MAINTENANCE. Emmanuel Macron in Montpellier: France must “reinvent relations with Africa”

the essential Emmanuel Macron was present this Friday in Montpellier for the Africa-France summit. On this occasion, the Head of State granted an interview to our colleagues from Midi Libre. The President evokes relations with Africa, visa quotas and the creation of an innovation fund.

Why did you opt for this unprecedented format, without an African head of state, at the risk of diplomatic tensions?

It is a commitment that I made in Ouagadougou, at the end of the year 2017. I had proposed to convert looks, to change approach so that the relationship with Africa is from civil society to civil society. We see it here in Montpellier, it is young people, sometimes not so young, researchers, entrepreneurs, athletes, artists… who are there first of all because they have something to say. Because they carry projects. And our will is to build a new relationship with this generation. It should not be underestimated that Africa is a continent where two-thirds of the population is under 30 years.

The next summits will be without heads of state?

There will always be institutional summits, because there are subjects which depend on the States. When we talk about security, the economic and fiscal framework… it is the governments that decide. Governments for which we do everything to be as democratic and transparent as possible. But we must reinvent the relationship we have with Africa by trying to respond to past trauma but also by building new partnerships.

Can this summit change scale?

One of the objectives that we have set ourselves within the framework of the French presidency of the European Union (as of January 1 2022, Editor’s note), is to organize a Summit between the European Union and African Union during the first semester 2022. It too will make it possible to rebuild a new deal, a new deal, with Africa. We must have this permanent back and forth between more institutional Summits, meetings of Heads of State to Heads of State that make it possible to advance major projects and the need that civil societies have today to develop. their own projects.

You announced an innovation fund of 30 million euros. Will this be enough for the ambitions?

Above all, it has to work well. We have decided to increase solidarity investment and unprecedented loans from the French Development Agency. We will go back from 0, 55% of GDP to 0.7%. For over 10 years, the curve had been declining. We are investing a lot and we will continue to do so in new sectors and new methods.

Is the method recommended by the Cameroonian intellectual Achille Mbembé in his report?

Exactly. It is knowing how we invest in civil society so that we help to prepare alternatives to African political and civil life. And that we contribute to a recognition training objective. This method must be backed by African energy and a form of independence. If this tool were an instrument at the service of the governments in place, it would not work. No more than in the service of French diplomacy. It must be at the service of the ambitions that the African peoples carry for themselves.

Journalist Olivier Dubois is being held hostage in Mali. How do you plan to act to free him?

It is first necessary that the competent services can be in contact with his family. We take care of all our nationals when they are in such a situation. We will work, but in this area, discretion is the sister of efficiency.

There is this anti-French feeling that is growing in some African countries…

This feeling, I do not want to generalize it, but it exists. It is the fruit of a badly digested history. We must therefore have the courage to face this colonial and post-colonial history. We must then continue these initiatives which are likely to meet the demands of the African people. Afterwards, this anti-French feeling is exploited by other powers, neo-imperial and sometimes post-colonial themselves. And when I look at who pays the people who harbor these anti-French sentiments and disseminate them, these are generally Russian networks, Turkish networks, people who want to develop their own influence. No one should be naive in this matter. But I do not tolerate certain speeches, in particular the one we heard in Mali. I say it with sincerity: that people who express themselves thus come and say it eye to eye to a mother who lost her son for the freedom of Mali.

You have reduced the number of visas for the Maghreb countries, will France continue in this direction?

Our visa policy is consistent with our strategy, France is a country that gives visas every day to students, entrepreneurs, women and men who build bridges between our two countries. We have visas, exchanges, people arrive in an irregular situation and seek asylum, we examine their cases as quickly as possible and we protect them. And there are people who are refused asylum and who have come without a visa, they are in an irregular situation, we must be able to accompany them back to their country. It is the rule. If we do not accept this last term, nothing makes sense. You don’t even need to have visas anymore because that means you can stay in an irregular situation and never be deported. Today our policies are not effective enough in terms of escapes to the border to the countries of origin because there is a lack of collaboration from the countries in general.

For more than four years, I have worked hard to improve these figures in a very respectful and cooperative manner. For a little over a year now, we have had a policy of identifying foreigners in an irregular situation and considered to be dangerous. Three countries cooperate little or not with our desire to accompany people in an irregular situation in an established way and considered to be dangerous. While it is important even for the security of our country. For these three countries we decided to correlate the visa policy by saying we are not going to zero but we will reduce it from 30 to 50% to re-engage cooperation and it is in the process of being done, it is in the process of restarting. I do it both with a lot of lucidity and high standards and a lot of respect and discernment, certain categories such as students are not concerned, moreover, but our compatriots have a right to expect that. There is no hospitality if there is no respect. And there cannot be generosity if there is not shared security. I think that’s common sense.

But how do you live the fact that this has become a subject of debate in France, fueled in particular by Eric Zemmour?

I have always pursued this policy and we cannot say that there would not be a path between stigmatization and withdrawal and irenism which leads to inefficiency and which very quickly would no longer be supported by our compatriots. I think that France is a great universalist and generous country which has vocation to legitimately defend its interests, its security, its balances but which at the same time has a universal vocation and a generosity. It is this balance that I defend. I think this is our historical vocation.

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