Michel Barnier calls for two-state solution for Israel and Palestine in IBA conference speech

Prominent French politician called for EU, US and Middle East leaders to work together at IBA annual conference’s opening ceremony in Paris on Sunday

Michel Barnier speaking at the IBA annual conference in Paris on Sunday (29 October) Image courtesy of the International Bar Association

Former Brexit negotiator and French foreign affairs minister Michel Barnier called for EU, US and Middle East leaders to work together towards a peace process and a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. 

In a speech at the IBA opening ceremony on Sunday, Barnier said that security and sovereignty of the state of Israel is “non-negotiable”, adding that “we stand on the side of freedom and democracy against barbary and terrorism”.

He added however that a “sustainable peace” in the Middle East under the control of the United Nations “will only be achieved with the establishment of a Palestinian state”. 

He was speaking at the opening ceremony of IBA Paris 2023 at the Palais des Congrès. The ceremony also featured a recorded video address by French President Emmanuel Macron.

Macron said the IBA conference would “forge ties to form a living community in the service of law”. 

He added: “We need this. As you know, France and the world are experiencing a pivotal moment where power struggles are attempting to supplant relations based on law,” in referring to the current Ukraine conflict, which “has given rise to crimes that international justice must judge swiftly and severely”. 

In a wide-ranging speech which emphasised French primacy in the post-Brexit legal and financial order, he said France aimed “to make Paris the leading financial centre in Europe”. 

“We are children of Roman law, which is sometimes said to be less conducive to export than Anglo-Saxon common law, this French and European law is the one that wrote, yesterday, the global framework for environmental protection; that writes today the rules of our digital globalisation, through the major European regulatory texts, as recent events show us,” he said.

Macron was introduced by Paris committee co-chairs Jacques Buhart, founder of McDermott Will & Emery’s Paris office, and Pascale Lagesse, who leads the employment team at Bredin Prat, and has been the treasurer of the International Bar Association since 2021. 

The video of the French president was followed by an address by IBA president Almudena Arpón de Mendívil Aldama who highlighted the IBA’s main themes: the impact of AI; the emergence of the environmental, social and governance (ESG) movement and its impact on diversity, equity and inclusion; the attraction and retention of talent; and promoting and defending the rule of law.

More than 6,000 delegates from across the world will assemble at the conference, which marks the IBA’s 75th anniversary. 

Prominent speakers include Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Wałęsa and prominent futurologist Zack Kass, architect of ChatGPT’s go-to-market strategy, among a host of other top names. 

The conference is being billed as a forum “to discuss, support and advance legal reform and social justice” in the context of “continuing conflicts in Europe and the Middle East, disruptions to the energy market and the climate crisis”. 

In a Q&A session, Barnier also said that the European Union holds “huge responsibility” to ensure peace in the region and find a solution to this long-standing conflict. 

He further urged the EU to act with the US and other players in the region to work for a two-state solution. 

The former Brexit negotiator also discussed Brexit and the future of the EU at length in both his speech and the Q&A. 

“The EU is still a very fragile project, and member states need to be careful and correct mistakes where they happen,” he said in response to a question from a French lawyer. 

He added: “Brexit was not probable but it happened,” urging EU leaders and citizens to be prepared for improbable events.

This article was first published in the daily newspaper for the IBA Annual Conference 2023, which is published in partnership with The Global Legal Post  

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