Thursday

23rd Mar 2017

Hollande announces security pact, calls for military assistance

"France is at war" was the first sentence of President Francois Hollande's speech to an exceptional sitting of both houses of the French parliament in Versailles Monday afternoon (16 November). "Terrorism will not destroy the republic; it is the republic that will destroy terrorism," was the last.

Between the two declarations, Hollande delivered a speech aimed at creating national unity around a "security pact" and at triggering an international response following Friday's terror attacks in Paris.

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The French president announced that on Tuesday France will invoke the European mutual defense clause.

Rather than article 222 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which requires assistance when a member state is "the object of a terrorist attack", France chose to trigger article 42.7 of the Treaty on European Union.

This article states that "if a member state is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other member states shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power."

This is consistent with Hollande's repeated claim that France was attacked by an "army of terrorists" operating from abroad.

The attacks were "planned in Syria, organized in Belgium, and perpetrated with French complicity," he told MPs and senators.

'A large and unique coalition'

"The enemy is Daesh," he said, using the Arabic name for the Islamic State group.

"We shall not just contain it, but destroy it," he said, adding that France will "intensify its operations" in Syria following Monday's raids.

Hollande also wants to build "a large and unique coalition" against the terrorist group.

He announced that France has asked for a meeting and a resolution from the UN Security Council.

He also said that he will soon meet US and Russian presidents, Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin, "to join our forces and reach a conclusion that has been too long overdue."

"We are not in a war of civilisations, because they [the terrorists] don't have any," Hollande said.

France was attacked, he said, because "it is the land of freedom and of human rights."

"Terrorists believe that people will allow themselves to be impressed by horror," he said. "That is not the case," he assured the parliamentarians. "They are the ones who will go down in history as the losers."

"We shall continue to work, go out, live and influence the world," he said, adding that the UN climate conference will still take place in Paris in December.

"French killed French," he told parliamentarians.

"The France that assassins wanted to kill is youth in all its diversity," he said. "The only crime of these young people [who were killed] was to live."

'Respect the rule of law'

The president assured those assembled that France will "eradicate terrorism while continuing to respect our values and without losing what is guaranteed by the rule of law."

He did, however, announce a set of measures to harden anti-terrorism laws, including changes to France's constitution.

Hollande asked the parliament to vote before the end of the week to extend the state of emergency for three months, with provisions to facilitate administrative, rather than judiciary, searches and house arrests.

The articles of the constitution organizing the state of emergency and "full powers" for the president are "no longer suited to the current situation", he said, and proposed that authorities be allowed "adequate means to take exceptional measures", without having to have recourse to the state of emergency.

In the debate that followed Hollande's address, the group leader of Les Republicains, the main opposition party, said that "nothing justifies" any change to the constitution.

Hollande also said that terrorists with a double citizenship, "including those who were born French", should be stripped of their French citizenship.

He announced the creation of 8,500 jobs in police, justice and border administration, a freeze on staff reduction in the army, and said that reservists would be called to form "a home guard".

Hollande admitted these measures will worsen France's financial situation.

Nonetheless, "the security pact prevails over the stability pact," he said, in a soundbite also aimed at the EU Commission, which supervises EU member states' budgets.

France seeks answers to security challenge

Police raids in France and strikes in Syria after the deadly Paris attacks show French authorities have to find internal and external strategies against terrorism.

In Paris under shock, all feel attacked

In the wake of the terror attacks that killed at least 129 people Friday, Parisians pay homage to the dead and, 10 months after the January killings, wonder what will come next.

French candidates avoid EU debate

In their first TV debate, the main candidates for the April election only briefly discussed the country's EU policies, with far-right Le Pen and centrist Macron taking aim at each other.

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