why we are a major contributor to the NRF. We must however be vigilant in the face of certain NATO developments. It must remain a military alliance, whose current priorities are to make a success of the ongoing operations : the stabilization of Afghanistan and Kosovo. It does not have a remit to deal with the reconstruction of countries in crisis-exit situations, which is within the UN’s area of responsibility. It’s important not to let the Alliance go down the road of carrying out missions which aren’t within its remit and would thus undermine its credibility. (...)