UCL FACULTY OF LAWS

Institute of Global Law

Speech on Security and Democracy by the French Minister of Interior, M. Dominique de Villepin
Gray's Inn
London, 27 October 2004

My Lords,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

It is a great pleasure for me to address your prestigious assembly today. It is a huge honour and I must confess : it is a huge surprise. To what do I owe this distinction? To the fact that I am a Frenchman? Or is it because I wrote a book on Napoleon? Maybe simply because, like you, I strive to be an advocate for freedom.

You embody the British legal tradition serving justice and the common good. You are the guarantors of the Rule of Law and, therefore, of respect for democracy.

Even though the French are renowned for their Cartesian approach, I would like to begin with a paradox: never have democratic values been so widespread and never have they been so threatened by doubt.

Today, the number of democratic States is indeed continually increasing:

  • Since the fall of the Berlin wall, no big bloc any longer disputes or challenges the superiority of the democratic model. There used to be two choices, two types of social organisation; only one is left.
  • From the Middle East to Latin America and throughout Africa, democratic ideals are increasingly becoming the obvious choice for all peoples. Everybody knows today that democracy is a value and an opportunity.

But democracy seems confronted by a crisis of confidence within the very countries where it originated.

  • Faced with the new threats of terrorism, cybercrime and proliferation, some doubt the capacity of democratic regimes to cope. To guarantee our security, confronted by enemies who do not respect our values, should we not, for a while, forego our principles?
  • Furthermore, democracies do not seem to want to defend strongly enough the ideals of justice and freedom underpinning them. We are witnessing, some of us with anxiety, an indifference of citizens that Tocqueville had already diagnosed as the main danger for democracy.Faced with this crisis, France and the United Kingdom have a specific responsibility : both our countries have pioneered democracy. The United Kingdom, with the Magna Carta which dates from the thirteenth century. And France, which has drawn on the philosophy of the Age of Enlightenment for its ideals of 1789.
  • Both our countries have always known how to overcome the ordeals which are the natural lot of democracies; it was Churchill who steered this country - with blood, sweat and tears - towards victory and independence. It was de Gaulle who asserted the legitimacy of the Republic against the legality of a regime which had betrayed its own origins.
  • Today, both our countries must find the right balance between the citizens’ legitimate longing for security and the defence of civil liberties. What both our countries must do, is to define the means towards a truly democratic security.

* * *
1. Let us be guided by two principles : firmness and rigour. Firmness in the face of threats, and rigour in our commitment to uphold the very principles of democracy: freedom, respect and justice.
From the outset, both our democracies have faced this fundamental tension; how can we guarantee the freedom of individuals while imposing upon them the necessary constraints of society?

  • This issue pervades the Habeas Corpus of 1679, which asserts the need to protect citizens’ rights against any arbitrary power. It is to be found ten years on, in your Bill of Rights which lists the basic individual freedoms.
  • Hobbes and Locke went even further : Hobbes asserted that it was necessary to entrust the State with the sole power of legitimate violence, so as to guarantee the safety of citizens: thus, the State asserts itself as a bulwark against barbarism. Locke, for his part, asserted that the ultimate objective of political society, formed by common assent, was to safeguard its members.
  • Following upon these precepts, Rousseau sketched, in "Le Contrat social" , the right balance between individual freedom and the general will. Freedom and private property were won after a protracted struggle against absolute power. They became constitutional rights, for each and everyone and protected by laws, while the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen on 26 August 1789 established personal safety as a natural and inalienable right for mankind.
  • These principles today still inspire our western democracies: “there is no freedom without law, or when somebody is above the law”. Like surveyors, democratic governments must ensure order, as this is the guarantee of our freedoms.

As soon as they stray from either of these imperatives of safety and freedom, democracies are fragile.

  • We saw this in the troubled Europe of the Thirties: let us remember the tragic failure of the Weimar Republic and the second Spanish Republic. These regimes did not know how to respond to a rise of political extremism.
  • We see it in Afghanistan where democracy needs stability so as to take root. This is the reason why the priority for the international community, as early as October 2001, was to ensure internal security there. The elections held this month offer a ray of hope in that country torn by war.
  • Lastly, we are seeing this in Iraq, where democracy finds it hard to assert itself when it is imposed by force and from outside.

There as well as here, democracy is never secured for good. It requires the constant struggle of women and men who believe in it.

* * *
2. Today, this difficult balance between freedom and security is being put to the test.
The 9/11 attacks have ushered in an era of fear in our countries. And everybody knows that fear is democracy’s worst enemy.

  • It leads to nations turning in on themselves and rejecting others. The surge of extremist movements in many European countries bears testimony to this.
  • It strengthens a feeling that the public authorities are powerless and that the citizens are left to fend for themselves.
  • In a universe which moves at the instantaneous pace of the world media and of images, it contributes to hasty judgements which breed disorder and hatred.

The threats we are all confronted by cannot but fuel this feeling of fear. Indeed, they follow radically new rules.

  • They are changing: they use state of the art technologies, from satellite communications to the most sophisticated financial techniques.
  • They are interconnected : money laundering facilitates drug trafficking which feeds the underground economy. Terrorist groups may try to take advantage of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction : couldn’t they be striving to possess biological, chemical or radiological weapons so as to create fear and ever more destruction ?
  • Threats are more and more violent. Obviously, it is the case for terrorism: from the eleventh of September to the eleventh of March, western societies learned that the worst is always possible and that terrorists will never hesitate to destroy more, to wound more. But global violence also feeds day-to-day violence and aggressive behavior, which undermines the very fabric of our societies. New forms of crime are soaring, such as car-jacking, and break-ins when householders are present, which especially traumatize victims.
  • At last, increasingly, these threats are difficult to localize and, therefore, appear all the more threatening: how can we accurately measure the NRBC risk in a specific place ? How can we reliably assess the extent of transnational criminal activity ?

Overall, we knew of specific, local and temporary threats. We now feel a general, global and continuous threat. Faced with this new reality, our fellow citizens' expectations are high. They require from governments a keen sense of their responsibilities and the ability to strengthen security measures without undermining individual freedoms.

***
3. The first priority is to reaffirm the authority of governments.

Let our two countries be in the forefront of the battle against all forms of crime and threats. My friend David BLUNKETT and I have already shared our views on this key issue and agreed for the most part. Let us adapt to the world as it evolves.

Against terrorism first:

  • We need ever more targeted and ever more strategic intelligence. To address this requirement, I have given our security forces strengthened technological resources for phone-tapping and in the field of cryptology. I have also intensified overall coordination between intelligence services, creating an Interministerial Intelligence Committee. We have two agencies gathering intelligence at home, a bit like your Special Branch and MI5, and I have made sure they work better together. That’s also where international cooperation can make a strong contribution, especially through the bilateral information exchanges which are so fruitful between our two countries.
  • Beyond better use of intelligence, we must block the spread of radical Islamism. It is used as a breeding ground for terrorism. It is a threat to our societies’ cohesion. This requires legal powers to allow the expulsion from France of all those who call for hatred and violence, without making any distinction as to what form of hatred they preach. For example, as soon as I entered the Interior Ministry, I realized that the Order of 1945 allowed the expulsion of foreigners who make racist or anti-Semitic statements, but not those who preach the need to beat women. This situation was both inconsistent and dangerous for the citizens of France. A foreigner calling for violence against a specific religious community has no place in France. Nor does an individual who advocates punishments like stoning. So, I backed the equivalent in France of a private member's Bill that modified this order.

Second, we must tackle Organized Crime:

  • Organized crime networks operate in our countries with more and more violent methods and increasingly developed financial, human and material resources. They destabilize entire areas, through the underground economy.
  • I decided to attack these groups from many different angles, with police as well as financial and tax operations. The creation, by the President of the Republic, of Regional Intervention Groups enables the pooling of what were, until then, separate approaches against the underground economy: today, security forces, judicial, tax and customs agents are cooperating within the 29 Intervention Groups.
  • I have also established an asset forfeiture unit, in which Interior, Justice and Finance Ministry services will be able to find the possessions of traffickers, both in France and abroad, to make it easier to seize them : our purpose is to asphyxiate these criminal networks by depriving them of their resources.
  • Furthermore, an Act adopted in January this year gives increased legal powers to police services involved in the fight against this sort of crime. In order to facilitate interviews, police custody can now be extended to 96 hours. Police forces are now also allowed to do night searches.

Third, we must also join forces against cybercrime

  • In France, now, there are 25 millions of net surfers, who enjoy the exceptional freedom that the Internet provides, but who are also exposed to many attacks. Attacks against their goods, through swindles and credit card fraud, which have risen by more than 30%. Attacks against companies and public services. Attacks against our most basic values: 464 cases of child pornography were recorded in 2003, 156 race hate crimes.
  • Faced with this fast developing trend, I wanted to rethink our methods. We need an accurate picture of cybercrime in order to target our operations more precisely. Furthermore, better training for our police forces and the creation of two sections tasked specifically with detecting illicit content, will satisfy this imperative. Finally, we have set up a network of experts, drawing on university specialists and Research centres, to stay one step ahead of the criminals in the field of technology.

Fourth, I want to mobilize new tools against illegal immigration networks, which supply illegal workers and women for procuring networks:

  • At national level, the plan for secure electronic ID cards will make life easier for everyone and enhance the security of documents such as passports, birth certificates, etc.. The introduction of biodata such as facial recognition or fingerprints on passports, ID cards and visas, will curtail document forgery. It will also help identify individuals through the use of digital analysis techniques by cameras, scanners and mini computers.
  • In this field, our two countries are usefully pooling their efforts. We are promoting exchanges between technical and scientific police services, which have a lot to learn from each other. On 30 June, we hosted a first meeting and identified ways forward. For example, the special branch of the metropolitan police wishes to expand the use of all the available scientific and technical resources in the fight against terrorism and to create a new synergy between databases. I welcome its proposal to exchange and match these data against information held by the Directorate General of the French national police.

This battle against crime is important.

Yet, and this is the main point I want to make tonight, this necessity for an efficient fight against crime must not lead us to forget the fundamental rules of democratic life.

More than ever, we must respect our values. When confronted with barbarism, dictatorship or violence, democracy is strong because it refuses to use the same tools as the opponent. It is strong because it has in-built checks to ensure its decisions are regularly reviewed. It is strong because it respects self-imposed rules:

  • A rule of transparency: the citizens must be able to monitor the progress of the fight against crime through regular, unbiased information. In France, we have two tools at our disposal for this: first of all, the 4001 statistical statement, which gives the Interior Ministry figures for reported crime and police activity; then, there is the crime watchdog, an independent body whose aim is to deliver a thorough long-term analysis of crime. We need unrestrained and public access to this data because it is important for bolstering the general public's faith in government action: the fight against insecurity must be everyone’s fight.
  • A rule of clarity: where the fight against terrorism is concerned the public authorities must give the general public a truthful assessment of the threat level, and inform them of the measures taken and of what is expected of them. This is why I have chosen to create a national database on terrorism, with public access and monitored by an independent expert. It will avoid both the manipulation and withholding of information. It will also allow the media to convey truthful information and the evaluation of public policies.
  • A rule of control: the government must ensure the existence at all times of authorities capable of evaluating the means deployed to ensure security and their impact on personal freedoms. It is a job for freely-constituted associations of citizens, professional organizations and trade unions. They can evaluate and judge the measures taken to fight insecurity, be it in the workplace, at school, in the street or in public institutions. They can also expose any negative and intolerable restrictive effects of these measures on personal freedoms. Independent watchdogs, whose missions and terms of reference are laid down by law, can also contribute: thus, my ministry is cooperating closely with the national commission for computer science and liberties. This authority issues mandatory opinions on sensitive matters, as it has done recently for the establishment of a new judicial police database and the national database of genetic prints. Not only does it ensure a close and permanent monitoring of the way these new systems are used. It also monitors how long the data is kept and how it is updated, as well as the clearance criteria for the personnel allowed to see the data, and access rights for the individuals concerned.

Let me stress this again, efficiency ensures the necessary respect of our core values : we will not tolerate databases created to address protective and security issues being used for other purposes. I will see to it that this principle is strictly respected.

At the heart of this new system, we must therefore rely on the Courts to exercise the necessary control on government decisions and acts, and to make sure that these respect basic human rights.

This is an essential part of the right balance which we strive to find.

  • It is a necessity for States individually : where deportations are concerned, for instance, judges must be able to assess independently, and with full knowledge of the facts, if it is or isn't necessary to deport a specific individual.
  • It is also a European reality, thanks to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, based on the 1950 European Convention. In France, just as in the United Kingdom, national law has evolved in line with European case-law. It is a asset both for us and for Europe.
    Respect for the rules, the role of the Courts, restoring the authority of governments –these are the pillars on which to go on building and strengthening our democracies. To cast aside our fundamental principles would be to betray the ideal that has guided us for so long, whether in France or in Britain.
  • How could we look other peoples in the eye if we didn't respect the democratic principles that we wish to see upheld everywhere?
  • Would our democratic systems have any legitimacy left if we challenge the most fundamental rights of our citizens under the pretext of guaranteeing their security?
  • By doing this would we not simply be giving criminals an uncontested victory?4. And this is why, today, security is a global necessity, which requires a collective strategy.

Let's look our world straight in the face:

  • It is teeming with innovations and new opportunities. Access to knowledge is easier. Information is, therefore, open to all. More and more, we are living at the same, incessant, collective pace. But this growing interconnection between the world of people and ideas, on the one hand, and the world of goods and services, on the other, can be a source of weakness. Many believe they live in a world which is both more complex and yet more vulnerable, more knowledgeable and yet more fragile. Modernity seems to move forward without giving itself the tools to control the consequences of its creations.
  • Thus, we need organisation for our collective security. We need to work on a different, an international scale in order to address the new threats. We must give ourselves the means to work together. It's all the more true as the increasing imbalance between countries creates even more movements of people and goods: migratory flows from southern countries to northern countries are getting more and more difficult to control. Drug trafficking is expanding from countries like Afghanistan, where the profit from heroin could account for 50% of GNP. Organised crime routes link European countries to nearby regions like the Balkans.

We are confronted by many of these issues not only at the national level but at the European level. Therefore, the drafting of common strategies must be part of our response. That requires some degree of approximation, for example to ensure interoperability or greater dialogue between Courts of different countries. It also requires the strenghtening of common instruments, such as Europol and Eurojust. Let’s be pragmatic, but pragmatism must not be an excuse for minimalist action into this key area. What is at stake, here, is not ideological battles but the security and basic freedoms of our citizens.

The original aspect of building Europe is, precisely, to start from the needs of citizens and devise common, concrete, methods of cooperating. That means cooperating in Europe when the relevant problem affects the whole of Europe. This is why it constitutes a true testing ground for modernity, a model for the future organisation of the world.

  • It's true for the fight against drug trafficking. We know that the drug routes are crossing our countries, ignoring the borders. In Florence, within the framework of the G5, I made proposals which have been adopted as the basis of a coherent European response. The creation of joint platforms along the Atlantic shoreline and in the Balkans will strengthen our strike force, just like the deployment of joint liaison officers in South America, Middle East and Asia and the training of joint investigation teams.
  • It's even more relevant for the fight against illegal immigration. Naturally, a strict national policy is needed : as a result of my efforts, in less than one year the number of undocumented foreigners escorted back to the border has risen by 40%. I have also given mayors the necessary powers to improve the supervision of the proofs of residence they issue. But this policy can only be efficient in the long term if there is real European cooperation. Today, Europe is our common territory thanks to the freedom of movement which is at the heart of the European Union. So, it is Europe that needs to be protected against illegal immigration, and we need to do so with due regard for the principles of our European project. Here again, I offered suggestions, during the last G5 of Interior Ministers, on how we could develop a European security plan, stepping up border controls and expanding, on a much more ambitious scale, our cooperation with the countries of origin. If we are working together at both ends, I'm sure we'll get lasting results. Especially as we have some effective technical tools: Eurodac, which stores the fingerprints of any asylum seeker or illegal immigrant, aged 14 and over, whose identity has been controlled in the European Union. We can also use the Schengen Information System, which, from 2006 should contain fingerprints and details of all foreigners under expulsion orders in a member State.

The main task, now, is to promote the widest possible use of those operating rules. Europe, when united, has enough authority to make itself heard and to press for the universal respect of the principles and methods it is committed to.

  • We need a radically different security approach, a global one. Some threats demand no less. Can anyone imagine facing climate change or a world-wide health scare on their own ?
  • Let's take terrorism: we need a detailed analysis to wage a coherent, concerted battle. This means an analysis that distinguishes between ideologists, organisers and bombers. I thus suggested focussing on the most dangerous link. At the Sheffield G5, we agreed, upon this suggestion, to systematically share our lists of radical Islamists who have attended training camps. This is a concrete example of how to target our action better by working together.
  • Let's go back to the case of health threats: the diagnosis of a virus is the first and probably the most important challenge. On it depends the launching of an appropriate treatment. Again, we can already count on a United Nations body, the World Health Organization. Knowledge is the beginning of reassurance.
  • It is indeed difficult to agree on how to decide on the response, how to implement it and on the seriousness and the immediacy of any threat. But that’s not a reason to give up. On the contrary, we need to go towards world-wide democracy. Only world-wide democracy, by which I mean a multilateral response to these challenges, will allow us to define with the necessary legitimacy obligations which everyone must comply with. This is how our two countries will be true to the values and principles they have always embodied.

***
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In France, probably as well as in Britain, we are aware that we’re living in difficult times. Politics are in need of a new compass.

But we often forget that this hardship is also a new opportunity: an opportunity for governments to prove their sense of responsibility, an opportunity for citizens to reaffirm how committed they are to democratic principles.

Europe has to seize this opportunity to set an example, to make heard the voice of responsibility, the united voice of peoples all over the world, the voice of faithfulness to the human condition itself. A hundred years after the Entente Cordiale, France and Britain can once again, through their exemplary cooperation, show the way and together plough the furrow of freedom.

In saying this, I am thinking of the “Lettres sur la Nation anglaise”, that Voltaire published in 1733, in your language, after his two and a half years of exile in England. He discovered here the virtue of tolerance and praised your political mores, celebrating in your country “the temple of liberty ”.

Today, between our two nations – I feel it after my few hours of exile – the fascination is still intact. Coming to France when you’re British, like coming to Britain when you’re French, means being prepared to face new surprises. There is indeed between us this mirror of strangeness, this inexhaustible well of mystery which is the source of all true passion. Between you and us, there will be many more centuries of Entente Cordiale.
Thank you.

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