"In the face of great powers, old ones as well as new, France must reaffirm its independence ... few countries have by their defense - in other words their armed forces and foreign policy - the capacity to decide sovereignly. We do have it. And we must do everything possible to preserve this strategic freedom."
Whatever one might think of the rest of the speech (or the foreign and defense policy conducted by President Hollande, and by President Sarkozy before him), one thing is certain: it is this genuine independence which gives, and will give in next April-May, a true meaning to French citizens’ vote.
Indeed, an intrinsic link unites the two dimensions of the notion of "sovereignty". On the one hand, the "independence" aspect, which refers to the State's freedom of appreciation, decision and action vis-à-vis third parties. On the other hand, the "democracy" aspect, under which, the supreme power belonging to the people, citizens participate in the exercise of this freedom through their ballot papers.
Without independence, this gesture (i.e. voting) would no longer have much of a meaning. Whoever elected would not have the room for maneuver and the negotiating position to do anything other than follow the more or less discreet dictates of other powers. Of course, a French president might, in spite of everything, do exactly that - but as long as the (technological, capability, doctrinal) foundations of independence exist, he would do so not by necessity but by choice. And his choice could always be disowned in the ballot box and replaced by new, more independent, visions. In other words, it is independence that guarantees the possibility of real alternatives to the citizens, and thereby control over their own fate.
 Vœux du président François Hollande, le 31 décembre 2016.