Interview donné au Myanmar Times par M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, ministre des affaires étrangères et du développement international
Lors de sa visite en Birmanie où il a rencontré Mme Aung San Suu Kyi et le président de la République birmane M. Htin Kyaw, M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, ministre des affaires étrangères et du développement international, a donné une interview au journal The Myanmar Times.
Veuillez trouver ci-dessous le contenu en anglais de cet échange publié sur le site du Myanmar Times
What was the purpose of your visit to Myanmar ?
The purpose of this visit was above all to show our full support for the new authorities of Myanmar. France has always stood alongside the people of Myanmar in their fight for democracy and freedom, and we had the pleasure and the honour of hosting Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in France in 2012 and 2014. We welcome the progress made towards democracy and wish to contribute as much as possible to the success of this historic chapter.
What did you discuss with the four leaders you met with on 17 June [President U Htin Kyaw, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and Union Minister of Energy and Electricity U Pyae Myint Htun] ?
First, I wished to hear the views of my various interlocutors on the challenges facing Myanmar following the formation of its new government, in order to contribute effectively towards tackling them. We also discussed international issues, of course. It is very useful for me to hear the views of all my interlocutors on the situation in the country, the situation in terms of human rights and minorities, and their plans and intentions for the coming years. We also addressed the economic situation, how French businesses can contribute to the development of your country and, lastly, certain aspects of our bilateral relations. I announced to my interlocutors that we wish to increase our development assistance, particularly in the fields of urban development, energy and health, through the AFD (French Development Agency), which plans to provide project funding of €200 million (US$221 million) over the next two years. I also informed my interlocutors of our plans to increase our cultural and educational cooperation.
How important is Myanmar for France ?
Myanmar holds a very special place in the hearts of French people : we admired and were moved by the peaceful and courageous efforts of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and many people of Myanmar to restore democracy. Myanmar is regarded in a very special way by the French public. We wish to be there for the next chapters of your country’s history.
We are also working hard to ensure that the European Union treats Myanmar as a real priority ; for example, the EU has made Myanmar one of the main recipients of its assistance. The development cooperation budget is €688 million for the period 2014-2020, and France provides 18% of the EU budget.
How would you assess the current relations between the two nations ?
Our relations are now excellent : friendly and based on confidence. They are developing. You know that, for a long time, we were fairly restrained in our contacts. That explains why our trade relations, in particular, are still relatively limited. But they are growing very fast. There is great potential for cooperation, particularly in the fields of infrastructure and energy. France, as part of the EU, also grants Myanmar very favourable conditions by allowing it to export products to Europe duty-free. Exports from Myanmar to France have greatly increased in recent years.
We also wish to increase cultural and human exchanges.You know the role played by the French Institute in Yangon (known as the Alliance Française), which remained a space of freedom and expression during the darkest years. Its role can now be expanded and a big festival will be held in December in the streets of Yangon. I also want to start developing our exchange system next year to enable more students from Myanmar to come and study in France.
Did you negotiate any big contracts with Myanmar leaders/companies during your visit ?
French companies are now interested in Myanmar and believe in its development prospects. Membership of the French Chamber of Commerce in Yangon has trebled since 2012 ! They are interested in many different fields. Your country’s development will require a huge increase in its electricity production, for example. Myanmar has various assets, including significant hydropower potential. A number of French companies have recognized expertise in this area, such as EDF and Engie. And our companies incorporate environmental and social responsibility requirements into their approach to minimize the impacts on the environment and the population.
What were your expectations for the trip ?
This was my first trip to Myanmar, so it was my first experience of this beautiful country with its rich, ancient culture and history. I also hope that this visit will enable us to enter a new phase in our bilateral relations by greatly developing our cooperation and trade links.
What changes did you observe in Myanmar ?
The changes that have occurred in recent years are very encouraging. You have managed to make a peaceful transition to democracy. This process is not yet over, but the various people involved have so far made wise decisions, which bodes well for the future.
What would you identify as the biggest challenges facing Myanmar’s new government, and how can it over come them ?
Development is the first challenge ; the high growth rate in recent years gives grounds for optimism, but the people of Myanmar also need to feel this change through improvements in their quality of life. This is an important aspect for many developing countries.
It is also essential to restore peace. The population of your country is very diverse and, unfortunately, there are armed conflicts with some minorities. The ceasefire accord in October 2015 with several armed groups is a positive sign ; I hope that the negotiations continue and reach a solution that is satisfactory to all, but I am not underestimating how difficult this process is.
I also hope that inter-religious tensions in Myanmar gradually ease, so that all people - Buddhists, Christians, Muslims and others - can live together in peace and mutual respect.
For 2016, we have planned to double our humanitarian assistance to $2 million. I would like to take this opportunity to commend the many French non-governmental organizations that have worked to support the entire population. Lastly, as you know, France, which holds the presidency of COP21, is committed to ensuring that appropriate assistance is given to countries that are vulnerable to the effects of climate change ; Myanmar is, unfortunately, one such country.
What do you foresee for Myanmar in the next 4 or 5 years ?
I am confident regarding both the political and the economic situation. Your country has significant natural resources : I mentioned hydropower potential, but I could also mention the gas and various minerals to which you have access. It also has great farming potential. You have leaders who have shown their sense of perspective and their commitment to the welfare of their people and to the common interest. With democracy, peace and respect for human rights, Myanmar can release the greatest potential there is : human potential.