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Leuthard calls Francophone talks "fruitful"

Heads of state and ministers pose for the camera at the summit

(Keystone)

Swiss Economics Minister Doris Leuthard says the work of the Francophone summit in Montreux has been “fruitful” and that a final declaration “fulfilled expectations”.

She was speaking in the Lake Geneva resort on Sunday after two days of meetings in which about 70 delegations from French-speaking countries took part.

The declaration deals with the challenges and visions for the future of the Francophone countries in three areas. One is their role at the international level and in world governance, the second treats sustainable development and the third deals with the French language in education in a globalised world.

A Swiss foreign ministry statement at the end of the meeting said that Switzerland welcomed the “concrete and constructive results” achieved in Montreux. It was a summit that had also opened doors for people to see literary and cultural achievements in the French language.

Joseph Kabila, president of the Democratic Republic of Congo that will host the next summit in Kinshasa in 2012, said the Montreux meeting had been “one of the most memorable” in the history of the International Francophone Organisation.

The secretary-general of the organisation, Abdou Diouf, thanked the heads of state and government for re-electing him to a third term in office.

Centre of attention

Diouf said that all French speakers were currently Haitians, noting that Haiti, which was heavily damaged by an earthquake in January, was at the centre of attention in Montreux.

Frantz Duval, editor-in-chief of the daily Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste, said he would leave for home satisfied but he regretted that the French-speaking countries did not have more financial means to help his country.

“I am satisfied with the solidarity that has been shown… satisfied also with prospects because Haiti’s presence in the French-speaking world will certainly be strengthened.”

Swiss senator Didier Berberat noted the “extremely interesting debates” on sustainable development and climate change. He said he’d felt “big concerns” from countries of the developing world, particularly Chad and the Seychelles.

“These summits don’t always have immediate concrete results,” he commented referring to the climate issue but he said one of the results of Montreux was now a “united Francophone front” before December’s climate conference in Cancun.

When she opened the conference on Saturday, Leuthard , who is this year's Swiss president, called for Francophone countries to have global influence in international affairs, such as food security, climate change and biodiversity.

She stressed the importance of strengthening solidarity among French-speaking countries to achieve sustainable development.

“Determination”

“We must make clear our determination and to act together in accordance with the route set by international negotiations on these areas, especially with those addressing climate change issues, and thus contributing to achieving the Millennium Development Goals," Leuthard said.

The Francophone countries should use their close ties to enhance science and technology exchange and cooperation to meet the challenge of innovation, she said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy made a plea on Saturday for African countries to have a bigger say in world affairs.

He also warned that currency instability threatened world growth and called for coordinated action to reform the world financial system.

Sarkozy, whose country takes on the G20 presidency next month, also denounced speculators as causing volatile prices in commodity markets, cheating producer countries of revenues.

His comments came as the Group of 20 finance leaders struck a deal on Saturday to refrain from competitive currency devaluations although they failed to agree firmer language that might have shored up the United States dollar.

“Serious threat”

“Who doubts today that the currency instability poses a serious threat to world growth?" Sarkozy said, in a speech aimed at gaining support from Francophone countries for his G20 priorities.

"Are we going to continue to reproach and accuse each other and denounce unilateral attitudes while not being capable of defining a multilateral system? We will all get out of this together or we will all fail together," he said.

The Bretton Woods system, set up in 1945, no longer functioned, he said. “We must have the courage to imagine together, through coordination, how we can create the basis for a new international monetary system.”

Referring to the 2008 food crisis in some countries, due to spiraling prices and increases in oil and petrol prices, Sarkozy blamed speculators for disrupting commodity markets. “It is not the law of the market, it is the law of speculation,” he commented.

Producer countries had lost billions of dollars through such practices, he said, winning applause from African and Asian delegations.

The Montreux summit

The event, which took place from October 22 -24 brought together representatives from 70 members of the International Francophone Organisation. There were about 40 heads of state and government.

Switzerland chose as the central theme of the event “Challenges and visions for the future of the French-speaking world. These included world governance, democracy, freedom, human rights, sustainable development, climate, the French language, cultural diversity and innovation.

end of infobox

Abdou Diouf

Diouf, who is aged 75 and from Senegal, has been secretary-general of the organisation for the past eight years. He was re-elected for a third term unanimously in Montreux.

The only other contender was the French-Cameroon writer Calixthe Beyala but she was supported by none of the countries present.

end of infobox


(with input from Pierre-François Besson and Bernard Léchot in Montreux), swissinfo.ch and agencies


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