NPR’s Steve Inskeep speaks with French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna about the state of US-France relations – ahead of a state visit by French President Emmanuel Macron.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Now, what about the UK’s close neighbor and ally? This is one of the questions we pose to Catherine Colonna, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs visiting Washington, DC. Welcome to the United States.
CATHERINE COLONNA: Thank you. Hello.
INSKEEP: I just want to point out to people that part of the political and economic turmoil in the UK stems from Brexit. They’re trying to grow their economy outside of the EU while dealing with, you know, the global tensions that everyone is facing. France, of course, remains inside the European Union, leader of the European Union. Is your country’s point of view justified here?
COLONNA: Well, I can’t really comment on British domestic politics, you know, but let me say that France, as a longtime friend of the UK and the British people, wants them to regain political stability as soon as possible. I think we all need a stable and active neighbor and partner like the UK. And yes, Brexit was a factor. He has been there now. It’s done, so we need to move on and be, you know, at work on both sides, building a new relationship – a better one now than we’ve seen in the recent past.
INSKEEP: Do you think your country is in a more sustainable or more stable position to be part of the European Union as you face global issues like the war in Ukraine, the economic effects there, inflation , etc. ?
COLONNA: We are certainly in a, you know, similar situation regarding the war in Ukraine, but with a stability in our economy and in our domestic politics that the UK does not currently enjoy. That’s why we want to see him return as an active and close partner.
INSKEEP: Now I want to point out that you are preparing, if I am not mistaken, for a visit to the United States by your president to President Biden. I am sure that when they speak, the central issue will be the war in Ukraine. Do your governments still fully agree on strategy as winter approaches?
COLONNA: I absolutely think so. We absolutely align ourselves with what we need to do and must continue to do to support Ukraine and be with them for as long as necessary. What we see is that things are not going for Russia exactly as the Kremlin had planned, neither on the military front nor on the economic front, because the sanctions are hitting. And you know, like me, that on the internal front, the mobilization is not popular, and that’s an understatement. So our strategy is to continue to support Ukraine and its people, to continue to isolate Russia on the diplomatic front, and to continue and help as much as we can by continuing to provide economic, diplomatic, humanitarian and military.
And let me remind everyone that the EU hosts 10 million Ukrainian refugees. So we do our part. We have the same goal and we are together. Our unity is absolutely essential. And we – along with that, the president is coming in December, next December, for a state visit. This will be an opportunity to talk about Ukraine, of course, and other international issues, but also to highlight the vitality of bilateral relations…
INSKEEP: Of course.
COLONNA: …And continue to act together on the world stage.
INSKEEP: How much will Europeans suffer this winter from the loss of Russian gas and oil?
COLONNA: Well, there is a price we are all paying for this war chosen by Russia because the economy has been affected. Inflation is on the rise. Energy prices, especially for Europeans, have really gone up. But I can assure you that this is the price that Europeans are ready to pay to defend the principles and values on which we collectively rely, which we cherish and which we will defend, alongside the United States.
INSKEEP: You don’t see a loss of political support because I guess that’s what the Russians are counting on, is it a loss of political support for the war as energy prices go up?
COLONNA: The political support has been stable and strong and the rest. Of course, it is our responsibility to make people understand what is at stake, what we must do and continue to do, and also to do with our allies and partners, to ensure that the Kremlin cannot bet there on that, on that, you know, “fatigue,” in quotes, or on some difficulties with the economy, you know, of the United States or Europe. So a combination of helpful conversations between us and Strands and looking to the future for Ukraine is what we are looking for.
INSKEEP: I would like to point out that we are in the middle of an election season in the United States. Republicans have a good chance of making gains in Congress or even taking control of one or both houses of Congress, as I’m sure you know very well. Kevin McCarthy, who could be the new House speaker if Republicans are successful, said there would be no blank check for Ukraine aid, and some of his lawmakers actually voted against it. these last months. Now I realize this is a tricky question because you don’t want to comment on US policy, but there is this question of keeping the alliance together between the different countries that support Ukraine. How would you respond to skeptics of Ukrainian aid here in the United States?
COLONNA: Well, I certainly can’t comment – neither on British politics nor on American politics.
INSKEEP: Of course.
COLONNA: Absolutely not. But first of all, I think it’s a bipartisan issue, more so than what you just said now. You know, it’s election season, but beyond elections, I’m pretty sure it’s a bipartisan issue. What we would say is what we all say as governments. It is our collective system that is at stake – you know, the pillars of the international order, our principles and our values, our democratic countries. We are therefore there to defend them because it is in our interest to defend them. And to defend them, we must be united, be strong and be ready to choose the best solution for it, including ready to pay a certain economic cost.
INSKEEP: Are you saying you think this will remain a bipartisan issue in the United States even if the Republicans, some of whom have taken a different approach to this, take power?
COLONNA: I am convinced that it is a bipartisan question because it is in the interest, in the strong and deep interest of our nations.
INSKEEP: Minister of Foreign Affairs, it was a pleasure to discuss with you. Thank you and have a good end of your visit to the United States.
COLONNA: Thank you very much. Thanks.
INSKEEP: Catherine Colonna is the Minister of Foreign Affairs of France. She is preparing for a visit to the United States later this year by Emmanuel Macron.
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