In a rare speech before a joint session of parliament — only the second time a French president has addressed both houses at Versailles in the past 160 years — Francois Hollande today declared that “France is at war.”
“Our democracy triumphs over more fearsome enemies than these cowardly assassins. Our republic is not going to be overcome by despicable killers. But we will put all the strength of the state to defend the safety of its people,” Hollande said. “…The terrorists believe that free peoples will be overcome by horror. That’s not the case. And the French republic has overcome worse trials and it’s still there, alive. And those who made these attacks always came out the losers and this will occur again.”
“And we are not committed to a war of civilizations because these assassins don’t represent any civilization. We are in a war against terrorism, jihadism, which threatens the whole world — and not only France.”
Hollande, who was attending the France-Germany soccer match when suicide bombers struck outside, paid tribute to the victims and police and stressed that “dozens of foreigners were among the victims.”
“We are facing an organization, Daesh, which has a territorial area, finance resources and military capacity. Since the beginning of the year, that organization struck in Paris, in Denmark, in Tunisia, in Lebanon, in Kuwait, in Saudi Arabia, in Turkey, in Libya,” he said.
French pilots destroyed a command center and a training center in Raqqa in an aerial bombardment yesterday.
“We will continue with these strikes during coming weeks. And Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier will go to the Mediterranean on Thursday and that will triple the capacity we have and our capabilities. And in this action, we will not hesitate or vacillate.”
Hollande stressed that “it’s not a question of containing” ISIS in Syria.
“It is a question of destroying it to save the populations of Syria, Iraq — and I could add Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, all the neighboring countries. And it’s to protect ourselves, to avoid that has occurred on Friday, to prevent foreign fighters coming here to carry out terrorist acts. But we need to do more,” he said.
“Syria has become the largest factory of terrorism that the world has known and the international community. And I have seen more than once that it is divided and incoherent. France has asked from the beginning of the conflict that there be unity to act if necessary.”
France was ready to strike Syria after Bashar al-Assad crossed President Obama’s red line of using chemical weapons, but Washington rushed in to try to find a diplomatic solution to avert strikes.
Hollande said he would meet with Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin in the coming days to “unite our forces.”
He stressed that “it is vital that Europe accept with dignity those who have a right to remain here and should send back those who can’t.”
“But this is not the case today. Effective protection of our outside borders, France is working on that,” the president said. “And we were the first to send our warning to France and Germany today, acting so that the countries which face the wave of refugees first could be helped and, in particular, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon. And if Europe doesn’t control its outside borders — and we see today it is a return to national borders, barbed wire here and there. That is the future. So it would be dismantling of the European Union.”
“It is also imperative that the request which France made some time ago be implemented in Europe. I’m talking about controlling the arms trade, controls on the border and the approval before the end of 2015 of what we call the PNR, to ensure the traceability of jihadists.”
Hollande said the government needs “to be able to deprive of French nationality an individual condemned for a terrorist act or other acts against the nation of the country even if he was born a French person and even if he has another nationality.”
“And we need to prohibit these people to return to our country if they present a terrorist risk, unless they submit themselves, as our British friends do, to a control order,” he said. “We should be able to expel more rapidly foreigners who represent a threat of particular seriousness to the safety of the country. But we should do it in accordance with the law and international commitments.”
Hollande also vowed to turn the terror fight into a jobs program of sorts, creating positions for 5,000 additional policemen and gendarmes over five years. “This effort is considerable and it assumes that the government will do it in the budgetary context you are aware of. But it will make it possible to restore the potential of the internal security forces to the levels it was at in 2007,” he said.
“And this creation of posts will benefit the anti-terrorist groups, the border police and the general security in the country. It will be accompanied by the necessary investment and equipment. Likewise, the ministry of justice will have 2,500 additional posts for prison administration, for judiciary service. And I’m not forgetting the administration of the customs, which will need to be strengthened by 1,000 persons, so we can assure border control, if that becomes necessary.”
Hollande said the state of emergency will be extended by three months.
But the upcoming climate summit, he said, “will be not only maintained but it will be a moment of hope and solidarity, because it is a question of the future of the planet and of solidarity, too, because, no doubt, there will be over 100 heads of state and government, who will come here to negotiate a lasting, binding agreement, one which is differentiated so that we can all live and so that our children and grandchildren can continue to have the planet they inherited.”