Renaud Muselier, President of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Regional Council

Dear delegates, my very dear friends,

The 15th Summer Defence Conference will take place in a few weeks’ time in the city of Toulon, a hub of French naval and military history. The Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region is proud to be a partner in this event. At a time when the defence and security challenges facing our country are growing, it seems only natural to support this forum for discussion and cooperation between operational chiefs, government policy makers and industrial actors. I am particularly conscious of the fact that, since its inception in 2002, the Summer Defence Conference has been the only forum attended by representatives of every parliamentary defence committee in Europe. This openness is demonstrative of the dialogue and the convergence of interests between partners dealing with the same threats. 

The relationship between our region and the armed forces goes back a very long way, and is especially deep-rooted in the Var, the foremost military département in France. This strong military tradition still lives on today: Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur has a bigger military presence than any other region in France. Toulon is the home port of France's nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and its six nuclear attack submarines. Europe's largest training camp is located in Canjuers. Istres is home to one of the French Air Force's most emblematic air bases. As for the Army, its operational units—from the 21st Marine Infantry Regiment in Fréjus to the 54th Artillery Regiment in Hyères—and its training units, such as the infantry school (EI) in Draguignan and the light aviation school (EALAT) in Cannet-des-Maures, also reflect the diverse defence culture that characterises our region.  

Defence-related activities generate over €5 billion in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, which is also home to almost 17% of France's defence technological and industrial base activities. Large main system manufacturers such as Naval Group, Dassault Aviation and Airbus Helicopter play a key role in the region's vitality, as do medium-sized companies like CNIM and ECA. Its industrial fabric, which has a long history of supporting operational units, also consists of “dual-purpose” SMEs. I am proud to say that the Regional Council plans to step up its support for these companies and therefore facilitate their integration into the local ecosystem, notably by inviting some of them to participate actively in the 2017 Summer Defence Conference in Toulon.  

Defence companies provide us with jobs and skills; our innovation capacity and our future depend on them. Creating a supportive environment for them is one of my priorities. That is why the defence sector is a key component of our economic development strategy; it has been identified as a strategic industry on which we intend to focus our resources, and as an ‘Operation of Regional Interest’ (OIR) under our new industrial policy to promote investment in development projects and the areas undertaking them. This strategy is vital to our region. I will support it with everything I’ve got.