Fifty-first Munich Security Conference

Speech by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development¹

Munich, 8 February 2015

(Check against delivery)

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, my dear friends Frank-Walter and John,

Last year at the same date, in spite of our common profound expertise, our conference did not really see Ebola, Daesh [ISIL] and the Ukrainian war coming. That means we have to be humble in our analyses and forecasts. It means also that today’s world is no longer either bipolar or unipolar but rather chaotic, violent and unpredictable. In this world, I will not comment on decisive elements such as Iran, the Middle East peace process, Syria, Iraq, Libya and other major subjects. I will only – and briefly – mention four issues: counter-terrorism, Africa, Ukraine and the climate.


1/ Security today means first and foremost international action to combat terrorism. That action needs to be better shared and better adapted.

The attacks in France in early January wounded our country. Demonstrations of solidarity and friendship erupted around the world, and France was extremely touched.

But France is obviously not alone in being affected. In reality, no one is safe.

That is why efforts need to be shared to a greater extent. The threat is global, and so must the response be. In the face of terrorism, we must resist any temptation to withdraw, for withdrawal is never a protection. We must also resist “international free-rider” behaviour. We know the cost of inaction and procrastination. Efforts need to be stepped up at EU level, but also, further, be shared with the United States, as well as with Muslim countries, whose populations are the first victims, and with emerging countries, which have to take the measure of their new responsibilities in the international order by strengthening their engagement.

Better adaptation to threats is also needed. On this 70th anniversary of the UN, in this world where our traditional Westphalian approach is not always sufficient, we need to be more active to dismantle the financing and recruitment networks of terrorist groups: we must strengthen our international efforts, such as the European Passenger Name Record (PNR), which will help ensure the traceability of suspects. We also need to work on means of counter-propaganda and better controlling the greatest vectors of radicalization, while respecting our values of freedom. I have in mind propaganda on websites and social media, which are spreading the message of jihadi terrorists far and wide.


2/ Africa is a key area for our common security. We need to help Africa resolve its crises itself.

France is mobilized in Africa, as everyone knows. We were in Mali. We are in the Sahel, with Operation Barkhane which deploys 3,000 soldiers to combat terrorism, and in the Central African Republic. France is playing its part – perhaps even more than its part – in the resolution of crises in Africa. But in the medium and long term, security can only be ensured in Africa by the Africans themselves, with the support of the whole international community. That is France’s message. We need to encourage and support African capacities to respond to crises.

At political level, the African Union has endowed itself with crisis management tools – Coordination between the African Union, subregional and national forces – and the UN has made progress. Militarily, things are obviously more complex.

In one of the most worrying conflicts, the fight against Boko Haram – falsely religious but genuinely murderers –, the Africans have begun to take matters in hand. They could not afford to wait more for others to act: a regional force generated by the African Union is to be created, neighbouring countries are on the front lines, and the rest of the continent is organizing support. The international community needs to play its part. This scheme will need to be replicated in future: an African crisis tackled by African countries themselves, supported by the mobilization of the international community.


3/ European security.

Security on the European continent today obviously refers to the Ukraine issue, just two hours from here. The situation is well known by all of you. I was in Moscow with President Hollande, Chancellor Merkel and President Putin on Friday. We, Germany and France, are currently doing our best with our allies to find a solution. After discussions at length in the Normandy format – and discussions are taking place today –, the key parameters are reasonably clear.

For Ukraine the main point is, legitimately, to feel safe from any military threats from its neighbour, in particular through effective border control, and to remain the master of its own destiny.

For Russia, the stated objective seems to be that the people in eastern Ukraine live with the guarantee that their specificities are recognized, in particular by real decentralization or autonomy.

But beyond the current negotiations, there is a larger issue, at the heart of Europe. On one side we have a country with huge military capabilities, one single leader, and which does not act according to the rules of democracy and transparency, or to the core principles that we have established on our continent since 40 years.

On the other side, we have a gathering of diverse countries which rightly do not see the use of military means as a preferred option and which act in accordance with some fundamental principles, such as transparency, the priority of negotiation and the rule of law.

This explains why the situation is so tough. It also means we have to stick together, show our resolve and negotiate, but not agree to concessions which would undermine the key foundations of European security.

But it is time to make a choice. Nobody wants to get trapped in a raging war, which nobody has an interest in.


4/ The last challenge I will mention for international security is the climate.

Why mention the climate? Not only because France will host and chair the COP21 Conference in December, but also because the effects of climate disruption on global security are massive: it undermines development, causes population displacements, increases competition for natural resources, weakens states and fuels conflicts. Climate disruption is not only an environmental issue: it is also a major security issue.

Climate disruption is caused first and foremost by the massive use of fossil fuels. For the last two centuries, their use has been a major component of security crises. It has created dependencies, inequalities and rivalries that have sharpened conflicts. Reducing the carbon intensity of economies and developing renewable resources is therefore a shift towards greater security, as it helps equalize access to energy. It reduces tensions, inequalities and dependencies. Many countries seek to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels primarily for energy security and security more generally.

Collectively, how must we respond?

First, we need to reach a universal agreement placing economies on the path to reduced carbon consumption and keeping the temperature rise below the 2°C limit. That is the whole point of the Paris Climate Conference – COP21 – in December.

The answer is also what is known as adaptation, meaning the provision of immediate assistance to populations whose daily lives are impacted by climate disruption, so that they are not forced to turn to despair and violence. We want adaptation to have a key place in the agreement we need to reach in Paris.

On that subject, like those I mentioned earlier, we need to take action today, and not put it off until tomorrow. Otherwise, the cost will become more and more disastrous.


My conclusions:

a) Against jihadi terrorism, the only response is total resolve and collective action.

b) To solve African crises, what is urgently needed is everyone’s commitment in support of our African partners.

c) In Ukraine, what Germany and France are seeking right now is not peace on paper but peace on the ground.

d) Finally, climate disruption is security disruption and we need to prevent it with the same sense of urgency and resolve.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Facing those risks, we cannot postpone our answers. And we cannot afford to be divided.

Thank you. /.

¹M. Fabius spoke in English. Source of English text: French Foreign Ministry.

Last modified on 11/02/2015

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