PM at the National Assembly
13 January 2015

Tribute to the victims of the attacks

Speech by M. Manuel Valls, Prime Minister, in the National Assembly.
Content published under the Government Valls II from 2014 26th August to 2016 11th February

Mr President,
Group Presidents,


Like all the speakers, the President of the National Assembly put it strongly and succinctly:  in three days, 17 lives were destroyed by barbarity.

The terrorists killed – murdered – journalists, police officers, French Jews, employees.  The terrorists killed people who were well known or anonymous, people of different origins, opinions and creeds.  And they struck the entire national community.  Yes, it was France that was struck in the heart.  

Those 17 lives all represented the various faces of France, and as many symbols:  the freedom of expression, the vitality of our democracy, republican order, our institutions, tolerance, laicité [secularism] (1).

We have received gestures of support and solidarity from around the world:  from the press, from the citizens who demonstrated in numerous capitals, from heads of state and government.  All these gestures of support reflect a truth:  it was the spirit of France, its light and its universal message that the attackers tried to destroy.  But France remains on its feet.  It is still here, still present.

Following this morning’s funeral in Jerusalem, the painful, fine, patriotic ceremony that took place at the police headquarters in Paris in the presence of the Head of State, and a few days after the funerals of each of the victims, in the privacy of their own families, I – like each of you – want to once again offer the nation’s tribute to all the victims.


The Marseillaise, which rang out in Parliament a few minutes ago, was also a magnificent response, a magnificent message.  To those who were injured, to the families who are suffering enormous grief, who remain inconsolable, to their loved ones, to their colleagues and fellows, I too want to offer our compassion and support once again.  

As the President said this morning, in a message that was both strong and personal:  France stands and will continue to stand by their side.  In the ordeal, our people rallied as early as Wednesday.  They marched everywhere, in a show of dignity and brotherhood, to proclaim their commitment to freedom and to say a resolute “no” to terrorism, to intolerance, to anti-Semitism, to racism, and, basically, to every form of resignation and indifference. 

These rallies – as you noted, Mr President – were the most perfect response.  On Sunday, the President, former Prime Ministers, political leaders and the living strength of this country, the French people, all expressed their unity – and with what force!  And Paris was the universal capital of freedom and tolerance.  Once again, the French people were worthy of their history. 


But they also sent a message of great responsibility to all of us here on these benches:  that we must absolutely rise to the occasion.  We owe it to the French to be vigilant with respect to the words we use and the image we give.  Of course, democracy, which the attackers wanted to destroy, means debates and confrontations;  they are necessary, crucial to its vitality, and they will resume;  that’s the way it should be.  Far be it from me, after these events, to impose any kind of limit on our democratic debate – and in any case, you wouldn’t allow it.  

But we must collectively stay focused on the general interest and show that we are capable of dealing with an already difficult situation, economically speaking.  There has long been a rift in our country, and indeed, grave events – we are forgetting about them now – which had a deep impact on people took place at the end of the year in Joué-lès Tours, Dijon and Nantes, even if there was no connection between them.  We must rise to meet the expectations, demands and message of the French people. 

Ladies and gentlemen deputies, on behalf of us all, I want to salute – the word is weak – the great professionalism, selflessness and bravery of all our law enforcement personnel:  police officers, gendarmes and special units. 

For three days, law enforcement personnel – often at the risk of their own lives – did a remarkable job conducting investigations under the authority of the counter-terrorism unit, hunting down wanted individuals, working on criminal networks and questioning associates in order to render those three terrorists harmless as quickly as possible.  

Mr Interior Minister, cher Bernard Cazeneuve, I want to thank you too.  

Not only did you find the right words, as I had the chance to witness, you were always focused on this objective.  Along with the President and you too, Madame Justice Minister, we were fully mobilized to deal with these moments – moments that were so difficult for our homeland – and to take the grave decisions that were necessary. 

Ladies and gentlemen deputies, we must never let down our guard.  I want to earnestly tell our national representatives, and through them, our fellow citizens, that not only is the global threat still present, but the risks remain serious and very high in connection with the acts of last week;  risks linked to possible accomplices, or from those who order international networks to commit acts of terrorism or cyberattacks.  The threats made against France are unfortunately proof of this.  I owe you this truth, and we owe it to the French.  To face this threat throughout our country, soldiers, gendarmes and police officers have been mobilized.  The number of reinforcements – nearly 10,000 soldiers in all, an unprecedented number, for which I thank you, Mr Defence Minister – will facilitate a massive commitment.  More than 122,000 people are protecting sensitive sites and public spaces on an ongoing basis.  Military reinforcements are protecting and will continue to protect Jewish religious schools, synagogues and mosques, on a priority basis.  

Madam President, Presidents, after a time of emotion and reflection – it is not yet over – comes a time for clear-sightedness and action.  Are we at war?  The question actually has little importance, because by striking on three consecutive days, jihadist terrorists have once again provided the cruellest reply.  

Things must always be stated clearly:  yes, France is at war with terrorism, jihadism and radical Islam.  France is not at war with a religion.  France is not at war with Islam and Muslims.  As President Hollande said this morning, France will protect all its citizens as it has always done;  those who believe and those who do not.  With determination and cool-headedness, the Republic will offer the strongest possible response to terrorism:  implacable firmness reflecting who we are:  a nation governed by the rule of law. 

The government is coming before you with a determination to listen and to examine all possible responses:  technical, regulatory, legislative and budgetary.  Extraordinary situations demand extraordinary measures.  But I want to emphasize that extraordinary measures must never deviate from the principles of law and our values. 
The best response to terrorism – which specifically aims to destroy what we are, i.e. a great democracy – is law, democracy, freedom, the French people.   

Faced with this terrorist threat, the Republic is providing – and will continue to provide – responses on its national soil.  It will also provide such responses wherever terrorist groups are organizing to attack us, our interests, or our fellow citizens. 


That is why the President decided to commit our forces in Mali one 11 January – 11 January 2013 – the day our first soldier, Damien Boiteux, fell in that conflict.  And the same night, Mr Defence Minister, three members of our armed forces fell in Somalia.  The President took the decision he did to help a friendly country – Mali, a Muslim country – threatened with disintegration by terrorist groups.

The President decided to strengthen our presence alongside our African allies with Operation Barkhane.  It is a major effort that France is shouldering on behalf, notably, of Europe and its strategic interests, a costly effort.  Europe’s solidarity must be seen in the streets, but it must also be reflected in our budgets.  It is an urgent effort.    

Indeed, what a wonderful image we saw on Sunday – national leaders, the President and Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita standing shoulder to shoulder.  It was the best response to say that we are not conducting a war of religion but a fight for tolerance, laïcité, democracy, freedom, and sovereign states – those that must be chosen by the people.  Yes, we are fighting together, and we will continue to fight on relentlessly.

It’s this same determination that we’ll express very soon by voting to extend our forces’ engagement in Iraq.  It just so happened that this vote is due to take place shortly.  This is also our clear and firm response – and I will express my views here in a moment, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs will speak before the Senate – to terrorism, and we should have profound respect and gratitude to our soldiers deployed in external theatres of operation thousands of miles from here.  


The threat is also a domestic threat.  I have often reaffirmed that at this podium, and in the face of the tragedy that has just taken place there’s always a legitimate need to ask questions.  We must provide answers to the victims, their families, to parliamentarians, to the French people.  We have to do so calmly and with determination, without rushing into anything, and I will quote [National Assembly socialist group] President Le Roux’s words:  there are no lessons to teach, there are only lessons to be learned.  

Parliament has already passed, by a very large majority, two anti-terrorist laws, the last one a few weeks ago.  The implementing decrees are in the process of being published.  

Issues relating to jihadist networks have already been brought before Parliament.  At the National Assembly on 3 December you established a commission of inquiry on the surveillance of jihadist networks and individuals.  The chairman, M. Éric Ciotti, is working closely with the rapporteur, M. Patrick Mennucci.  A commission of inquiry concerning the organizational structure and resources needed to combat jihadist networks in France and Europe has been in place since October in the Senate.  Several members of the government have already attended hearings.  The work must continue and I know that the Minister of the Interior is paying close attention to this.  He met the groups and parliamentarians working on these issues yesterday.   

Mr President of the National Assembly, group presidents, the government is at the disposal of Parliament regarding all these issues and others that we have already examined;  I’m thinking of the thorny and especially complex issue that needs to be addressed with greater determination, namely the trafficking of weapons on our streets.  

Learning lessons means first of all realizing that the situation is continuously evolving and the agencies responsible for domestic intelligence and the anti-terrorism courts need to be regularly strengthened.


I want to pay tribute to the work of our intelligence services, the DGSI (General Directorate for Domestic Security) and the DGSE (General Directorate for External Security), the territorial intelligence services and the counter-terrorism justice system.  The work of these men and women is inherently discreet and extremely sensitive.  They are facing an unprecedented challenge, a multifaceted and evolving phenomenon that’s often concealed, and because they know how to work together, they achieve results.  They managed to neutralize terrorist groups that were likely to commit crimes on five occasions in two years.  In France, as in all European countries, the number of people who embrace international jihadism increased dramatically in 2014.  When we reviewed the anti-terrorist law in December 2012, I said that there were dozens of potential Merahs in France.  Time has tragically and inexorably proven this to be right.   

Without significantly strengthening human and material resources, the domestic intelligence services could find themselves overwhelmed.  There are now more than 1,250 individuals just for the Iraqi-Syrian networks, and we shouldn’t forget about the other theatres of operation, the other threats, the threats from other terrorist groups in the Sahel, in Yemen, in the Horn of Africa, and in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area.  We will therefore allocate the necessary resources in order to take this new reality into account.  Indeed, regarding security, human resources are key.  We’ve been taking this into account since 2012.

In 2013, based on the lessons learned from the killings in Montauban and Toulouse, and the proposals made by the Urvoas-Verchère mission, a major reform of our intelligence services was carried out;  the Central Directorate for Domestic Intelligence was transformed into the Central Directorate for Domestic Security.  The creation of 432 jobs in the DGSI has been planned in order to enhance expertise and diversify recruitment – IT specialists, analysts, researchers and interpreters.  To date, 130 positions have already been filled.  

We’ve also improved cooperation between our domestic and external services, and – even though more still needs to be done – strengthened our exchanges with foreign agencies, following the initiative I took two years ago with the European ministers, notably with Belgian minister Joëlle Milquet, whose country is also facing these problems.  Bernard Cazeneuve built on this initiative with the meeting of numerous interior ministers in Place Beauvau.  

But we have to go further.  I’ve therefore asked the Minister of the Interior, within eight days, to provide me with proposals for strengthening measures.  These proposals should notably relate to the Internet and social networks, which are being used more than ever to recruit and connect people and for the acquisition of techniques to commit crimes.  

We are also one of the last Western democracies not to have a legal and coherent policy framework for the intelligence services’ work, which poses a twofold problem.  Substantial work on this was done by the fact-finding mission on the assessment of a legal framework for the intelligence services, chaired by Jean-Jacques Urvoas in 2013.

A future bill, which is almost ready, will aim to provide the services with all legal means necessary to carry out their missions, while respecting France’s major principles regarding the protection of public and individual freedoms.  This bill, which will no doubt be enriched by your work, must – and this is my belief – be adopted as swiftly as possible.


During the course of the year, we will also start to monitor the air travel of individuals suspected of criminal activities.  This is the Passenger Name Record (PNR) system.  The French monitoring mechanism will be operational in September 2015.

A similar mechanism at European level has yet to be implemented.  I solemnly appeal, in this forum, to the European Parliament to finally take full stock of these issues and to adopt this mechanism, as we’ve been requesting for two years, together with all governments, since it’s essential.  We cannot waste any more time!


Ladies and gentlemen deputies, the phenomenon of radicalization is present throughout France.  We therefore have to take action everywhere.  The action plan adopted in April made it possible to renew our administrative and preventive approach.  
Families are making especially intensive use of the tipoff system.  It has allowed us to prevent numerous departures.  The préfets [high-ranking state representatives at departmental or regional level], in coordination with the local authorities, who must be involved in this process, are gradually introducing systems to monitor and reintegrate radicalized individuals.  Again, I’ve asked the Minister of the Interior, in coordination with other members of the government concerned with these issues, to tell me what resources are needed to step up these efforts.  

The phenomenon of radicalization is spreading – as we know and as you said – in prison.  That’s nothing new.  The prison services are, incidentally, strengthening the actions of their intelligence services, in close collaboration with the Ministry of the Interior.  Again, we need to increase our efforts in our prisons.  Imams, chaplains from all faiths are involved in these efforts.  That’s as it should be.  However, a clear framework is needed for this action.  We need to take a truly professional approach.  

Lastly, by the end of the year, based on the experiment carried out last autumn in Fresnes Prison, prisoners deemed to have been radicalized will be monitored in specific areas established within the prisons.  

High-level training will be provided to the agencies that provide legal protection to young people.  Understanding the process by which young people become radicalized is always complex.  We know how easy it is for young criminal offenders to slide into the radicalization process.  The transition from criminal offender to radicalization and terrorism is a phenomenon that has been described at the National Assembly on numerous occasions.  

We have to take the necessary measures.  We must of course, support, help and monitor a large number of minors who are susceptible to this radicalization.  We must also consider the need to establish an intelligence unit within the Inspectorate for the Judicial Protection of Minors, as has been done in the prison services.  

I have also asked the Keeper of the Seals to provide me with proposals in the next few days regarding all these areas of work and in order to respond to the needs of the counter-terrorism section of the Public Prosecutor's Office.  

Ladies and gentlemen deputies, the fight against terrorism requires vigilance at all times.  We must be able to continuously monitor all convicted terrorists, know where they live and monitor their presence or absence.  I have also asked the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of Justice to examine the legal requirements for setting up new cases.  Individuals convicted of terrorist acts or who have been in terrorist groups will have to declare their place of residence and comply with monitoring requirements.  

Such provisions already exist for other kinds of crimes committed by individuals at high risk of reoffending.  We must implement these provisions for terrorism offences, under strict judicial control at all times.  

Ladies and gentlemen deputies, all these proposals –  and there will of course be others – will, before being implemented and enforced, be presented or discussed in Parliament, in addition of course to the legislation.

Ladies and gentlemen deputies, the tragic ordeals we’ve just been through have left their mark on us – on our country and on our conscience.  However, we must also be capable, each time, of making a swift diagnosis of the state of our society and of its urgent needs.  We’ll clearly have the opportunity to hold these discussions.


The first subject we must deal with, clearly, is the fight against anti-Semitism.  History has shown us that a reawakening of anti-Semitism is the symptom of a crisis of democracy, a crisis of the Republic.  That’s why we must address it powerfully.

After Ilan Halimi in 2006, after the crimes of Toulouse, there has been an intolerable rise in acts of anti-Semitism in France.  There are words, insults, gestures, foul attacks, as in Créteil a few weeks ago, which – as I recalled in this house – have not aroused the outrage expected by our Jewish compatriots.

There’s the huge worry, the palpable fear we felt on Saturday, in the crowd, outside that kosher supermarket at Porte de Vincennes, and at the Synagogue de la Victoire on Sunday evening.

How can we accept that in France – the Jews’ land of emancipation two centuries ago but also, 70 years ago, one of the lands of their agony – how can we accept that shouts of “Death to the Jews!” can be heard in our streets?  How can we accept the acts I’ve just recalled?  How can we accept that French people can be murdered because they are Jewish?  How can we accept that a Tunisian citizen sent to France by his father to be protected can be killed while going to buy his bread for the Sabbath – because he is a Jew?  It’s not acceptable.

 I say to the national community, whose reaction has perhaps been insufficient, and I say to our French Jewish compatriots that this time we can’t accept it, that we must also rebel.  We must make the true diagnosis:  there’s an anti-Semitism people call historical, going back many centuries, but above all there’s this new anti-Semitism born in our neighbourhoods against the backdrop of the Internet, satellite dishes, abject poverty and hatred of the State of Israel, advocating hatred of the Jew and of all Jews.  We must say this!  We must utter the words to combat this unacceptable anti-Semitism.  As I’ve had the opportunity to say, as Minister Ségolène Royal said in Jerusalem this morning, as Claude Lanzmann wrote in a magnificent article in Le Monde, yes, let’s say it directly to the world:  without France’s Jews, France would no longer be France!  It’s up to us to proclaim this message loud and clear.  We haven’t said it;  we’re not outraged enough.

How can we accept that in certain institutions, collèges [schools for pupils aged between approximately 11 and 15 years] and lycées [schools for pupils aged between approximately 15 and 18 years], we can’t teach what the Holocaust was?  How can we accept that a kid aged seven or eight, when asked by his teacher “Who is your enemy?” can answer “It’s the Jews”?  When the Jews of France are attacked, France is attacked and the universal conscience is attacked;  let’s never forget that!

And what a terrible coincidence, what an affront to see a repeat offender of hatred putting on his show to packed halls on Saturday evening, at the very moment when the nation was plunged into mourning!  Let’s never allow these things to happen, and let justice be implacable towards these preachers of hate!  I emphasize this, here at the National Assembly rostrum:  let’s take the debate to its conclusion, ladies and gentlemen deputies!  When someone, a young person or another citizen, wonders and comes and says to me or the Minister of National Education:  “But I don’t understand.  You want to silence this humourist, but you put the Charlie Hebdo journalists on a pedestal.”

But there’s a fundamental difference, and that’s the battle we must win:  the battle of education of our young people.  There’s a fundamental difference between freedom of impertinence – blasphemy isn’t in our law and never will be – and anti-Semitism, racism, expressing support for terrorism, revisionism, which are offences, which are crimes and which the courts will no doubt have to punish even more severely.


The other urgent need is to protect our Muslim compatriots.  They too are worried.  Unacceptable, intolerable anti-Muslim acts have again occurred in recent days.  Attacking a mosque, a church, a place of worship, desecrating a cemetery – these too are insults to our values.  Préfet Latron, at the Interior Minister’s request and in liaison with all the préfets, is responsible for guaranteeing the protection of all places of worship.  Islam is France’s second-largest religion.  It has its full place in France.  Our challenge, not only in France but in the world, is to demonstrate this:  the Republic, laïcité and equality between men and women are compatible, on national soil, with all religions that accept the Republic’s values and principles.

But this Republic must show the greatest firmness, the greatest intransigence towards those who attempt, in the name of Islam, to stifle neighbourhoods, to impose their order against a backdrop of trafficking and religious radicalism, an order in which men dominate women and where faith – as you rightly recalled – prevails over reason.  A few months ago, before this Assembly, I spoke about the shortcomings and failures of 30 years of integration policy.

But in fact, when real urban ghettos form – where people are with their kind alone, where people advocate only isolation and withdrawal from society, where the state is no longer present –, how can people approach the Republic and take the fraternal hand it holds out?  Above all, how can they definitively scrap the too-often-subtle barrier allowing people in our neighbourhoods to tip over – let’s not be naïvely optimistic, let’s face the facts! – from tolerant, universal, benevolent Islam to conservatism, obscurantism, Islamism and, worse, the temptation of jihad and of committing crimes?  This debate isn’t between Islam and society, it’s really a debate within Islam itself, and the Islam of France must conduct it internally, drawing on religious leaders, intellectuals and the Muslims who, for several days, have been telling us they are afraid.

Like all of you, I have French friends of Muslim faith and culture.  One of my closest friends told me the other day, his eyes full of tears and sadness, that he was ashamed to be a Muslim.  I don’t want any Jews in our country to be afraid any more, and I don’t want any Muslims to be ashamed, because the Republic is fraternal:  it’s here to welcome everyone.


The response to our society’s urgent needs must be strong and without hesitation.  It lies – and I’ll end with these words – in the Republic and its values, first and foremost laïcité, which is the guarantee of unity and tolerance.  Laïcité is learnt, of course, at school, which is one of its bastions.  Regardless of faiths or origins, that is where all the Republic’s children have access, through education, to learning and to knowledge.

This morning the Minister of National Education, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, and I met France’s recteurs (2).  I sent them a message about making an all-out effort, a message about being strict, a message which must be echoed at every level of national education:  the only issue which matters is laïcité, laïcité, laïcité!  This is central to the Republic and therefore schools!

The Republic isn’t possible without schools, and schools aren’t possible without the Republic.  We’ve overlooked too many things – I was saying this just a moment ago – in schools.  Laïcité is the possibility of believing or not believing:  in the face of the attack we’ve experienced, France must fight more than ever for education about these fundamental values.  This is another aspect of our response to these attacks.  Let’s proudly parade this principle, since we’ve been attacked because of laïcité and because of the laws we’ve passed banning religious symbols in schools and prohibiting the wearing of the full veil.  Let’s defend these laws, because they must help us become even stronger!


Basically only one thing matters:  staying true to the spirit of 11 January 2015, to that day when France, after the shock, said “no” in a spontaneous wave of national unity;  to that France which found itself put to the test;  to that moment when the whole world came to France – because the world, too, knows how great France is and the universality it embodies.  France is the spirit of the Enlightenment;  France is the democracy factor;  France is the Republic through and through;  France is irrepressible freedom;  France is the struggle for equality;  France is a thirst for fraternity.  France is also that unique blend of dignity, insolence and eloquence.

So staying true to the spirit of 11 January 2015 means being imbued with these values.  Staying true to the spirit of 11 January 2015 means addressing the issues French people are raising.  Staying true to the spirit of 11 January 2015 means understanding that the world has changed – there will be a before and an after – and responding, in the very name of our values, with all necessary resolve.  Firmness and unity are the words the President used only this morning.

So – I hope – we’ll keep this mindset going like a blazing fire, and draw on the strength of its message of unity, by proudly proclaiming what we are.  We’ll do so by continually remembering our heroes, those who died last week, 17 of them;  and by always remembering, too, those heroes who belong to the police force.  We felt extremely emotional again this morning, in the courtyard of Paris’s police headquarters, where there were many of you, from all benches in this assembly.  That, too, is what makes France.

During the ceremony, three colours came to my mind, the colours of those three police officers – two national policemen and a municipal policewoman.  Those colours bear witness to their diverse paths and origins.  Three different colours, three paths, but three French people, three public servants.  In front of their coffins, alongside their families, there were only three colours, those of the national flag:  that, basically, is the finest message.

Last April, I spoke to you, in this assembly, of my pride in being French – shared by each of you.  In the wake of these events, after last Sunday’s marches, one feeling has made us stronger than ever – I believe we all sense it:  it’s pride in being French.  Let’s never forget it.

(1) laïcité goes beyond the concept of secularism, embracing the strict neutrality of the state.
(2) chief administrative officers of the education authorities.

Source of English text: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development

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