François Hollande: ‘We need the Council of Europe more than ever’

“France stands alongside the Council of Europe and I am confident that the Council of Europe stands alongside France in all efforts to promote peace, freedom and democracy,” declared France’s President, François Hollande, addressing the Assembly today.

Mr Hollande said he was a strong believer in the Organisation “because you have done so much to promote the rule of law, and to ensure that we all live up to the promises we have made. More than ever we need the Council of Europe.” In 2019, the Council of Europe will celebrate its 70th anniversary, he reminded the audience. “France will hold the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers and stands ready to organise a summit, the fourth of its kind, in an effort to provide new direction,” announced Mr Hollande.

Referring to terrorism, the French President said it was “a threat to democracy. Our way of life, our freedoms and fundamental values are being targeted by fanatics.” And in the fight against terrorism, he added, “security is compatible with the rule of law. Our law makes it possible for us to act effectively.”

What the terrorists want, said Mr Hollande, “is to divide us, to drive a wedge between us, to induce us to adopt special measures that would then be used to undermine our freedoms. It is these freedoms that are being targeted by terrorists.”

On the subject of the influx of refugees and migrants into Europe, Mr Hollande said that “Europe has been slow to come up with a common response. This response must include effective policing of Europe’s external borders. Only then can we provide dignified reception arrangements for refugees, send back migrants who do not qualify for asylum, make rules and ensure that they are observed.”

Mr Hollande went on to say that “the Council of Europe’s values have underpinned France’s efforts on the diplomatic front”. Referring to the quest for a diplomatic solution in Ukraine under the Minsk agreement, he said “we must work hard to establish the political and security conditions needed to enable elections in eastern Ukraine to be held as quickly as possible”.

Turning to the subject of Russia, Mr Holland said that “France has certain major disagreements with Russia, including over Syria. The Russian veto on France’s Security Council resolution prevented us from putting an end to the bombing and instigating a truce.” “There is a profound need for dialogue with Russia but it must be firm and honest. Otherwise it is pointless.”