Bullish Macron stakes EU army leadership claim: Only France and US can do this

Macron outlines ambition for France to be a ‘framework nation’

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The French President made his remarks during a speech in Paris yesterday during which he offered an ambitious assessment of France’s role on the world stage. Mr Macron declared: “Over the past four years, we have built an unprecedented European cooperation base.

“The European defence had never advanced so much since the Fifties.

“In terms of large industrial projects, in terms of joint operations, both on our soil by developing a common culture of intervention, but also abroad, whether through missions within the framework of NATO or missions we have developed within the European framework.

“We have also continued to deploy joint financial investments, major technological innovation projects, in the priority sectors for tomorrow, and shared projects with other countries such as Germany.”

Mr Macron added: “This success is the very proof of our confidence in the future, and confidence in this partnership as well because we have solid support.

“This is what we are building, a whole new role for our armed forces.”

Referring to Operation Barkhane, France’s anti-Jihadist military force in the desert region which covers much of west Africa, including Mali, he said: “In the Sahel we are in the process of building the framework so France can lead and do what until now just the USA could do: being a framework nation which works as a pilot to the entire coalition.

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“It’s the strength of our armies that allows us to contemplate this today.

“And this partnership is proof of our ability to relaunch this ambition.”

Mr Macron, who already has one eye on his reelection bid next year, has made no secret of his support of a European army in the past.

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Speaking to Europe 1 radio station in 2018, Mr Macron criticised the decision of then-US President Donald Trump to pull his country out of a key Cold War-era arms limitation treaty.

He said: “We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States.

“We will not protect Europeans unless we decide to have a true European army.”

More recently, he last year said Europe needed to play a more independent and assertive role in the world.

During a debate with students in Lithuania, he said: “We, some countries more than others, gave up on our strategic independence by depending too much on American weapons systems.

“We cannot accept to live in a bipolar world made up of the US and China.”

Concerns over the prospect of an EU army were also highlighted last month after it emerged the bloc was planning to spend millions arming Frontex’s “Standing Corps” with 2,500 semi-automatic pistols, and three million rounds of ammunition.

Commenting, former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib said: “What we have here is not just a border force but a force which can be used within and therefore potentially against member states.

“Europeans who value their independence should be very worried.

“The EU is now an armed superstate. It will not just be flexing its muscles on neighbouring countries but it will also be doing so internally.”

(Additional reporting by Maria Ortega)

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