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WE have also sought to improve our relations with Germany. Each of you, I think, will approve of this.
After Munich, Mr. Neville Chamberlain signed with the Reich Government a "bon voisinage" agreement.
Chancellor Hitler had a conversation with our Ambassador, M. Francois-Poncet, on this subject at Berchtesgaden on October 22.
Negotiations were immediately begun. They were conducted with great rapidity, and some time later, in the beginning of November, an agreement was reached without difficulty, after frank and full discussion.
It is in these circumstances that Herr von Ribbentrop came to Paris to sign a Franco-German declaration.
What, gentlemen, does this declaration say?
The two Governments are agreed that no territorial questions are outstanding between their countries. They solemnly recognise as permanent the frontier as it now stands. And further, gentlemen, without prejudice to their own relations with third Powers, the two Governments declare their determination to remain in contact on all questions that concern them both, and to consult each other in the event of subsequent developments in these questions tending to lead to international difficulties.
There, gentlemen, is the Franco-German Declaration. Is there any responsible man who, in my place, would have refused to sign it? (Loud applause in the centre, on the right, and on numerous benches on the left.) Have we in doing so sacrificed a single one of the interests of France? Have not all the men who have successfully been in power declared in their speeches that they would seize the first opportunity of bringing about a better understanding between France and Germany? And, in the hour when it appeared possible, would anyone suggest we ought not to have accepted it?
No one would dare assert that. And, what is more, we consider that this joint declaration should constitute a first step, and that it should open for us both vistas of confident cooperation in the future. (Hear, hear! Hear, hear! from the same benches.)
Yes, gentlemen, our geographical position wills it that we have Germany for a neighbour. Even if France were to-morrow again at war with Germany, she would be obliged, after the peace, to have relations and conversations with that nation. Can it be believed that these relations would be any freer, these conversations any easier after another war, which would have resulted in millions of dead, would have heaped up ruins, and revived hatreds for new generations? I doubt it.
Herr von Ribbentrop, German Minister for Foreign Affairs, declared in a broadcast to the German people:
"France and Germany have reached an agreement to put an end to their age-old frontier disputes. The courage of the German people, and of the French people, have earned for them, during the World War, a mutual consideration which should, in peace time, increase, thanks to the bravery and to the efforts shown by each people in its work."
And M. Daladier, President of the Council of Ministers, following this, expressed from this rostrum, the unanimous opinion of France when he declared:
"I want peace with Germany. All ex-Service men want peace with Germany. (Applause on the left, in the centre and on the right.) Among them, among you, there are many who would give their lives, I can confidently state, for the sure establishment of peace."
I need not say, gentlemen, that we have kept informed of our negotiations the principal countries concerned to which we are bound by friendship; Poland, Belgium, Great Britain, the U.S.S.R., the United States of America.
And how have they received this agreement? In the House of Commons, Mr. Neville Chamberlain declared that the British Government felt a very special satisfaction that France had been able to reach an agreement with Germany. In America, editorials of the three leading newspapers of New York and Washington have revealed a full understanding of French policy. Poland has declared that her Government congratulates itself on the happy conclusions of the Franco-German declaration.
And were this joint declaration to be submitted to a referendum of the French people, I should have no doubt of its unanimous approval. (Applause on the left, in the centre and on the right.)
France has also maintained her traditional friendship with Poland. At the time of the Franco-German Declaration of December 6, I had, in accordance with our agreements, advised the Polish Ambassador of our intentions. The Polish Government, thanking me for keeping it informed, told me that it congratulated itself on an agreement of which it fully appreciated the aim, the significance, and the scope.
In the same way, M. Beck, before leaving Monte Carlo, informed me of the invitation he had just received from Chancellor Hitler. Moreover, I would ask the Chamber not to forget, as certain speakers appear to have forgotten, that an agreement between Germany and Poland exists dating from 1934. M. Beck undertakes to keep our Ambassador informed of the coming conversations. We are remaining in constant contact with the Warsaw Government, and we have had with it, whenever it has been useful, conversations justified by the particular relations of both countries and the course of events.
On all occasions, and again recently, the Polish Government has renewed to us the assurance that friendship with France constitutes one of the fundamentals of Polish policy.
There, gentlemen, we must once and for all be done with the legend that our policy has rendered worthless our undertakings in Eastern Europe with the U.S.S.R. and Poland.
These undertakings remain still in force, and they must be fulfilled in the exact spirit in which they were conceived.
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