Grande-Bretagne

5 minutes with. . . H.E. Mr Bernard Emié

The new french Ambassador to the United Kingdom is putting particular emphasis on developo,ng business links between the UK and France. In this interview, he strongly promotes the messages of the French G20 presidency.

The new french Ambassador to the United Kingdom is putting particular emphasis on developo,ng business links between the UK and France. In this interview, he strongly promotes the messages of the French G20 presidency.

How do you see your job as French Ambassador to the UK?
France and Britain are major strategic and trade partners. We see the world in a similar way. What we do together in defence, for instance, represents an extraordinary achievement. So my task is to make sure that we keep working together in all sectors, increase our significant investment in this country – and maybe help the UK understand the Euro Area a little better! The economic dimension is a key priority. In fact, one of my first activities since arriving here was to meet top French businessmen in Britain and address your AGM. It was the very day that Mme Lagarde was visiting London, but I wanted to be at the Chamber, just to convey the message that the French and British communities were committed to exchanges. We also want to explain our objectives in the G20 presidency, to foster our existing people-to- people relationships, and to see the French language and French ideas even more present in this country. But my first goal is to ensure that this high-level relationship remains so for years to come.

France said it would use its presidency of the G20 to find new mechanisms to solve the world financial crisis. Is that still on course?
We set the bar quite high, but we are on track. I haven’t come here with any new inventions: our presidency was clever enough to raise awareness and put the volatility of commodity prices on the agenda. Maybe we won’t achieve all our technical objectives. But on the substance we all know we have to work collectively. Now, for the first time, the G20 is organising meetings of agriculture and employment ministers, to work on issues important to the lives of ordinary people. The G20 has also brought together heads of state and government to discuss regulating the Internet, and within the G8 Mme Lagarde has helped identify challenges in various countries. Even if many countries were initially reluctant, most now realise our agenda was well founded.

So is this a more creative programme than before?
As President Sarkozy said at the outset of our presidency, the G20 was established as a meeting of heads of state and government in 2009 during a crisis, and it should remain important even when the situation seems normalised. It is not a decision- making mechanism, not the UN. We are not in charge of ruling the world! Yet its structure is legitimised by the population and the GDP that it represents, and the French presidency is extremely keen to reach out to the UN and other international organisations.

Remember, alongside the major regional powers, the G20 also includes the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India & China) as well as major emerging countries, such as Turkey, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. It really brings them into the community of nations, and this adds legitimacy to the structure. So if we find a consensus within this group, it means a lot! Now France supports the reform of the World Bank, the IMF and the UN Security Council, in order to provide more responsibilities to the emerging countries. The French president asked Prime Minister Cameron to deliver fresh thoughts on global governance in the context of the G20. So, yes, it is a very ambitious task, a busy agenda, but it should be addressed. You cannot handle such urgent matters in a routine way.

Turning to the euro: do current events imperil the currency in your view?
No, I don’t think so at all. We are going through a difficult period with ups and downs. Yet we have created additional tools to solve these difficulties. Two thirds of France’s foreign trade is done within the Euro Area, so for us it is a strategic concept. We are not scared of anything dramatic. The euro will remain a strong currency as long as members of the Area stay united and show solidarity.

Might Britain ever join the euro?
The decision must be taken by your country according to its national interests.

Is the current Franco-British cooperation over Libya a test of your new military partnership?
The top echelons of our respective armed forces are working hand in hand with NATO, and blessed with international legitimacy under UNSCR 1973. Not many countries in the world have the political will to do something like that, or the military instruments to implement that vision. France and Britain belong to that very restricted category. Libya is evidence of our new strategic friendship after the signing of these treaties in Lancaster House in November last year.

Where will the Lancaster House agreement lead to? Are there any major advances?
We are currently working on building a joint expeditionary force, to be ready as soon as possible. The Libya crisis certainly accelerated the pace of our cooperation, yet both sides are finding it easy to collaborate. Secondly we are aiming to develop new capabilities together. In a stressed economic environment, we must avoid duplication and develop, where possible, technological and industrial cooperation. It can even lead to mutual interdependencies as in the Complex Weapon Sector which is one of the major topics of collaboration. Industries are also taking the initiative. See the proposal by BAE Systems and Dassault on Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). So I am confident.

Returning to Britain, how might you help French companies here?
Well, these firms represent a wonderful partnership. They are involved in defense, energy, utilities, transport, cleaning, environment, water treatment. They bring in huge investment and provide hundreds of thousands of jobs to your fellow citizens. Many see themselves as “British companies” of French origin, yet they pay French taxes and thus pay my salary. So I am at their disposal. If they need me, they can knock on my door and if I can help, I will.

Does French and British policy differ on important issues?
We cannot agree on everything, otherwise life would be too easy. Turkey, for instance, is a very strong, efficient country, with the world’s 16th largest economy, and it should be very close to Europe in all sectors. But for the time being we think it should not be an EU member, for a variety of reasons, whereas the UK differs. Maybe we also disagree slightly over the ultimate objective of Europe, on regulation, agriculture policy and the euro and Schengen agreements. Yet on key structural issues we see eye to eye. On the whole what we have in common is more important.

Do you fear a move away from nuclear energy in Europe, because of the Japanese disaster and the German and Italian decisions?
Civilian nuclear energy is an issue of common interest to France and Britain. We both have long traditions in this field. Currently France has 58 plants; you have 19. Now companies like EDF are major players in your plans to reform and relaunch the programme. Nuclear power is reliable, cheap and efficient, and it respects the environment. Naturally after Fukushima we want to reinforce safety. But while we respect the German and Italian decisions, the strongest axis is between Paris and London. We are determined to keep Europe as a civilian nuclear player.

So how would you summarise your main objective?
with the same vision, for political, environmental and business reasons.

Interview by Nicolas Kochan

<img1112|left> Un article issu de INFO Magazine,
Juillet/Août 2011
une publication de la Chambre de commerce et d’industrie française en Grande Bretagne

Hannah Meloul Medioni, Editorial Assistant, INFO Magazine
Tel : +44 207 092 66 48
Site : www.ccfgb.co.uk - @ : [hmedioni@ccfgb.co.uk->hmedioni@ccfgb.co.uk]

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