French President Emmanuel Macron suggested that Europe adopts a form of collective defense as he strengthens calls for tighter European Union integration in the face of concerns over the United States’ security commitments.
Macron, who has called on the bloc to stop its reliance on Washington as a military backstop, said Europe should seek “strategic autonomy” in defense, during a Thursday, August 30 press conference with his Finnish counterpart in Helsinki.
In order to achieve this he proposed “cooperation reinforced almost automatically, which will mean that, for member states who agreed with the reform, we could have a real solidarity of intervention if one state was attacked.”
His comments come after U.S. President Donald Trump repeatedly distanced himself from the NATO military alliance, which groups the U.S. with most of Europe and has underpinned European security since World War II based on the idea of mutual defense.
Macron said his suggested cooperation pact would resemble “a kind of reinforced article 5,” referring to the NATO defense clause that determines that an attack on one member state is an attack on all.
The French leader insisted that this was not a move to undermine the NATO agreement, which “remains an important and strategic alliance.”
France, which has the E.U.’s largest military force after Britain, has backed the idea of a small joint European response force over.
Macron’s Thursday remarks build on an August 27 speech relaunching his diplomatic agenda. “Europe can no longer rely on the United States for its security. It is up to us to guarantee European security,” Macron told an audience of some 250 diplomats, lawmakers and international relations experts.
Macron said he would put forward new proposals in the coming months. “I want us to launch an exhaustive review of our security with all Europe’s partners, which includes Russia,” as well as Turkey, he added.
Germany has also called for enhanced defense integration, with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas urging in an August 22 article in Handelsblatt for boosted military cooperation and for the bloc to “form a counterweight” to Washington and “take an equal share of the responsibility” as Europe-U.S. relations cool. Maas argued that Europe “can no longer rely on Washington to the same extent” and this presents a historic opportunity to redefine the E.U.’s role and build a “balanced partnership.”
EU tightens defense cooperation
Macron’s push for E.U. defense integration are not new. In September 2017, Macron called for the formation of a European defense fund to combat a “sustained terrorist phenomenon,” the sharing of soldiers between E.U. nations’ armies, and a bloc-wide intelligence academy and prosecutor’s office against terrorism.
“In the coming decades, Europe will have to have a common intervention force, a common budget and a common doctrine to act,” he said.
Since then, the E.U. has either proposed or implemented a number of new defense initiatives.
In June, nine E.U. states signed up to a French plan for a European defense intervention group, including the United Kingdom which backs the measure as a way to maintain strong security ties with the bloc after Brexit.
The idea is for the so-called European Intervention Initiative to be able to lead humanitarian crisis efforts and evacuation operations as well as take on conventional military duties.
Also in June, the E.U.’s diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini proposed a new €10.5 billion ($12.4 billion) “peace facility” that could pay for military equipment, including lethal weaponry, for partner countries in crisis zones such as Central African Republic and Africa’s Sahel region.
The same month, six E.U. member states declared their intent to create cyber rapid response teams. Lithuania is the lead participant in the project, one of 17 announced when 25 E.U. member states established Permanent Structured Cooperation on security and defense (PESCO) pact in December.
PESCO was introduced by the Lisbon Treaty and allows states participating the the joint framework to develop joint defence capabilities, invest in shared projects, and enhance the operational readiness and contribution of their armed forces.
Other PESCO include the establishment of a European medical command, E.U. training mission competence center, military disaster relief and an upgrade of maritime surveillance.
The pact has prompted U.S. concerns that it would become a protectionist vehicle used to shield European defense companies such as France’s Dassault from American competition.
But Brussels insists there is no unfairness, with one official saying: “It is normal that European money goes to European companies.”
In May the E.U. announced the European Defence Fund, a major plank of the bloc’s strategy to boost its ability to guarantee its own security.
The E.U. allocated €13 billion to the EDF over the period 2021-2027, including €4.1 billion for research and €8.9 billion for developing military capabilities. The money it offers for research and development will only be available to member states – not the U.K., which will have left the E.U. by then, and not the U.S.
Part of the rationale for the EDF and European defense cooperation more broadly is to get E.U. countries to spend more efficiently and effectively.
With reporting from AFP