Defence and the armed forces were only mentioned briefly by French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe during his general policy statement before the National Assembly today (4 July). But the brevity of the remarks was countered by the cross-party and unanimous applause they drew.
As a tribute to the courage of the French, Philippe declared:* “The French are brave, they have been facing terrorism, and not only the police officers, gendarmes, soldiers or customs officers who fight this threat and who are too often targeted, but all the French. Confronted by this danger they have not modified their habits, let alone renounced their values. There is a form of quiet but real courage in our country that we can be proud of.”
And then he added: “The threat is everywhere, diffuse, not a month goes by without projects being dismantled or acts prevented. Let us take a moment to think of the victims, the more than 200 killed on our soil, the hundreds of wounded, their loved ones who must learn to live with pain, with grief and with absence. I want to pay tribute to all those we see, policemen, gendarmes, the soldiers of Operation Sentinelle, watching over our security every day, those fighting on foreign theatres of operation, in the Sahel or in the Levant, and to all those whom we do not see and will never know, our soldiers in the shadow we can be so proud of, many of whom have given their lives for our freedom. ”
However, the plea made earlier this year by the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, Gen. Pierre de Villiers, that 2% of GDP should be spent on defence by 2022 and not 2025 (which we wrote about here) has gone unheeded. While declaring “that we will give them the means to defend us” and that a “military programming law will be adopted by 2018“, the Prime Minister slipped in that this law would allow spending of “2% of GDP on defence by 2025” enabling “France to fight on all fronts.”
Talking plainly, Philippe warned that “there will be other attacks, other dramas, other innocent lives cut down, we will never get used to it and we will not lower our guard, but like the French people we will confront this threat with calm and cold determination. We will be extremely tough in our fight against terrorism but without losing track of who we are, a constitutional state and, moreover, the French Republic.”
He also spoke about European defence, saying that in “The European agenda of this government … [the latter was going to] work for a Europe that […] will be able to advance its defence policy“.
At the end of the day the Assembly approved this general policy statement with a public ballot. Voted in favour: 370 parliamentarians; voted against: 67 parliamentarians; abstained: 129 parliamentarians.
*The translation of Philippe’s remarks into English is mine, the official version being as yet unavailable