Statement by Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs (8 May 2020)

Security Council Arria-formula meeting on the theme “75 Years from the End of the Second World War on European Soil”
Statement by Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs
By videoconference, 8 May 2020

I would like to thank Urmas Reinsalu for taking the initiative for this meeting.

My dear friends,

I belong to a generation born in the aftermath of the Second World War, in a Europe in ruins still haggard from the tragedy it had failed to avert. A generation for whom dialogue and cooperation between nations was clearly the only possible way forward. Both to raise our continent and to help found a new international order. A generation which, over the past seventy-five years, has seen the world change – many times. And which has always striven to act by learning from the past. A generation of Europeans who have also seen the pain of a Europe divided for almost 50 years and who have finally been able to reunite on the basis of law and regained collective freedom.

On this 8 of May, I would like to tell you what these seventy-five years mean to me today in terms of international stability and security and why we want to rebuild the world order that emerged from the Second World War in the spirit of the San Francisco Conference rather than in the spirit of Yalta.

However, I do not pretend to tell history. I am a politician, not a historian. And I know that confusion among the two creates the risk of instrumentalising or even rewriting the past, which only serves to absolve oneself of one’s responsibilities or to sow discord, which often goes hand in hand. Only if we respect the objectivity of the facts, which does not preclude the diversity of memories, will we be able to learn the lessons of our common history together.

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Since 1945, we have first learned that the best guarantor of a stable international order is a strong multilateralism, that means, a living multilateralism.

If the institutions and tools of multilateralism come to a standstill, if they are no longer in touch with reality and emergencies, then they are challenged. The strength of the United Nations system is that it has always been able to transform itself to keep pace with the world. Since 1945, there have been many reforms. I am thinking of the launch of peacekeeping operations, the development of sanctions and the establishment of international criminal courts.

Defending the multilateral order today, as France is doing, as Europe is doing, is therefore not defending the status quo. On the contrary, it means constantly reinventing our working methods and the way we act, so that multilateralism will never be weak, as it was in the inter-war period.

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This is all the more important as we are now witnessing a brutalization of international life that should alert us. There is therefore an urgent need to return to the rules laid down in 1945 by the founding Charter of our Organization: the limitation by law to the use of force, from the sole perspective of collective security, which links the security of each to the security of all.

That is the thrust of our efforts in Europe to re-establish on our continent a collective architecture of security and trust. In order to resolve the so-called “frozen conflicts”. In order to limit the risk of accidental escalation. In order to make operational the ten key principles adopted in Helsinki and reaffirmed in Paris nearly thirty years ago, which have lost none of their relevance.

And this is the preoccupation that must guide our Council to meet today’s challenges: the challenge of terrorism, the challenge of violence against civilians, the challenge of proliferation. That is the preoccupation that must guide our Council in the fight against impunity and in combating the inequalities that weaken societies and expose them to violence.

And because the coronavirus crisis amplifies threats to collective security, because that crisis reinforces those threats, we must give clear support to the Secretary-General’s call for a humanitarian truce in all armed conflicts.

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What I remember from the turn of 1945 is that the Allies did not wait for the victory of 8 May 1945 to draw the outlines of the new multilateral order: the United Nations declaration dates back to 1942; the Bretton Woods Conference dates from 1944. Because recovering successfully from a crisis requires preparation – collective preparation.

While continuing to fight to roll back the pandemic, we must therefore begin, as of today, to build the “world beyond Covid-19”, starting, of course, with the strengthening of health multilateralism, also in relation with other global public goods such as biodiversity and climate.

As Timothy Snyder, whose intervention I welcome, says: “History does not repeat itself, but it teaches us”. Let us collectively learn from it.

I thank you.

Last modified on 08/05/2020

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