France no longer has a Foreign Policy

Interview with Roland Dumas, who served as Minister for Foreign Affairs under President François Mitterrand.

Roland Dumas a répondu aux questions de Sihem Souid.

What do you think of François Hollande’s foreign policy?

De Gaulle was keen for France to be independent. Pompidou, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and Mitterrand followed this line, which satisfied everybody; it consisted of saying yes, conditionally, but not entering into NATO’s integrated command structure. With Chirac, there were discussions for France to be reintegrated into the NATO command structure, but the concessions he sought were refused (he wanted control of the southern zone, the Mediterranean).

Sarkozy had annonced that France would again join the NATO command strcuture. When François Hollande came to power, he ratified this reorientation of foreign policy by taking France into NATO central command, and did so without any real concessions or public debate. The truth is that it is now Israel and the United States who give the orders.  We are today a member of an alliance in which France has no voice. We no longer have an independent foreign policy. 

What are your thoughts on the performance of Laurent Fabius at the Quai d’Orsay (the French foreign office)?

He was my prime minister so I can’t say anything bad about him (laughs). You know the proverb “Right or wrong, my country is my country”. He was a very good prime minister, but he is not as good as minister for foreign affairs, as he does not promote the traditional French ideas I’ve just mentioned. France has lost its independence in foreign policy !

Do you believe that the French Socialist Party has a future ?

I am very surprised by the ease with which the right-wing parties change names, which is in contrast to the Socialist Party which has only changed its name once. It is the only party to embody socialism and this is a noble idea, not something one changes after having read Marie Claire. It is a political philosophy. The Socialist Party is divided into two camps which will continue to survive; the liberal left and the conservatives. Manuel Valls represents the most conservative element of the Socialist Party. He is a good manager but he’s not really my cup of tea. François Hollande, like Manual Valls, represents the right-wing. I remember that 20 years ago François Hollande was one of the first to represent the right-wing of the Socialist Party. He called this the intercourant (equivalent to the “third way”). The right-wing of the Socialist Party governs and is at ease with its American alliance.

Do you think François Mitterrand was the most left wing of all French presidents ?

Of all the politicians who governed France, the most left-wing was General de Gaulle. In terms of foreign policy, he created the Normandy-Niemen fighter squadron with Russia, which was really very audacious of him! After all, it was de Gaulle that brought about a peaceful end to the Algerian war. You can say what you like, but at that time he worked for peace, whereas the Socialists waged war. There are times when I feel uneasy (as a Socialist)!

We are half-way through François Hollande’s term in government. What difference do you see when you compare François Mitterrand’s first two years in office with those of François Hollande’s?

There is a huge difference ! François Mitterrand created the “Union of the Left” (l’Union de la Gauche). I personally negotiated with the Communist Party. The “Left Front” (Front de Gauche) is the government’s enemy. Hollande is incapable of unifying the left. I believe he has determination but it is directed into bad policies.

What would you do if you were still the foreign secretary ?

For a start, I would remain faithful to socialist principals. I would have reinstated a genuine foreign policy with Russia! France must restore a special relationship with Russia. We treat the Russians badly, contrary to what people say. We respect none of the commitments that were made, notably those made with Gorbachev at the Moscow conference. The alliance on the other side of the Atlantic has not kept the promises it made to Moscow. I am against injustice, even when it comes to foreign policy.

Do you think the rise of extremism is more due to a political crisis rather than crisis in democracy ?

Politicians have less influence on politics than is commonly believed, but at a particular moment they personify a situation. The French National Front (Front National – FN) is benefiting from the economic crisis and is making gains with their foreign policy by carrying the torch for nationalism.

Why should we recognise the Palestinian state ? Would this be sufficient to revive peace talks which have a real chance of success?

This question is not new. It’s a question that has been asked ever since the end of the war. What saddens me is that it is repeatedly asked and is done so somewhat naively. We often hear somebody asking where we are with the peace process, but everybody knows that the peace process is dead. You don’t ask a dead man how he is getting on, but this is something that entertains the international community. In truth, the parties involved in this conflict do not want peace; they want a peace process, which is something different.

The recognition of the Palestinian state is not a trifling matter, but all this will end in a farce. France has bravely stated its position on this matter, though it was not a genuinely courageous act. The game is fixed in such a way that no progress is possible. We can see that, as soon as there is a decision against Israel, there is always the American veto or another veto. The world powers do not want to see progress on this matter. Russia today is somewhat weakened and doesn’t have the power that it once had to influence the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We are heading towards a situation which isn’t entirely new.

3 March 2014

Translated from French

Roland Dumas was interviewed by Sihem Souid, journalist at Le Point and senior advisor at the French ministry of justice.

Source: Le Point

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