Congratulatory Remarks by Deputy Minister Sue van der Merwe at the Celebration of the French National Day, Tuesday 14 July 2009, Pretoria

H.E. Ambassador Pietton and Mrs Pietton
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors and High Commissioners
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Distinguished Guests

It is my pleasure, on behalf of the Government and people of South Africa, to join the government and people of the French Republic in the celebration of Bastille Day.


On this day of celebration we look back on the events of 14 July 1789 in France that were to have such a momentous impact on the world in the development of the democratic order and of political and social freedom. The storming of the Bastille fortress-prison was seen as a symbol to the world of the desire of humankind for freedom, equality and fraternity amongst all peoples. 

South Africans have taken much inspiration from French history and indeed, since achieving our own democracy, our government has sought in its own way to build a country based on the very ideals of the French Revolutionaries.  Many great South Africans made their home in France too, such as the legendary Gerard Sekoto; and many of Frances leaders and ordinary people, supported us in our struggle against apartheid.  This formed the basis of what has become a close and dynamic partnership between our two countries, and one which we value greatly.  

The 21st Century has brought new challenges to the world and key among these is the critical issue of climate change.  I would like to compliment France on her constructive position in this developing debate.  We believe that the French government understands and supports the importance of the concerns of the developing world on this issue and for this we would like to extend our gratitude.

Climate change is the greatest environmental challenge facing the world today, as increasing amounts of carbon emissions in the atmosphere are contributing to an unprecedented rise in average global temperature.

Increasing temperatures bring changes in weather patterns, rising sea levels and increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather as is already evident in many part of the world. Flooding is likely to increase, droughts and desertification will spread, and the delicate balance of our natural environment is severely. There is likely to be serious disruption to agriculture production and food supplies will be affected. The number of refugees is likely to rise and millions of people could go hungry again highlighting the importance of food security on our world. The financial costs of flooding and insurance against bad weather are likely to rise substantially. The African Continent is likely to be seriously affected by these problems, despite, on the whole, being the least contributor to global warming.

It is hoped that the outcome of the Copenhagen 15 meeting in December 2009 will result in an inclusive and effective deal that mobilizes the globe to action on the basis of a shared vision that balances mitigation and adaptation, climate stabilization and sustainable development, supported by adequate means of implementation for developing countries.

It is also hoped that the overall strategy will enable countries to move to a low carbon development pathway, while allowing developing countries adequate development space. In other words, any deal on climate stabilization should ideally include a deal on sustainable development and poverty alleviation.

France’s Deputy Prime Minister Borloo and Former Minister, now chief climate change negotiator, Brice Lalond have both play a vital role in the debate and the negotiation process and look forward to a successful Conference in Copenhagen later this year.


In addition to this area of work, relations between our two countries are growing at many levels – bilateral and multilateral, official level and people-to-people - and hold much promise for the future. South Africa and France enjoy excellent political relations characterised by regular high-level dialogue, diverse bilateral cooperation programmes and growing bilateral trade. South Africa acknowledges France’s strong influence on the Continent, especially in Francophone Africa, and seeks to cooperate with France wherever possible in promoting the African Agenda. France is the largest donor and trading partner to Africa, a major investor on the Continent and is a traditional champion of Africa and the developing world on issues such as debt relief, sustainable development and mitigating the negative effects of globalisation.

I would also like to add that we look forward very much to welcoming the French Football team to South Africa next year for the FIFA World Cup.  I think I can say without hesitation that the whole of South Africa is excited about the World Cup next year.  We had a successful trial run in the Confederations Cup, Bafana Bafana delighted us and now are counting down for the big event.  We can’t wait, and we know that France will be there too to share the moment with us.

On this note, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to invite you to raise your glasses and join me in a toast to the warm relations between South Africa and the France, to the health of His Excellency President Nicolas Sarkozy, and to the prosperity of the French.

I thank you.

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