- EURACTIV - Davide Basso - MAY 3, 2023 -
Former French prime minister François Fillon denounced hypocrisy in different approaches to Russia and China, saying the latter is a greater threat while being questioned by the National Assembly’s Commission of Enquiry into foreign interference on Tuesday.
Fillon, the prime minister during former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s term (2007-2012), was questioned by the National Assembly’s Commission of Enquiry into foreign interference, launched on the initiative of the Rassemblement National (RN) group and chaired by RN MP Jean-Philippe Tanguy.
Fillon was notably questioned about Russia’s interference, proven or supposed, in French political and economic life.
After his time as the head of the French government and after his candidacy in the 2017 presidential election (Les Républicains, right-wing), he worked as a consultant and business advisor for companies wishing to set up in Russia.
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He also sat on the boards of the Russian state-owned oil company Zarubezhneft from June 2021 and the Russian petrochemical giant Sibur from December 2021. He resigned from these positions shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
During his hearing, Fillon initially said that, like other countries, Russia is attempting to interfere in foreign countries. But these interferences “most of the time came from a friendly and allied country called the United States. I was listened to with President Sarkozy for five years by the NSA [US National Security Agency],” he recalled.
The former prime minister also referred to “Chinese espionage” and to interference from “Turkey, Morocco and Algeria, which directly give voting instructions during French elections through religious leaders”.
As for Russia, he called for the reality and effectiveness of its interference not to be overestimated: “Russia is a huge country, quite fragile because of its internal dysfunctions”, which would make its actions partly ineffective.
As early as a visit to Russia by the National Assembly’s Defence Committee in 1986, “we were convinced that there was no existential security threat from the USSR”, he explained, “because it was a system that did not function well”.
The former prime minister also denounced the “immense hypocrisy in [the] analyses”, which tend to consider Russia more seriously than China. Recently, Westerners realised the threat posed by China, particularly the Americans, who feared “losing world leadership.”
This represents “a risk of major conflict, which is the only real risk of global conflict”, says Mr Fillon. According to him, Europe and the European media have made an error of judgement by not being equally sensitive to Russia and China.
“The Chinese regime is a tougher regime than the Russian one,” he added.
Thus, from the point of view of the former head of the French government, “China […] is a much greater threat to our global economy and our influence in the world than the Russian threat.”
(Davide Basso | EURACTIV.fr)