President of the French Republic

Speech made to the Assembly

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Mr President, Secretary General, ladies and gentlemen, honourable members of parliament, your excellencies, ambassadors, my presence here today is designed to reiterate France’s profound commitment to your institution, the Council of Europe, here in Strasbourg, a capital of Europe. However, I am fully aware that the particularly grave circumstances in which we find ourselves add specific overtones to my visit.

The values promoted by the Council of Europe should be a constant source of inspiration to us. François Mitterrand, who attended the Hague Congress in 1948, always reminded us that what Europe is really about is safeguarding hard-won freedoms and extending them to all. This has been the work of the Council of Europe over the years since. The Council of Europe now brings together 47 countries and 820 million citizens. All its member states have solemnly committed to ensuring that human beings are at the very heart of their legal systems. The Council of Europe is the depository for 211 conventions, of which France has ratified 135. At the very pinnacle of this construction is the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in Europe. France has always endeavoured to respect all the principles set out in that convention.

I would like to take this opportunity to commend you for your constant efforts to promote freedoms further, not only by pushing back the borders of Europe as you have done but by extending the scope for protection of freedoms at the same time. In that way, you have extended your remit to ethical questions, such as banning human cloning. You have also worked on the issue of human trafficking. You have fought hard against gender violence and worked tirelessly to protect personal data, as part of our right to privacy.

“France stands alongside the Council of Europe and I am confident that the Council of Europe stands alongside France in all efforts to promote peace, freedom and democracy”

Over and beyond those principles, however, we need binding mechanisms to ensure that we achieve compliance. That is the primary task of the European Court of Human Rights, whose president I have just met. I stress that France will carry out its duty when it comes to respecting the rulings of the Court. France has supported all reforms designed to improve the way in which the Court operates. In particular, I refer to the most recent protocols, namely Protocols 14 and 15, which France ratified. We are also preparing definitive adoption of the 16th Protocol. Our support for the Court is also designed to ensure that we achieve full implementation of those decisions. That is why we have adopted a law to ensure that we simplify procedures for delivering on criminal condemnations of France by the Court. That will also apply to the field of civil law. Decisions pertaining to individual civil status will be subject to re-examination every time a Court decision condemns France. That will apply, for example, to sex changes and changes to people’s civil status.

Every time the Court has adopted a decision, France has always ensured that our legislation is changed. In 2013, we introduced a specific offence regarding human trafficking. In 2014, our rules regarding pre-trial detention were subject to root-and-branch reform, so as to guarantee better rights for the defence during investigation. More recently, we have instigated the right to professional representation for members of the armed forces. Not only have we recognised that right; we have actually delivered on it.

I am also fully aware of France’s duty when it comes to the state of our prisons. We are fully aware of the implications of prison overcrowding and the need to move towards individual cells. The government recently announced a plan, with funding of more than €1 billion, for building new prisons. However, our prison policy involves a second problem, namely that of alternatives to imprisonment.

Those are just a few reasons why I believe so strongly in the role of the Council of Europe. You have done so much to promote the rule of law and to ensure that we all live up to the promises we have made. I pay tribute to the work of the Commissioner for Human Rights and the Venice Commission, both of which have played such an important role since 1990 in the transition in central and eastern Europe, in particular in the Balkans and today in Ukraine.

I also salute the work of the Council of Europe Development Bank. It is not sufficiently known, but it funds eminently social projects in 41 member States. Recently the Bank set up a specific fund designed to promote support for refugees and migrants. France feels honoured to be one of the three main shareholders of the institution.

Over almost 70 years, the Council of Europe has done an enormous amount to build a continent of peace, co-operation and freedom without precedent or equal elsewhere in the world. However, let us be aware of the fact that this movement could come to a brutal stop. It is subject to a series of threats such as terrorism, as well as the upsurge in populism and extremism, promoted to an extent by the refugee and migration crisis. We have heard all about nationalism and the rise in sovereignist movements, which give people the idea that individual countries can find all the answers they need. Even your role is starting to be questioned. Some people suggest that you are not in a position to protect your fellow citizens, as if freedom could be conceived as a limit and as if a state of emergency could adequately replace the rule of law.

Terrorism undermines the principle of democracy – it threatens it. Our principles, freedom and fundamental values are being targeted by these fanatics. France has been targeted several times, with horrific consequences and symbolic moments, including on 14 July, and in places where the attacks were designed to create the idea of a war of religions, including when a priest had his throat cut in a church. In other words, these terrorists are targeting our well-being. Young people were attacked because they wanted to spend an evening together in happiness.

France is not the only country that has been attacked; there have been many others within and beyond Europe. Many of our European neighbours have been attacked by the evil of terrorism, and no country is safe.

The Council of Europe has done its duty by drafting protocols on, for example, the prevention of terrorism, as well as by addressing the issue of foreign fighters. After the terrible attacks on 13 November, France was forced to invoke Article 15 of the Convention, which provides member States with the possibility of taking special measures under judicial control within the framework of emergency legislation. I did that following the attacks on 13 November. However, together with my government and Prime Minister Manuel Valls, I have been vigilant to ensure that all measures taken are proportionate, so as to ensure that the authorities have everything they need to ensure that house searches and house arrests involving dangerous individuals can be done in full compliance of the law.

A series of laws have been adopted in France since 2014, so as to strengthen our fight against terrorism. All of that legislation has been approved by the Constitutional Court. Moreover, you as members of this Assembly have also scrutinised that legislation. We have also committed to providing a legal framework, for the very first time in our history, for the activities of our intelligence services. It will be a comprehensive framework, so as to ensure that they can act effectively but, once again, in compliance with the law.

We cannot act alone when it comes to fighting Internet propaganda that encourages radicalisation. This is an issue that you in this Chamber have to deal with. You have an essential role to play when it comes to protecting privacy, but privacy can be circumvented by fanatics so as to peddle their propaganda. That is such a terrible danger for young people in our countries, encouraging them to leave for jihad.

France has taken the responsibility of closing down what some people referred to as prayer rooms, but which were in fact centres for propaganda for promoting hate. France has spearheaded efforts to expel hate preachers who use the freedom of speech to promote the most virulent forms of violence.

We will do our utmost, however, to ensure that nobody can stigmatise other communities, in particular Muslims. We will ensure that there is no confusion between our duty to protect our citizens and the need to guarantee religious freedoms in our country. We can never allow anybody to question those religious freedoms.

I have talked in the past about the importance of laïcité – secularism – here in France. It is a fundamental principle. According to the rules of laïcité, state funding of any religion is prohibited. Secularism gives every individual in our country the right to believe or not to believe and the right to practise their faith as long as they respect the principles of public order. Those rules are not the fruit of hastily adopted legislation. They are founded in principles that were first enunciated more than a century ago. Those same principles allow us to ensure that we can guarantee respect for freedom of conscience, while at the same time being free to prosecute those who provoke society and threaten our ability to live together in peace.

I feel that we have found the right balance and it is enough now to simply ensure that existing legislation is applied. Security is an essential need for our citizens. Our people want to be protected. However, security at the same time has to be compatible with the values of the rule of law. In France, for example, there is no question of opening detention centres for people being investigated by the intelligence services. That would be a violation of the rule of law, as one of its principles is that only judges can order the imprisonment of an individual.

I can also promise you that France will not be adopting exceptional legislation to tackle terrorism. That would be dangerous. We have specific judges and courts who are responsible for following procedure and who are doing an excellent job. Existing legislation allows us to act effectively. That is my message on behalf of a country that is caught up in fighting terrorism while safeguarding our fundamental principles. Clearly legislation has to change, but our legislation will remain in full compliance with our constitution. In the face of this threat and the efforts of terrorists to divide society and turn us against each other, exceptional measures will be taken against those who are trying to undermine our freedom, if necessary. Terrorists are trying to destroy our freedom, and we have a duty to defend it.

For several months, Europe has faced an unprecedented influx of refugees and migrants. The Syrian crisis has led to millions of refugees being forced to flee their country. Many fled to camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. I commend the efforts of those countries that have done so much. Other refugees and migrants have chosen to travel to Europe. I say “chosen”, but in fact they had no other option: they were fleeing violence and were forced into exile.

Europe took too long to find a common response. Our common response must be based on effective control of our external borders. That is a vital prerequisite if we are to provide a dignified reception for these refugees while establishing clear rules that they have to respect. That involves effort on sharing the burden of the refugees. Without effort on all these fronts, which involve the border control forces and legislative and non-legislative measures – I am talking about the right to asylum – Europe will be torn apart. The refugee question could tear Europe apart. France has done its duty. We will have accepted 30,000 refugees from Greece and Turkey by 2017. In parallel, we continue our resettlement programme in Jordan and Lebanon set up in co-operation with the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

France also has a large number of migrants and refugees within its borders. I know that the Assembly is aware of the tragic events in Calais. For far too long, a camp with at least 7,000 inmates has been home to people living in horrific conditions – people who have been forced to flee their countries. That is why I recently decided with my Government to dismantle the camp in Calais to ensure that we can provide dignified humane accommodation for the people who live in that camp. All the people who live in that camp will be entitled to accommodation during the period of their asylum request. As I have said so often before, people who are not entitled to seek asylum will be provided with travel back to their countries. We have a duty to deal fairly with asylum seekers.

We also have a duty to ensure that unaccompanied minors are dealt with in a fair, dignified and responsible way. We are addressing that question with the United Kingdom. Talks are under way to find solutions so that those children with family members in the United Kingdom can join their families. That is another prerequisite for removing the Calais camp. The dismantling of the camp will be a humanitarian action. Every inmate will be provided with accommodation elsewhere. We have put in place all the infrastructure necessary to deal with the problems of the camp in Calais and elsewhere, including Paris. Every person from the camp will be provided with a solution. France recognises its responsibility, but at the same time, however, this is a shared responsibility for all of us. We have to realise that we cannot dismantle the Calais camp without providing solutions throughout the country.

The values of the Council of Europe also underpin France’s diplomatic action beyond the borders of our country. In Ukraine, the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia and the destabilisation of the east of the country have created thousands of victims and thousands of displaced persons. As part of the Normandy format, I have personally undertaken, together with Chancellor Merkel, to seek a diplomatic solution to the conflict. This is the Minsk Agreement. I admit that progress has been too slow from the outset. We have to work hard to establish the political and security conditions necessary to ensure that elections are held in the east of the country under Ukrainian and international law, in line with the Minsk Agreement. Together with Chancellor Merkel, we are ready at any time to reconvene the Normandy format together with President Poroshenko and President Putin to ensure that we can fully deliver on the Minsk Agreement. Ukraine has to adopt the reforms promised, and the Council of Europe has an essential role to play in helping it do that.

France has certain major disagreements with Russia. For example, there is disagreement on Syria. The Russian veto on the French Security Council resolution prevented us from bringing an end to the bombing of cities and instigating a truce. The primary victims of that failure to act are the civilian population—the people who live and die under constant bombing. That is why I am convinced that we have a profound need for dialogue for Russia, but that dialogue must be firm and honest, otherwise it is pointless and a sham. That is why I reiterate my willingness to meet President Putin whenever he deems necessary. We have a duty to work together to promote peace, to bring an end to the bombing and to instigate a truce.

I also call for dialogue with Turkey. Turkey has borne the bulk of the burden in welcoming refugees. Turkey is a lynchpin when it comes to finding a solution to the conflict in Syria. On 14 and 15 July, Turkey was hit by a coup d’état. Turkey dealt with that coup and now has to ensure that our fundamental values prevail in the aftermath. That is France’s position: we are always committed to dialogue and to seeking peace. France’s position is to invoke the primacy of the Security Council, which is why we recently tabled our resolution. I remind the Assembly that the Russian resolution got just three votes, and the Russian veto prevented us from bringing the bombing to an end. Dialogue, responsibility, and seeking peace: that is what we believe in.

I felt that I had to talk about Syria today. Syria is a monumental challenge in the international community. Our very honour is at stake. Either we can live up to our honour by finding a solution or we will have to face the eternal shame of watching millions of Syrians leave their homes and suffer massacres, and allow terrorism, which has found a new breeding ground there, to put down deeper roots. That terrorism comes to us from Syria, both through its ideology and the terrorists which are sent here from Syria. In Aleppo, the very conscience of humanity is at stake. We have to do our utmost to ensure that Aleppo does not join the terrible list of martyred cities.

Ladies and gentlemen, I felt I had to share that message with you here today, because in this Chamber the values of principle, hope and democracy were established. Just after the Second World War, it was in this Chamber that we were able to launch those appeals for peace. Here in this Chamber, the first efforts for reunification were announced – efforts to bring together and reconcile countries which up until then lived under the yoke of totalitarianism and dictatorship.

The unstinting work of the Council of Europe is not yet completed, though – very much the contrary. In the difficult circumstances I have just described, we need the Council of Europe and its values more than ever. In 2019, the Council of Europe will be celebrating its 70th anniversary. France will be holding the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. We will also be organising the fourth summit to chart out the future of your Organisation.

So, ladies and gentlemen, that is my message to you – my message about the values which bring us all together. France stands shoulder to shoulder with the Council of Europe, and I am convinced that the Council of Europe will stand shoulder to shoulder with France in our untiring efforts to promote peace, freedom and democracy. Thank you.

The PRESIDENT (interpretation)

Mr President, thank you very much indeed for your address, which was incredibly interesting for all Members in the Chamber. A number of colleagues have questions they would like to put to you. I remind them that questions must be limited to 30 seconds and no more, and that they should not be speeches, but questions only. I first call Mr Nikoloski.

Mr NIKOLOSKI (“The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”), Spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party

Mr President, in your speech you mentioned the migrant crisis. Europe is facing one of the biggest migrant crises since the Second World War. At the moment, we see only one approach – that of finding a common solution as to how to protect, as you said, the external borders. Unfortunately, Europe is failing to do that. As you know, Macedonia is on the main migrant route and tried to contribute a lot last year with keeping to the decision on closing the border. Do you see other solutions if this plan fails, no matter whether that be because of a failed agreement between Brussels and Turkey or because it will be impossible to protect our external borders? Do you see alternatives as to how we deal with the migrant issue?

Mr Hollande, President of the French Republic (interpretation)

I have already spoken about the migrant crisis, because of course it concerns countries that are members of the European Union but also countries that are not members of the Union. In that regard, it is for the Europe of the 28 – still the 28 – to ensure protection of its borders, particularly within the Schengen area, but that of course can only be done in co-operation with other countries. Our first duty, therefore, is to control our borders and, in co-operation with Turkey, to implement the agreement that has been reached. But we must also look to what is happening elsewhere – other routes or itineraries that are being used by smugglers. I am very much aware of the fact that the Balkans are in the front line. That is why a number of measures were taken unilaterally by a certain number of countries. Europe needs to support the Balkans when it comes to controlling migratory flows. This is something that we have done, together with Germany, so that we can not only have proper control of our borders but give support to those countries that are concerned by migration.

Mr NICOLETTI (Italy), Spokesperson for the Socialist Group (interpretation)

Thank you very much, President Hollande, for your presence here this morning, for what you have said in your statement, and for recalling your faith and confidence in our institution – France of course being one of the founding members of this Organisation. Thank you for your support for a proposal currently under debate: that is, the convening of the fourth summit of heads of State and government, for which we believe there is an urgent need. I would like to have your views on that subject. You also touched on the Syrian tragedy. Is there something that you believe could be done straight away so that we can bring around the negotiating table the countries involved – not only Europe but Russia and Turkey?

Mr Hollande, President of the French Republic (interpretation)

Perhaps I could reiterate France’s intentions when it comes to 2019. We shall certainly do all in our power to ensure that we celebrate the event as befits it, and not just have a ritual or a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Organisation: we also need to take up some specific issues, as you have suggested.

On Syria, first and foremost, of course we need to ensure a truce – in other words, a cessation of hostilities on the ground and an end to the bombing so that humanitarian aid can be got into the regions in need. As I speak to you, no humanitarian aid can get through to Aleppo, so the civilian population is doubly hit with not only the bombing but hunger, poverty, and the absence of any kind of medical care: as we know, hospitals and medical facilities have been bombed in Aleppo. So, firstly, a truce is required so that we can get in humanitarian aid, and then we can start talking about negotiations that will of course have to include all the parties involved in the conflict—the countries in the region and also Russia and Turkey, and even Iran. We need around the negotiating table all those countries that are concerned by the tragedy that is unfolding in Syria. That is why the dialogue with Russia is necessary. But that dialogue can only take place on a clear foundation—a clear basis. When Russia vetoes a resolution that embodies the principles that I have just spoken about, then what can we say? How can we talk about taking further a dialogue that has been broken off? I hope that Russia can decide definitively to put an end to the bombing to which it is a party in terms of its support to the Syrian regime. As soon as that happens, we will embark together with Russia on the path towards dialogue.

Mr LEYDEN (Ireland), Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe

On my own behalf, and on behalf of the Irish delegation and my ALDE colleagues, I say fáilte – welcome – to President Hollande. We in Ireland are deeply concerned about the economic impact of Brexit, as we have a 499 km border with the United Kingdom, and €1 billion in trade in goods and services every week, and are the only country in Europe with a border, within Ireland, with the United Kingdom. Mr President, would you support Ireland having a representative at the negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom to protect our economic interests in this regard?

Mr Hollande, President of the French Republic (interpretation)

Brexit was a decision made by the British people and now, of course, that has to be fully respected and implemented. I had hoped that the negotiations would start quickly, but Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, prefers to put them off and open the negotiations in March, and we respect that. There can be no negotiations between now and then. As of March, the European Commission together with the European Council will be able to engage in negotiations that determine the conditions under which the United Kingdom will leave the European Union. Obviously, certain issues directly affect Ireland and that will have to be taken into consideration by European Commission negotiators, in close consultation with the Irish authorities. Having been to Ireland – I visited Dublin recently – I have made it clear what the situation is and what rules will need to be applied. At present, the United Kingdom is an integral part of the European Union, but when the negotiations start, what you said will have to be taken into consideration.

Mr GONCHARENKO (Ukraine), Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group (interpretation)

On 19 October, there will be a visit from the Russian Federation. Given the war crimes being committed by the Russian Federation in Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere, the illegal kidnapping of Sushchenko, a Ukrainian journalist, and given the danger that President Putin represents to the world as a whole, I call on you to cancel that meeting with President Putin. Is that possible?

Mr Hollande, President of the French Republic (interpretation)

Mr Putin, the President of the Russian Federation, was to visit Paris soon to participate in a number of ceremonies and inaugurations. I agreed to a meeting only if it was possible to talk about Syria. I have made it clear to President Putin that if he was to come to Paris, I would not join him at those ceremonial occasions, but that I would be prepared to meet him in order to continue a dialogue on Syria. He preferred to put the visit off, but there will be other opportunities to meet him. In any event, he will not come to Paris.

Mr PSYCHOGIOS (Greece), Spokesperson for the Group of the Unified European Left

Thank you for your presence in our Assembly today, Mr Hollande. Under the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter, fundamental social and economic rights must be guaranteed within member States. However, recent reforms in various countries, including France, have led to further deregulation of the labour market and collective bargaining. How is that compatible with the standards set by the Council of Europe, taking into account the fact that that recipe proved totally unsuccessful when applied to other countries, such as Greece?

Mr Hollande, President of the French Republic (interpretation)

Let me reassure you that French laws and the French labour code recognise the existence of trade unions and, indeed, even strengthen trade unions. The principles of collective bargaining and social dialogue are required at company level and sector level. All the rules and standards of the International Labour Organisation are followed in France. If there is a single country in Europe or the world that has genuine protection of workers, providing for an appropriate balance between the protection of workers and labour productivity, it is France. It will continue to be such a country as long as I am the President of France.

The PRESIDENT (interpretation)

Thank you, Mr President. Six speakers from the Assembly will now have the floor to ask questions, and the President will answer all the questions in one go. The first speaker will be Mr Schwabe.

Mr SCHWABE (Germany) (interpretation)

Thank you for underlining the importance of renewing the values of the Council of Europe and for announcing that there will be a summit. It is important to protect what we have already and to implement existing measures. You mentioned that you met the President of the European Court of Human Rights. Unfortunately, a number of judgments that were handed down are not being enforced, not only in Russia but in the UK, and the system is being called into question. What can you do to ensure that the European convention on human rights is properly protected and that judgments are enforced?

Ms FATALIYEVA (Azerbaijan) (interpretation)

Your excellency, Mr President, sceptics feel that the policy of multiculturalism has exhausted itself, but experience shows that only a celebration of the ideas of multiculturalism, taking its roots from European values, carries a deadly threat to terrorism. In a society where there is sympathy and empathy with those from other ethnicities and religions, there is no place for the germs of intolerance and hatred, which are the main source of terrorism. Do you agree that multiculturalism in European politics as a means of combating terrorism has not exhausted itself, and what can be done to raise the status of this idea in Europe?

Mr VAREIKIS (Lithuania)

Mr President, France is one of the countries responsible for the Minsk Agreement concerning the Ukraine. What is your opinion of that agreement? Does it fulfil your expectations, or is it failing, and what is your finalité politique? What has to happen in Ukraine? Should there be deliberations or a frozen conflict, or something else?

Mr OMTZIGT (Netherlands)

You are rightly very concerned about the terrorist attacks in France. Many European citizens, including Dutch and French citizens, have joined Daesh/ISIS and participate in genocide. What is France going to do to make sure that these people face justice? Yesterday, we gave a prize to Nadia Murad, who survived ISIS in horrendous conditions. She told us that not one of them is on trial yet. Will you make sure that your own citizens face trial and ensure that a special tribunal will be set up in the United Nations Security Council for the genocide crimes of ISIS?

Mr SABELLA (Palestine, Partner for Democracy) (interpretation)

We appreciate the unstinting efforts by France and by you, Mr President, in seeking a resolution of the conflict based on a two-state solution. Our people – the Palestinians – are counting on your support and the successful outcome of this initiative. What do you think the prospects are of an international conference being held? If Israel were not to commit to that, would France be willing to recognise the existence of Palestine as a state? What role do you think the Council of Europe can play to ensure that the French initiative is successful?

Mr CEPEDA (Spain) (interpretation)

Welcome, President. I want to ask you about the split in Europe on security and the need to value citizens’ fundamental rights. The duality is clear in France, which is in a state of emergency. We have seen the terrible effects of the financial crisis, but the real drama in our society now relates to inequality, which is undermining people’s trust in democracy and leading to a surge in nationalism. What do you think about the role of social policy? Is there a conflict between the security and defence policies that we need in this fight?

Mr Hollande, President of the French Republic (interpretation)

First, if judgments handed down by the European Court of Human Rights are not being enforced, our determination to ensure that the law prevails and is applied should be called into question. In France, there is a rule that whenever the European Court of Human Rights makes a judgment we apply it, which can have consequences for domestic political life as it is not all that easy to implement such things from a legislative point of view. Professional representation for members of the armed forces marked a change in how our defence is organised, but we accepted it. It is a serious matter that exceptions and threats of withdrawal are being made one after another. The Court is being called into question, but I cannot accept the possibility of countries withdrawing or failing to apply its decisions. Some political forces, including in my country, seem to be suggesting that the rules of the European Convention on Human Rights do not have to be applied and that countries can remove themselves from the Court’s jurisdiction, but that would sound the death knell of a process that started several decades ago. We must be fully aware of the danger that we face.

I was asked how it is possible to maintain shared values with religions in different countries. France is secular, enabling religions to co-exist and guaranteeing religious freedom. We want all religions to be represented, but we do not want them to influence public life. In other words, legislation and laws should have primacy over religion. People are free to practise religion and that should always be possible. We can live together. We do not need to derogate from the principle of secularism in France.

Turning to the Minsk agreements, their purpose is peace. That and the territorial integrity of Ukraine are still the main aims, but elections must be held for those outcomes to be possible. We need a process at the end of which the Ukrainian Government can reclaim its borders. The process has different stages and each has to be carried out and respected. We need a cease-fire, security and the withdrawal of weapons and then elections must be held. The process for eastern Ukraine will involve parties from Ukraine and Russia, but it will also involve France and Germany because we were there when the agreements were signed. That is why I am willing, in the context of the Normandy format and along with Chancellor Merkel, to take further steps with a view to the full implementation of the agreements. Otherwise, it will simply become a frozen conflict like many others, which would represent a serious shortcoming of international law and would continue to heighten tensions, resulting in more fatalities – there were serious incidents not that long ago. We must do everything we can to ensure that the Minsk agreements are fully implemented.

Another question related to foreign fighters. While it is true that some young French people have left to take up jihad and fight in Syria or Iraq, we introduced a preventive provision to criminalise them when they return to France. If an individual ever comes back to France, legal proceedings will immediately begin against them and they will be convicted for what they have done. We must take the fight against Daesh and Islamic State to its bitter end and that is why France is a part of the coalition in Iraq and in Syria. We need to face up to our responsibilities and our actions in Syria and Iraq. We are currently preparing attacks against ISIL and to win back Mosul. I want to make a distinction here and say that Aleppo is not Mosul. Mosul is under the complete control of Islamic State, and the Iraqi authorities, with the help of coalition forces, want to liberate it. We will make every effort to ensure that civilians do not become victims. Aleppo is being indiscriminately bombed, regardless of whether civilians might be affected. They are the main victims. I will not allow a parallel to be drawn between Aleppo and Mosul.

In the question on Palestine, we were reminded of the French initiative designed to bring to the table all the countries that want to play a part in securing a peaceful solution to the conflict. That process has many different stages that need to be reached to allow Israelis and Palestinians to carry out direct negotiations. It is not about replacing them, but about resuming negotiations.

I am not necessarily in favour of the Security Council taking the initiative, or the United Nations General Assembly. We know that in the Security Council we would be doomed to failure. That is why we have taken the initiative. Our hope is that if we work with other partners to bring about a solution, the Israelis and Palestinians can draw on our joint work, enabling this conference to serve a useful purpose and role.

On the last question I was asked, it is true that since 13 November last year France has been under a state of emergency, which has been prolonged. The state of emergency is an opportunity for the administrative authorities to carry out a number of searches and house arrests, but they still have to be done under the purview and control of judges and parliament. Appeals have been lodged against a number of the decisions and measures taken, and we respect every decision handed down by a judge.

We are trying to extricate ourselves from the state of emergency, but as I am sure the Assembly can understand, when events such as the appalling one in Nice on 14 July occur, we are compelled to prolong the state of emergency. France was attacked, on such a symbolic day, in such a wonderful city and on the Promenade des Anglais, which is known by everyone throughout the world. The aim of the terrorists who carried out the attack was to kill as many people as possible, people who were simply attending a fireworks display. To prolong the state of emergency was necessary and legitimate to give ourselves the resources needed to tackle the situation. However, the state of emergency will not be permanent, because what is most important is the rule of law.

Social rules and collective responsibility are a difficult thing, because what is problematic is collective intelligence, not individual intelligence. The role of the Assembly is to contribute to our collective intelligence. The role of the highest-level decision-making bodies and meetings between heads of state and of government is to ensure that such intelligence is properly applied. It is striking that if we add individual intelligence to another form of individual intelligence, the result is not collective intelligence. We all need to be serving a greater interest or purpose for collective intelligence to win out. The greater intelligence is all those values that we defend and share.

Even if we do not share the same views, what is most important for all of us, and what counts, is the values of democracy, freedom and peace. We are trying to avoid facing tragedies such as have occurred in the past. That is what the Council of Europe is all about. It was created in the wake of past such tragedies. We often feel that tragedies occur far from our borders, and tragedies are indeed occurring beyond our borders, but not that far away – Syria is one. There are also tragedies that might return and revisit us within our borders and, if we look at some extremist behaviour, there are direct threats.

What do we need to do? We need to be intelligent, clear and determined, and I have no doubt that that is the position of the entire Assembly. Thank you.

The PRESIDENT (interpretation)

Mr President, I thank you very much indeed for your address, which was of great interest to all members of the Assembly. That brings to an end the questions to President Hollande of France. I again thank him very much for coming to our Assembly today.