The day after his first major campaign meeting, Francois Hollande has granted us an exclusive interview in which he gives us his vision of foreign policy. The Socialist candidate confirms that he intends to withdraw French troops from Afghanistan. However, he does not minimize the importance of the transatlantic relationship between France and the United States.
1. Sarkozy, known in France as Sarko the American, is a particularly Americanophile president. You are less well-known in the U.S. ... What is your vision of the United States?
We have friendly relations with the United States, it's a historical ally with whom we share a long history, a great partner. If I am elected president of the Republic, I would deepen the dialogue between us so that together we can find the answers to the challenges that are ours: the situation in the Middle East, building a new world economic balance and the fight against global warming at the G8 summit in Chicago in May. I attach the greatest importance to an amplification of the peace efforts in the Middle East. I would also like to see a greater dialogue between the U.S. and the EU.
2. Like the United States, France has lost her triple-A status. But the consequences in France and in Europe could be more important than in the U.S. because there is no European monetary governance. Would you like to see a federal policy like in the United States or return to more sovereignty for individual states?
Overcoming the crisis will be the first priority for me: It is essential for France, for the future of Europe and global growth. That's why I proposed a responsibility, governance and growth deal that includes an effort to reduce debt and deficits, but also a European economic government, an active role for the European Central Bank and a policy to encourage growth. In addition, I would propose a radical reform of Europe on the basis of "projects on a federal scale." We must move towards greater economic integration, but also political harmonization, in order to overcome the current crisis: it is our future that is at stake, and the control over our own destiny. This will be made possible only by a strengthening of European democracy. Our model will differ, based on a combination of unity and diversity between member states.
3. What do you think of the pro-American turn French policy took under Nicolas Sarkozy? If you are elected will the balance of power be different?
I see our relationship as a result of friendly relations between allies and partners. The transatlantic relationship is vital for both our countries: France will remain a reliable ally of the United States. Nevertheless, ally does not mean aligned.
4. Will you leave NATO's integrated command?
France's international commitments will be respected. We will evaluate the consequences of the decision which was taken, particularly in terms of the European defense force which remains one of our main objectives. The status of France in NATO will not change. I will define the priorities that will be ours in this respect.
5. Your political partners think that France's veto at the United Nations is "anachronistic," have you decided to give it up?
The United Nations will be at the heart of our international activities. France will assume its full responsibilities at the Security Council by putting its status at the service of peace, respect for human rights and development. The veto is one such power. I also want to contribute actively to UN reform, which is necessary and has been discussed for many years, to better reflect the new global equilibrium. Nothing very anachronistic about all this.
6. The idea of a single European seat at the United Nations was also discussed. Wouldn't this lead to a weakening of France's position?
It's a perspective. We've a long way to go. The European Union must adopt an active common foreign policy at the service of peace, human rights and ecological development. To be influential in tomorrow's world, to defend our values and our development model, France needs Europe and Europe needs France. Progress is being made in this direction, especially with the Common External Action Service. But France will retain its seat on the Security Council, as a mark of respect for European solidarity.
7. Nicolas Sarkozy has called for a withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan in 2014. You want to speed up the withdrawal to the end of 2012. Is this realistic?
It is time to take the necessary decisions. As I said a long time ago, I will withdraw our troops from Afghanistan at the end of 2012. There is therefore no surprise there. I show a consistency that I believe fundamental among allies. This withdrawal will take place over a short period, in close consultation with the Afghan authorities and our allies from the NATO summit in May 2012 and with all the guarantees that our soldiers can be protected during this time.
8. In 2001, the Socialist Party was in favor of intervention in Afghanistan. Is this a position you still agree with today?
Yes. I supported the mission that was entrusted to the French troops in 2001, after the terrible attacks of September 11. It was a mission of solidarity with the United States which acted in self-defense. We must now put an end to an intervention that has served its purpose and does not need to be extended.
9. According to you, was the intervention in Libya the right decision?
Benghazi was going to be decimated by the troops of Colonel Gaddafi, the need for intervention was not in doubt. I supported it. France, like her partners understood the situation and the Security Council authorized the intervention. We will have to be very attentive to the situation in the region, particularly in terms of disarmament.
10. Do you think we should now consider a similar intervention in Syria?
The Security Council must act, and quickly. The massacres carried out by the regime of Bashar al-Assad must stop. It's a terrible tragedy that revolts me. I would ask again that the case be referred to the International Criminal Court.
11. After the Arab revolutions, do you fear the rise of Islamic fundamentalism?
The Arab spring has given rise to great hopes of freedom and development, especially for the youth of these countries. France will support these processes so that they remain true to the universal values that inspired them.