The Gallorum - Icholasen Summit
Saint Regina, Icholasen:
Eilidh Whiteford found herself just 2 days after the Saint Romain by-election, where she managed to hold onto all of her seats, preparing to fly to Saint Pierre for a summit with Gallorum's Prime Minister. It had certainly been nothing short of a busy week for the Nicoleizian Korojaunu and it was just about to get busier. Whiteford was relieved to have kept all 260 Party of June seats intact, and her majority in both houses - but whether the Party of June itself was in tact was another question. This result, Whiteford gambled, would hopefully go to show that Whiteford has all the cards.
Whiteford boarded her helicopter and flew northwards to Saint Pierre where she was expecting a delegation of Party of June officials from Saint Pierre and also the Foreign Minister. During the flight she thought about how losing the Nonet seat in Saint Romain could have rendered this entire summit impossible, as it's the Nonet who has to ratify treaties made by the executive. Glad that she had avoided this eventuality, Whiteford looked out across the country she served from the air with a brief moment of bliss, "there'll be no more defections now" she thought to herself.
After Whiteford landed in Saint Pierre, she was driven to the Saint Pierre Dominion Assembly - the location of the summit. She smiled thinking that Kate Germain was now out of the picture, unable to cause trouble. Whiteford also realised that she was standing outside a Dominion Assembly with a Party of June majority Dominion Executive. The Party of June really was on the up: 2017 wasn't just a fluke, a halcyon age for the Party, it was just the start for Whiteford and her party: the Party of June.
Whiteford met the key representatives of her party from Saint Pierre and the Foreign Minister in the gardens of the Saint Pierre Dominion Assembly. Left: Juirju Edwards: Saint Pierre Senator and Minister for Defence. Centre, Katja Jenkins: the Foreign Minister and South Regina Senator. And farthest right, Simone Darnaud: the Nonet member for Saint Pierre and First Minister of the Saint Pierre executive. The four exchanged pleasantries and went over the priorities of the summit agreed in Cabinet and with all the Party of June Nonéteurs and Nonétrices. The four then discussed a range of topics while awaiting the arrival of Elizabeth Baschet in the gardens of the Assembly.
The skies above Saint Regina, Icholasen
Prime Minister Baschet had noticed that Eilidh Whiteford had secured her majority in her government, and continued to think about whether she should call an election in October to capitalise on the unpopularity of Francois Fillon and the Christian Democrats. Should she secure a landmark deal with Icholasen, a nation that was rich with history of conflict with Gallorum, it seemed almost inevitable.
She had brought with her the Armed Forces Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian; Foreign Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault; International Trade Minister, Michel Sapin and the Cabinet and Communications Minister, Audrey Azoulay. Azoulay had especially become the Prime Minister's confidante and one of her top ministers as her deputy. Baschet kept her cards close to the heart otherwise until she was ready to announce policy she thought of to the cabinet. Sure, the ministers could propose policy direction for the Government, but she ultimately made the decisions on those matters.
"Premier ministre, we are landing in Saint Regina now," replied a PMO aide.
"Well, it's a chance to warm up what has been nearly 30 years of a chilled relationship between our governments," Baschet said to her assembled team. "It is a priority that we walk away with better cooperation and support not only for Icholasen and Whiteford but for us as well."
The group got out of the car. The unseasonably overcast day seemed to be nature's way of welcoming the Gaulois to Icholasen. Just from her footsteps alone, she had become the first Prime Minister since Mitterand in 1990 to set foot in Icholasen.
Central Saint Pierre
As Whiteford and her team awaited the arrival of the Prime Minister, she wondered whether the negotiations would be fruitful. Whiteford knew that defence would come up and that it would be incredibly difficult for her to keep everyone happy. She was not known as a hawk as such, especially not compared to her Party of June predecessor, Delphine Cormier. Cormier had initiated an expansion of the Nicoleizian armed forces that Whiteford was now in charge of. Whiteford on the other hand had forged a very centrist defence policy, a continuation of construction but not much would be newly constructed. It appeased the majority of people in her party. That’s all that seemed to matter. Both the delegation from Gallorum, the doves in her party would likely want a climb down of military spending, but the hawks, and potentially national vanity would demand she maintain Nicoleizian forces as they are, no matter the cost.
“They’ve texted me, they’re on their way.” Said an aide.
“Thank you” Whiteford said, barely acknowledging the aide - not out of aloofness but because her thoughts were 5,000 miles away from reality. This was, as everyone kept reminding her, the first meeting since 1990 so a huge responsibility lay on Whiteford and her delegation to get this right. This could be a huge moment and she knew that her time to fly or fall was now.
"Remember, if you give an inch on defence Fillon and the Democrats will be on to you like flies on shit," responded Le Drian in the car as they drove to the centre of Saint Regina. Baschet rolled her eyes slightly. She was the first military serviceman since Charles de Gaulle to be Prime Minister of Gallorum, so she could hardly be described as someone dangerous to the military that she felt was the very part of her.
"I've got it, Le Drian," the Prime Minister answered. She looked at the city. It reminded her of Racines and Entrages, her hometown.
'It's amazing what propaganda and fear makes people believe. The city, the people...they're like us. We've been Francophone countries for generations and generations. Yet here we are...divided not only by the Sleeve...but by ideology and governments.'
The car stopped at the destination and the three government ministers got out first, allowing Prime Minister Baschet to step out last. The aides had since gotten out of their separate car as well. She saw Ms. Whiteford waiting for her at the entrance and Baschet let out a breath before exiting. A mix of flags for Icholasen and Gallorum and encouraging signs that read both in English and French for peace surrounded the cordoned off walkway.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Korojanu Whiteford," Baschet said to her counterpart. The others began to shake hands as they turned around for the photo opportunity. It was not often that real history would be made on a summit.
‘I’m very pleased to meet you’ Whiteford said ‘though please, call me Eilidh.’ As the first impression was made, aides lead the two leaders to the conference room in the Saint Pierre Dominion Assembly. Whiteford knew what her priority was: economic cooperation. She did not know the priority of her interlocutor, but as they were broadly similarly politically minded this is what Whiteford decided to start with, easing into the negotiations.
‘What my government and I would like to establish is the free movement of people, services and goods. This would of course mean people are able to travel and fill worker shortages in our respective countries. But I’d like to propose that there is a time limit on ability to claim welfare and also a time limit for a person to become self sufficient. My government proposes that a citizen would have to have lived in the country for at least a year to claim welfare, and be self sufficient in at least 3 months to be able to stay. What is your position on these proposals?
The Prime Minister was a bit stunned that negotiations started fairly soon, but remembered this is the fabled Eilidh Whiteford and she was always a no-nonsense woman, like herself. The positive image of two female leaders meeting and getting on with business struck a chord with Prime Minister Baschet, and she stumbled a bit to get her mind around the actual question.
"Oh...yes; I do believe that free movement of people will be essential. I would like to see the movement of people be free as it pertains to travel of course. That would mean no visa requirements to visit Gallorum or Icholasen. In terms of work in the other's nation, I do believe we can get to an agreement on your basis there. Our Gaulois government would like to see people showing proof of employment before the right of abode is granted to them if they wish to come to seek work. We also would like to establish a register of jobs between Icholasen and Gallorum that require people that we simply cannot fill at home. Then, yes, we would like to see a stay on people coming from Icholasen to Gallorum claiming welfare. We are a generous nation. We will teach you how to fish, tell you where to buy the best poles, give you even the best spots available to fish. But we will not fish for you. Proof of self-sufficiency and drive to succeed are at the cornerstone of Gaulois culture, as you know Korojanu Whiteford."
The other ministers looked quite shocked at how fast things were progressing.
‘I agree with most of those proposals, and the precautions to stop the abuse of hospitality will be essential. I agree that travellers shouldn’t need visas, but I think there should be a grace period where someone can look for work in our respective countries before being asked to leave, rather than needing to prove employment before arriving. Do you agree with this premise and how long would you say that that period should be?’
Baschet modded her head.
“Absolutely; a grace period can be arranged for a short stay of 3 months to secure employment in Gallorum or Icholasen.”
'Right.' Whiteford said. 'So to clarify, we have free movement of goods and services, and a free travel area. For work, citizens will have to find a job within three months to be eligible to stay. I'll let you decide what we discuss next.'
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"That is agreeable by the Gaulois government," said Prime Minister Baschet. She turned and looked at her ministers.
"We would like to propose friendly terms militarily. Now that Icholasen is no longer communist and in recognition that we helped maintain the royal house that now sits on the throne during their exile, we would like to see our nations get formally close militarily. There are strong nations to our south that could take us out individually. We need to make sure that the North is secure and strong with our nations as leaders here so that we can be taken seriously by the rest of the continent. The struggles I heard with that Davishire nation and Poland...it was not a good look for this region, and I don't think it has shaken off all the way yet. Let's not even talk about the Belgians and Prussians.
"The first step would be to limit the amount of nuclear weapons we are building. We should set it to match the ratio that we currently have between our stock piles and those of the Duxburian Union and Angleter have put together. The second step would be some joint industry research and trials in terms of arms manufacturing. If we work together on technology, I'm sure we can find a way to innovate and make our nations safer. The third step would be greater cooperation on intelligence, particularly the flagging and sending of threats found either through your side or ours...it is important that information gets sent at high levels very quickly. QGSC will get the information done in surveillance to you in about six minutes for imminent threats. at its most basic information level"
"I'm very open to these ideas. Stability in our region has been hard won - some would say it's not yet been achieved so collaboration will be important if we want to keep both ourselves and our region safe. I think though that we shouldn't reduce our stockpiles, just raise them to be at a similar size and at a similar rate.
I am strongly for cooperation in industry, our armaments are among the best in Europe. I think thousands more jobs could be created with a programme along the lines of arms production, making new arms to protect peace.
We share regional threats so any intelligence cooperation will be extremely important for our nations. I would like to see cooperation in this area and I agree with your proposals in this regard, and I am for working together with QGSC."
"Then we are agreed then!" Baschet said, turning to her staff. She felt this was going well.
"What else would you like to accomplish at this historic meeting? The significance for our nations can't be ignored truly."
"I have agreed with you all I think needs to be agreed to - from economy, to defense, to citizens rights, I think this summit has been an immense success."
The two heads of government were lead out to an area outside the Saint Pierre Dominion Assembly with two podiums, and the press seated outside. They were both invited to make statements and then to answer questions.
"Today, here in Saint Pierre, we have made great progress towards a more peaceful future. Ms Baschet and I have agreed on defence policy, agreeing to standardise our nuclear arsenals and we have agreed to cooperate on security and run drills cooperatively. In addition, we have made the freedom of movement of people, goods and services easier for people on both sides of la Manche which will facilitate economic growth. This is a step in the right direction, so I look forward to continuing to cooperate with the government of Gallorum to carry on this move towards peace. I will now take a few questions."
"Hi, Henri François from the National Times. Is it total free movement or are there some caveats?"
"It is total free movement for people who want to work. People who get jobs within 3 months of making a move can continue living in either Gallorum or Icholasen, but without jobs they cannot continue on."
"Michelle Legault from the NBC. Are you confident these proposals can pass through the Nonet?"
"Absolutely. I have no doubt ever since the Saint Romain by-election win that we will be able to secure a majority in the Nonet for the proposals agreed here. I will take one final question."
"George Henderson from the Saint Novella Chronicle. Will there be a decrease in the military power of Icholasen?"
"No, we will be working to raise both our nations up to the same level, rather than reducing our military force. This is so that we can face up to the problems we face as a nation. Thank you for your questions."