Interview de M. Jouyet au Sunday Times
1. What was the scope of your recent visit to Malta ?
First of all, I was representing France on the occasion of the official ceremonies of introduction of Euro in Malta. It is a sign of solidarity of France with Malta in its continuous progress towards integration in Europe. As you know, "Monnaie de Paris" has been chosen by the Central Bank of Malta to mint the Maltese euro coins and what we call a "light twinning" agreed for the Ministry of Finance of France to help NECC, prepare the introduction of Euro in Malta.
Then, in the light of the French Presidency of the European Union, which will take place next semester, I also met M. Lawrence Gonzi and M. Michael Frendo to open a dialogue on our priorities.
Finally, from a bilateral point of view, my visit to Malta is part of the process of deeper "rapprochement", initiated since 2005 between our two countries which have been seen for too long as "distant neighbours". President Sarkozy made his first private visit abroad to Malta. Malta and France, as countries of the Mediterranean, as members of the UN and the EU have common challenges to face, like migration management which will be a priority of the French Presidency of the EU Council.
2. Do you think that both countries are collaborating enough in the EU ? How do you look at Malta’s contribution in the Union so far ?
To quote one of you former Presidents, Malta’s contribution in the world and specifically in Europe, has to be measured not through what could be seen as "importance" in terms of territory, population, economic weight, but through its "relevance", that is to say in terms of political input. And yes, definitively in this regard, Malta’s contribution is an outstanding one. What strikes me, as Minister for European Affairs, is that Malta goes directly to the point on questions where the European project is at stake. Our collaboration in this field must not be measured in terms of quantity but in terms of relevance and it is a good one, not in terms of agreement or disagreement but in terms of the research of a constructive dialogue. And this dialogue is a constructive one .
3. There has always been a feeling, even before Malta’s membership, that France was not on Malta’s side....is this so ? Do you consider Malta as a small player in the EU ? Is it still France, Germany and UK who dictate the rules of the club and the others follow ?
France is the only country that bas been represented non stop in Malta since 1706. The fact that for so long Malta has been within the British influence sphere may have distorted the careful attention always brought by France to Malta. It is a question of perception that we have to correct for it does not match with the reality. This is why our policy should make sure that not only our governments but also our peoples should be more and better "exposed" to each other. There is not such a thing in Europe as so called "small countries". Malta, like France, is deeply committed to the success of the European political project. And, with the introduction of euro, Malta shows that it now stands in the core of the EU.
4. President Sarkozy seems to be insisting on the idea of creating a Med Union. Why is this necessary if there is already the Barcelona process in the EU ?
As proposed one year ago by President Sarkozy, the project of Union for the Mediterranean is centred on cooperation, not integration, between equal partners. It is an initiative which will be founded an concrete projects calling for the mobilisation of states but also civil societies, companies, territorial collectivities, associations, NGO. The call of this project is not to substitute to the existing ones, (Barcelona process, European Neighbouring policy, Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean) but to complement them, give more visibility and go further.
It is a project that all the Mediterranean states have to appropriate, to make their project, it is not a French Blue print. It is a project that has to come from within the Mediterranean states, not a project offered by Europe to the other states of the Mediterranean, but worked together with the E.U.
5. What are the actual plans for this Union...when will it be launched and how ?
On the 13th of July, a meeting of all countries bordering the Mediterranean is to be held in Paris and will be followed on the 14th by a summit bringing together these heads of state and government and those of the other U.E. Member States.
6. Do you expect Malta to support this ?
Malta was one of the founding fathers of the idea of Union for the Mediterranean in the late 90’s, in a different international context, along somewhat different parameters but the idea was there. Malta, which has recently hosted the headquarters of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean has shown it is indeed keen to play a major role in the Mediterranean because it has always been at the centre of the Mediterranean and has both a natural understanding of its problems, the will and the capacities to help solving them. In other words, Malta has all the qualities to support this project.
7. What about Libya ? Do you just consider this country as an economic partner. Why is France reproaching the North African country ?
Today’s Libya is not yesterday’s Libya. Libya is a member of the international community, which at some point in its history, distanced itself from this community. Since 2003 Libya has shown the will and has taken the steps to fully reintegrate this community. Libya has, on its own, renounced to the arms of massive destruction. Libya has renounced to terrorism. As an important country in Machrek, in Africa, and in the Mediterranean, Libya is as well a decisive partner in political, foreign and regional policy terms, not only in economics terms. Libya is a member of the UN Security Council and is currently chairing it. We have to take into consideration these objective facts and to recognize the evolution Libya has entered into. We have to help Libya in this evolution as we have to do it with every other single member of the international community which shows good will.
8. France has always criticised Malta on the Erika issue...do you still think that Malta was at fault ?
s coastal states, our two countries (Malta, as an archipelago in the neighbourhood of the main East-West maritime road for traffic of heavily polluting materials , France as one of the European countries with the largest maritime coast ), are highly vulnerable countries. As major national flags, Malta and France have a great responsibility in preventing, deterring, sanctioning accidents at sea which have major environmental and economic impact as well as tragic human consequences. Malta is on the right way, efforts must be pursued. There is no other solution than to pursue them together. As for responsibilities in the case of the "Erika" sinking off the coast of France, French judicial authorities will decide very soon. French government is totally confident in what they will decide.
On the European level, the Commission adopted, last October, a Communication setting out its vision for an Integrated Maritime Policy for the EU, together with a detailed action plan, including an integrated network for maritime surveillance. To discuss this approach, that France shares, I met Commissioner Borg in Paris last October, just before the Ministerial Conference on the Maritime Policy for the EU in Lisbon.
8. How do you view Franco-Maltese bilateral relations at present. Are there any specific projects or areas of particular interest where both countries can produce results in the coming three years ?
Franco-Maltese bilateral relations are developing at a fast pace and frontally in many fields, politically as I already stated it, economically ( France is one of the very first partners of Malta), culturally ( a partnership for " mirror events such as "la fête de la musique", the commemoration of the three hundred anniversary of the death of military engineer Vauban shows that, in Europe, Malta and France are proceeding at the same tempo) . Our cooperation in the educational field has entered a very innovative and promising path : maintaining the traditional teaching of french language is a must but, for the first time this year we have succeeded to develop an original scientific partnership between Malta University, our embassies and French high tech industries. Allowing young bright Maltese engineer students to develop their skills in French industries, giving them the facilities to create, upon their return to Malta, their "start up" and provide for qualified job opportunities in performing economic sectors will help Malta insert itself in a fast growing economic European fabric.