Sunday

24th Mar 2019

EU needs to stand apart from US, France and Germany say

  • Macron: "Partner with whom Europe built the post-war multilateral order seems to be turning its back" (Photo: elysee.fr)

France and Germany have reiterated calls for Europe to reduce its military and financial dependence on the US.

The EU needed "strategic autonomy" on defence in times when the US had "turned its back" on its old ally, French president Emmanuel Macron said in Paris on Monday (27 August)

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Maas (l): EU needed to "form a counterweight when the US crosses the line" (Photo: bundeskanzlerin.de)

It also needed financial "autonomy" to avoid US pressure on European companies, German foreign minister Heiko Maas said the same day.

"We need strategic autonomy and defence to respond to new threats ... Europe can no longer place its security in the United States' hands alone," Macron told French diplomats in a wide-ranging speech.

"The partner with whom Europe built the post-war multilateral order seems to be turning its back on this shared history," he added in a lament on the decline in transatlantic relations under US president Donald Trump.

Trump had put Nato trust in doubt, started a trade war with the EU, and torn up international accords, such as the Iran nuclear arms control deal, Macron said.

He said the EU had "never advanced so fast" in defence integration as in the past year, with the creation of joint military projects and budget lines.

His call to go further would see Europe play a greater role in conflicts in the Middle East, north Africa, and further afield in Africa, the French leader indicated, mentioning Libya, Syria, and the Sahel as priorities.

But an autonomous EU would also play a greater role on the geopolitical stage in what amounted to a "rebalancing of the world order," Macron said.

"I really don't believe that China or the United States of America think today that Europe is a power with a strategic autonomy comparable to theirs. I don't believe that," he said.

The EU would need to build new relations with Russia and Turkey, Macron added.

"Substantial efforts to resolve the Ukrainian crisis ... will of course be prerequisites for real progress with Moscow," he warned, alluding to EU sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Turkey under president Recep Tayyip Erdogan was also turning into "a pan-Islamic project regularly presented as anti-European, whose regular measures are rather against our principles," he added.

But "we need to build a strategic partnership .... with Russia and Turkey, because they are two important powers for our collective security, because they must be tied to Europe," the French leader said.

German echo

Macron's vision of a changing world order was echoed by the German foreign minister in Handelsblatt, a German newspaper, also on Monday.

Trump might "unintentionally become the force behind the birth of a new western order," Heiko Maas said.

But the forces shaping events were greater than Trump alone, he added.

"The fact that the Atlantic has widened politically is by no means solely due to Donald Trump. The US and Europe have been drifting apart for years. The overlapping of values and interests that shaped our relationship for two generations is decreasing," the German minister said.

"Now it is important to build a European security and defence union step by step, as part of transatlantic security and as a separate European project," he said.

A "sovereign, strong Europe" could "form a counterweight when the US crosses the line" in order to defend "rule of law" in the international arena, Mass said.

He zeroed in on US threats to fine EU firms which do business in Iran after Trump tore up a deal to freeze Iran's nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief.

The EU needed to show "that we will not allow you [the US] to go over our heads, and at our expense. That is why it was right to protect European companies legally from sanctions," Maas said.

"It is therefore essential that we strengthen European autonomy by establishing payment channels independent of the US, a European monetary fund and an independent Swift system," the German minister said, referring to the Belgium-based global firm Swift, which handles international bank transfers.

"With Germany, we are determined to work on an independent European or Franco-German financing tool which would allow us to avoid being the collateral victims of US extra-territorial sanctions," French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said in France the same day.

EU fascinations

Macron told the French ambassadors the "contemporary American position", as well as Brexit, and the rise of populism in the EU arose from a "discomfort with contemporary globalisation".

He repeated his call, first issued at a speech in the Sorbonne university in Paris last year, for a more "complete, ambitious [and] ... united Europe" in reaction to the trends.

He warned the UK that any Brexit deal "can't come at the expense of the European Union's integrity".

He also voiced concern that some EU countries, such as Hungary and Italy, had developed "fascinations" with "illiberal democracy" and "xenophobic rhetoric".

But he issued a veiled warning on potential EU budget pressure if populist leaders did not mend their ways.

"Viktor Orban's Hungary has never been against Europe's structural funds or the common agricultural policy, but she is against Europe when it comes to holding great speeches about Christianity," Macron said, referring to Hungary's right-wing prime minister and to EU subsidies to poor and rural regions.

"Italy is against Europe which does not show solidarity on migration, but it is for Europe's structural funds," Macron said.

Analysis

From Russia (to Austria) with love?

The presence of the Russian president at the wedding of the Austrian foreign minister risks to undermine Austria's efforts to act as bridge builder between East and West.

Agenda

Aachen treaty and Brexit endgame This WEEK

Germany and France are set to reinforce their alliance as the engine-house of European integration, while Britain continues to struggle to leave the EU.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

EU migrants sneaking into US from Mexico

Almost 1,000 Romanian nationals were caught trying to sneak into the United States in 2017, of which around half attempted to cross via Mexico. Nationals from countries like Hungary and the UK were also intercepted.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us