Emmanuel Macron calls for creation of a ‘true European army’ to defend against Russia and the US
French president makes new appeal for force in run-up to First World War Armistice centenary
The French president has pushed for closer EU defence union since coming to power last year but has been so far met with limited success amid foot-dragging by other member states.
“We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America,” Mr Macron told France’s Europe 1 radio in an interview.
“When I see President Trump announcing that he’s quitting a major disarmament treaty which was formed after the 1980s Euro-missile crisis that hit Europe, who is the main victim? Europe and its security.”
The French president continued: “We will not protect the Europeans unless we decide to have a true European army.
“We need a Europe which defends itself better alone, without just depending on the United States, in a more sovereign manner.”
Mr Macron was speaking in Verdun, northeast France, as part of a week-long tour of battlefields leading up to First World War Armistice centenary commemorations on Sunday.
The French head of state will receive world leaders including Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin for commemoration ceremonies in Paris on Remembrance Sunday.
The election of Mr Trump to the White House appears to have given more urgency to the cause of boosting the EU’s defence capabilities, with leaders warning they cannot simply rely on the United States.
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said last year that “deference to Nato can no longer be used as a convenient alibi to argue against greater European efforts”.
France is the strongest and most vocal proponent of an EU army but Germany has also tentatively endorsed Mr Macron’s proposals for a joint command structure for military interventions.
A number of proposals have been put on the table for how EU nations could cooperate more closely on defence. The European Commission says closer defence cooperation “is not about creating an EU army”.
Thirty-four joint missions by member states have been launched under the EU flag since 2003 under the Common Security and Defence Policy.
Under the new “Permanent Structured Cooperation” (Pesco) initiative legislated for in 2009 and activated in 2017, 25 of the 28 armed forces are in the process of stepping up cooperation between their militaries. Denmark, Malta and the United Kingdom have decided to opt out of the voluntary system.