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Daily Press Briefing France Foreign Affairs


DAILY PRESS BRIEFING Statements made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson

CZECH REPUBLIC

I would like to read the communiqué issued June 14 by European Affairs Minister Delegate Noëlle Lenoir welcoming the results of the referendum in the Czech Republic: “The Czech people voted today by an overwhelming majority for their country’s accession to the European Union. The needle of the metronome erected during the referendum campaign on one of the hills in Prague finally stopped on the ‘yes.’ The Czech Republic today recovers a place in the heart of Europe worthy of its history and culture.

“For centuries the Czech people have been in the forefront of all the fights for liberty. Its statesmen and intellectuals have made a decisive contribution to the genesis of the European ideal from the first proposal for a European federation made in 1462 by King George of Bohemia. At a time when the Convention on the Future of Europe is finishing its work, that visionary project should be welcomed; more than five centuries before the first European constitution, it had already proposed the creation of a European assembly with majority deliberation, a court of justice, a single currency and common defense.

“For all French people who love freedom, the return of the Czech Republic to Europe is great news. France committed itself to standing by the Czech Republic after the fall of Communism, 15 years ago now, to help it on the path of accession to the European Union.

France has taken part since 1998 in 13 institutional “twinning arrangements” in the context of the European PHARE pre-accession program. The tremendous success of the Czech Cultural Season in France, Bohemia Magica, which I opened with Jean-Jacques Aillagon on June 25, 2002, has already sanctioned the reunion of our peoples, drawing over a million visitors.

“France, with Germany, is the second leading foreign investor in the Czech Republic, accounting for 28% of the total investment in 2001. Prestigious French businesses, specifically in the automobile sector, have successfully established themselves in the Czech Republic. France is the Czech Republic’s fourth main supplier. So our companies are well placed to benefit from the accelerated pace of economic adjustment after accession. It is the growth in our trade that will generate tomorrow’s jobs which both countries need.

“France says vitame vas, welcome, to the Czech Republic in Europe.”

INTERNATIONAL WHALING COMMISSION

Established by the Washington Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (1946), the International Whaling Commission (IWC), at which 50 countries are represented, holds its 55th session in Berlin from today till June 19.

The IWC, the sole organization with authority to handle the dossier on cetaceans, adopted a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986 which neither Norway nor Russia have joined at this time. Japan, for its part, gets around the moratorium by engaging in scientific hunting which enables it to take several hundred whales a year.

At the meeting in Berlin, France will reaffirm its position in support of whale conservation. We’ve been working a long time for this goal which is totally in line with the conclusions of the Johannesburg Sustainable Development Summit, particularly with regard to the protection of marine biodiversity and the marine ecosystem. In that spirit we are sponsoring several initiatives and motions of countries that protect whales:

- a joint resolution of like-minded countries, dubbed the “Berlin Initiative,” which aims to strengthen all aspects of whale conservation with a view to the end of the moratorium and negotiations on a revised management scheme (RMS); a German resolution condemning Iceland’s intention to launch a scientific whaling campaign, to start next year, in which the arguments and expected results do not seem convincing.

We will also support a similar move by Australia against Japan’s so-called scientific campaigns in the north and southwest Pacific. I recall also that France, for its part, denounced these campaigns in 2002 at the last session of the IWC in Shimonoseki (Japan).

Lastly France will support proposals to establish new whale sanctuaries in the southwest Pacific and South Atlantic presented respectively on one hand by Australia and New Zealand, and on the other by Brazil.

Proceeding this way, France hopes to make a practical contribution to the establishment of specially protected marine areas as agreed at the Johannesburg summit and in the conclusions of the last G8 summit in Evian.

LEBANON

Q - How do you account for the attack against a television station owed by the prime minister? Do you know who did it? Is it linked to the ministerial reshuffle? Is it a sign of an internal crisis or an act linked to the regional situation?

It’s not for me to explain the facts or speculate about the perpetrators. The attack, which targeted a Lebanese radio and television state during the night of Saturday to Sunday, is a matter of great concern to us. We condemn the recourse to violence in Lebanon as everywhere else in the world. Nothing must compromise the efforts for peace and national reconciliation that Lebanon has made over the past decade or so.

LAOS

Q - Did the meeting scheduled for this Monday between diplomats and the three Western detainees (reporters Vincent Reynaud and Thierry Falise and their American interpreter) take place? If so, what’s the result?

This Monday, June 16, 2003 at 2:00 p.m. local time, a member of the French Embassy in Laos met for about 30 minutes or so with Thierry Falise, a Belgian photojournalist, and Vincent Reynaud, a French cameraman, in the presence of the Laotian foreign minister and police officers. The meetings took place at the police prefecture in Vientiane. The detainees were given basic necessities. They were examined by a doctor on Friday and appeared in good health. I recall that they’ve been imprisoned in the capital since June 8 in the context of a criminal inquiry. I would also recall, as the spokesman did on Monday, that the Embassy remains mobilized to find a speedy solution to this matter./. Embassy of France, June 16, 2003


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