"One Must Follow One's Principles to the End"
Pierre Rousselin interviews French Foreign Affairs Minister Dominique de Villepin
Thursday 10 July 2003
LE FIGARO. - Some have reproached French diplomacy with a failure to take the measure of power relationships and with making a frontal attack on the United States. How do you respond to them?
Dominique de VILLEPIN. - This criticism is altogether baseless. We defended a vision and principles with conviction, having at each stage intentionally maintained a dialogue and developed our proposals. Let's not forget what was at stake in Iraq: the question of war and peace, to be sure, but beyond that, the rules and principles on which the new international order must be based. Our conviction is that it must be organized around the principle of collective responsibility. For us, in Iraq and elsewhere, that's the condition for the legitimacy, and hence for the effectiveness of international action in the long term. From there, how could we accept that preventative action should become the rule on the international scene? I would add that France defended its position with respect for its American partners and that French diplomacy never allowed itself to play the game of personal attacks.
LE FIGARO. - The United States have, all the same, made France "pay for" its audacity through a deterioration of bilateral relations...
Dominique de VILLEPIN. - I don't share this view at all. Beyond their possible differences France and the United States are and will remain each other's friends and responsible allies. In any case, the questions of terrorism, proliferation, management of regional crises are sufficiently urgent and important that our common responsibility must be to work together.
LE FIGARO. - A little flexibility could have served France's interests.
Dominique de VILLEPIN. - Are you trying to say that we could have had the same position, but not defended it? France has nothing to blush about the position we took, one that has awarded respect and consideration. France, along with many others, defended the way that seemed most effective to us in the struggle against the great plagues of terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and organized crime as well as to defend human rights. We did so in a framework of collective responsibility, convinced that force could only be a last recourse.
LE FIGARO. - Wouldn't it have been better in the face of the United States to be less solitary?
Dominique de VILLEPIN. - I remind you that for the whole length of this crisis, France acted with the support of most countries and the vast majority of peoples. In the world, there is a great expectation vis- -vis France and its positions, to the extent of our country's very strong engagement in world affairs. All that creates duties to take the initiative and to make proposals that contribute to building a new international order.
LE FIGARO. - So you have no regrets?
Dominique de VILLEPIN. - Let's not fool ourselves. The problem is not between France and the United states, but of knowing what kind of world we want to live in. Let's be aware that with the fall of the Berlin Wall the international community rediscovered its unity and its freedom, but that it must exercise its responsibility. It must do so in a spirit of dialogue, of respect, and of partnership. In this regard, Iraq must remain an exception. Sometimes one has to know how to state one's convictions clearly. It is sometimes necessary to follow one's principles to the end. That is part of encounters with History.
LE FIGARO. - By giving the impression of wanting a Europe that would oppose the United States, didn't we favor division?
Dominique de VILLEPIN. -It has never been a question at any moment of creating a Europe that opposes the United States, but today's Europe represents a great economic and cultural power. It must become a major actor on the international scene from now on. Europe must not do that to oppose anyone, but in the service of a great ambition for peace and prosperity. Europe can only do that by being faithful to itself, strong in its identity and rich in diversity. In Europe, the crisis was revealing and the will to advance together asserts itself. The success of enlargement and of the Convention on Europe's future as well as peacekeeping operations in Macedonia and the Congo all testify to that will. The last few months we have mobilized with Germany to help Europe cross a certain number of decisive stages. We must now, all together, assemble and mobilize.
Translation: TruthOut French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.