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Montréal, 22 September 2018
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Je voudrais te [Chrystia Freeland, Ministre des Affaires étrangères du Canada] remercier personnellement, ainsi que le gouvernement du Canada et la ville de Montréal, de nous avoir accueillies d’une excellent façon, dans cette magnifique ville, ce magnifique pays, juste avant de continuer vers New York où la plupart d’entre nous – sinon toutes – seront engagées dans la semaine ministérielle de l’Assemblée générale des Nations unies.
It is a particular pleasure for me to be back in Canada, exactly one year after the provisional application of CETA [the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement], our trade agreement. This is something to celebrate and this is something that highlights very clearly the common vision that Canada and the European Union have on many different issues, be it trade, as in the case of CETA, but also on human rights, on multilateralism and the importance to invest in a rules-based international order. The General Assembly of the United Nations will for us all be a moment to work together, to strengthen and support the UN system, which is at the core - at the heart - of our vision of multilateralism.
What we also share is the value that we attach to the plurality of our societies. In this framework it is key for all of us to work on the role of women, not only in our societies, in our countries, in our institutions, but in the world.
So, the reason why with Chrystia [Freeland] we have been working on this first meeting of women Foreign Ministers is because women are generally perceived as victims: victims of conflict, victims of violence. And, indeed, they are in many parts of the world - everywhere the world. But they are also key players in society, in the economy, in institutions, in foreign policy - also in defence and other issues.
So we wanted to start showing the “new normal", which is the group photo that we took yesterday on this very same stage, which is that more and more things are as they should be, which means many women in power - I am not afraid of using this word - taking responsibility for decision-making and reflecting together how to collectively exercise these responsibilities - to use this power - to the benefit not just of women, but of the entire society. This has been the spirit, this has been the philosophy, this has been the way in which we have been working in these two extremely intense days.
We have not discussed ’women issues’ as they are normally perceived, but as Chrystia [Freeland] said, we have discussed issues that are on our agenda on our table every single day as Foreign Ministers, from Syria, to Ukraine, to Nicaragua, to conflict prevention or the Sustainable Development Goals. We have decided to work very closely together with those that were present today – and I want to thank them all, because they took some time out of very busy agendas, all of them, to come here and spend 24 hours together - and the many others that were willing to come, but unfortunately could not make it, but are interested in being part of this network.
So we decided to not only use this meeting as a starting point - as Chrystia said, we planted a seed that will grow into, I believe, a plant with beautiful flowers – and that we will continue to work closely together. Obviously, we will bring some of our discussions today to the work we do with the [United Nations] General Assembly next week. I give just one example: we heard from the voice of one of the most prominent Syrian women who are advising Staffan the Mistura, the Special Envoy for the United Nations on Syria, that it is crucial in this moment to try to help and guarantee an adequate presence of women in the Constitutional Committee for Syria. This is something that I am sure all of us will bring with us to the work we do in the General Assembly and beyond. This is just one example of the many stories that we have translated in these last 24 hours into ‘policy advice’ that will guide our action bilaterally and collectively, along with many others that Chrystia [Freeland] has mentioned.
So we have also decided that we will continue this work; that we will meet again as often as we can - for sure again next year, just before or after the UN General Assembly – hopefully and potentially again in Canada; and that we will, without establishing formal networks or organisations, simply work as closely as possible together to advance a foreign policy agenda that makes sure that the world uses the full potential of its entire population.
I have one announcement to make: the European Union is already now dedicating more than 60 per cent of its development aid to projects related to some form of work on gender issues and that we will continue to do so. This is not always a visible element, but it is something that is worth mentioning because we believe it would be positive and worthwhile if others in the world would follow this example at a moment when we need to be inspired by best practices, and it is also a moment where we need to build alliances of truly like-minded partners. We are not living in easy times in the world; we never are, but particularly now. We strongly believe - as Canada does, I am sure - in global cooperation, and I think this is one of the strongest elements of cooperation that we can build.
Q : En 2015, Justin Trudeau [Premier ministre du Canada] a affirmé que le Canada est de retour sur la scène mondiale. Or, un récent rapport de l’OECD a conclu que cette volonté devrait s’accompagner d’une augmentation des dépenses pour l’aide étrangère. Croyez-vous que par les mesures et les objectifs qui sont sortis de cette rencontre que cela va permettre au Canada de revenir sur la scène mondiale et de palier à ces critiques ?
A : Je peux confirmer à cent pour cent que le Canada est un des acteurs clés au niveau global. Pour l’Union européenne et tous ses états membres c’est assurément un partenariat privilégié et naturel. C’est plus qu’un partenariat ; c’est une amitié très forte. Et je pense que le Canada a démontré une capacité de leadership globale surtout cette année pendant sa présidence du G7 qui n’était pas toujours facile mais qui a été exercée de façon exemplaire.
Q: (interpreted from Italian original) You are someone who has done a lot to fight gender inequality. What is the European Union’s policy when it comes to issues pertaining to the implementation of policies to fight gender inequality?
A: First of all, I do not represent Italy here, I speak for the European Union, so would limit myself to comments that relate to the European Union in general terms. I can tell you that, indeed, Canada has a remarkable policy on women participation and empowerment, as do some of the European Union’s Member States: Sweden was mentioned, but there are others as well. In general terms, the European Union is trying to get inspiration from these good practices, which were also shared partially in these two days, even if it was not the main focus of the meeting, and also to work with all the Member States so that they implement the policies, the legislation in place and the good practices and, obviously, that they avoid falling into backwards positions or steps, both from a legislative, but also from a societal point of view. Progress has been made inside the European Union itself, but some steps indicate the contrary.
This - the way in which Member States apply measures and legislation to empower women internally - is not part of my institutional portfolio; it is not part of foreign policy. But I can tell you as a member of the College of the Commission and obviously as a European woman in a certain position, this is a top priority for the European institutions regarding all Member States, none excluded.
Q: In the nineties, [former, and the first woman Secretary of State of the United States] Madeleine Albright organised a first meeting with, first UN Women Ambassadors and then Women Foreign Ministers. It has been 20 years since then. You announced that there is going to be another meeting, but it seems that it is not going to be institutionalised, it is not going to be formalised. Are you afraid that it will be another 20 years until you will have another meeting?
First of all, let me acknowledge the immense leadership that Madeleine Albright has exercised and continues to exercise, not only on all of us, but also on foreign policy issues.
I think that her experience, including her personal experience in becoming the first Madame Secretary, has guided the work of all of us at certain point in our life. So I think we have to pay tribute to that experience and to the generosity with which she has always shared this experience with all of us and with all women involved in foreign policy in the world.
It is true that this is not the first ever meeting of women Foreign Ministers, but this is the first official meeting of women Foreign Ministers. We had formal invitations, we had formal sessions of work, we are having a press conference. We have not worked, this time, on a Joint Communiqué because we wanted it to be an as open-ended and as real a discussion as possible. One of the things that, I think, frustrate many of us is the predetermined form of some of the meetings that we take part in. We wanted it to be a spontaneous conversation on the real issues on the table of foreign policy today, also in preparation of the [UN] General Assembly. And it worked perfectly well. I think - I can speak for myself - the discussions we had in these two days are among the best discussions on foreign policy I have ever seen and have participated in, probably also because we were not channelling them towards words on paper, but more on things to do after we leave here.
So, the reason why we do not formalise a network is simply because we want to see how we can carry on the work informally from now on. We have come up with very operational ideas that we will follow up on and that, I believe, is not wise for us to announce here in order to avoid creating too high expectations. It is much better to announce something once it is done rather than when it is simply imagined.
But I can tell you that we have decided to work together on many of the issues we have discussed today in a very concrete manner. And, who knows, the fact that we are going to meet again - not only in this format, but also with another element that I would like to stress and that we did not stress so far - it is very important: this idea starts in the framework of the G7 and the Canadian Presidency of the G7. We shared this idea with our G7 colleagues during our meeting in Toronto in spring. We had an invitation extended also to the non-women Foreign Ministers of the G7 - the Japanese Foreign Minister was brave enough to accept the invitation and be here with us - and I know from our European colleagues, for instance, that they were also very interested in being present here, and I will make sure to debrief them on the outcome of this meeting - so that we keep this link with the G7. And I am sure the French Presidency of the G7 next year will be very much willing to take this process forward, as well as the G20, which could be a very positive link to the formalisation of this kind of work. Japan is going to take the Presidency of the G20 next year and they have already expressed their willingness to work on this file.
So, not institutionalising, not formalising this network, is also a way to have an approach of mainstreaming. We do not want to create a separate box. We want to make sure that women in foreign policy, first of all, are visible; secondly, connect to each other; and, thirdly, work with others in a way that makes things advance for women in the world, because we believe this is a way to also have men advancing in the world.