9th Jul 2020

European defence remains a French priority, says Sarkozy

  • Defence issues are set to feature strongly over the next six months (Photo: SHAPE)

French president Nicolas Sarkozy has reaffirmed his intention to make European defence a major theme during his country's six-month stint at running the European Union, beginning in less that two week's time.

In a key address before French military brass on Tuesday (17 June), Mr Sarkozy said "building European defence is our priority" and that "whatever the future of the Treaty of Lisbon" he would not change his mind.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Last week Irish voters rejected the Lisbon Treaty, a new set of institutional rules for the bloc that makes some significant changes in the defence area.

These includes an article on the "progressive framing of a common union defence policy", an article on mutual assistance and the possibility for "permanent structured co-operation" between countries that are politically willing and military capable.

The French president also renewed calls for a "modern, flexible" European force of 60,000 soldiers that could be deployed anywhere in the world for up to a year.

Rapid Reaction Force

EU member states in 1999 committed themselves to achieving a Rapid Reaction Force of this size, deployable within 60 days. The goal was meant to be realised in 2003 but has suffered from flagging enthusiasm, lack of resources and duplication problems with NATO.

Mr Sarkozy said he wants to make defence and security policy an example of a "concrete Europe, of a Europe that responds to the needs of its citizens."

"I very much hope that the French presidency of the European Union (…) will be the first step in a veritable relaunch of European defence for the coming years," he said, according to AP.

But he noted that national armies would remain so as they cannot be integrated into a "supranational army."

Mr Sarkozy also said that the Europe's vocation is to embody an ideal of peace and liberty.

"I am of the conviction that it is France's vocation to carry this ideal of peace and liberty. It is Europe's ideal to embody it in the current world. For Europe, whatever its institutional ups and downs, has overcome its divisions, its historic confrontations, to create, with an ever closer union, a unique model of cooperation between our nations."

Rejoining NATO

The French president also restated France's wish to rejoin NATO's integrated military command, which it left in 1966 and announced a streamlining of the French army.

The country's defence white book recommends the cutting of 54,000 military posts from the current 330,000 within the next six years, making its smaller and more mobile.

France is to spend €377 billion from 2009 to 2020 on defence including €200 billion on new equipment, said Mr Sarkozy, with an increase in the military budget foreseen from 2012.

The announcements are part of the first overhaul of French defence in 14 years. In the run-up to the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty some of the discussion had focussed on whether Ireland's traditional neutrality would be eroded.

The anti-treaty side claimed that publication of the French defence paper had been delayed until after the referendum in case it gave weight to these neutrality fears - a claim given credence in French newspapers but denied by the Elysee Palace.

EU boosts pledges to relocate minors from Greece

Over 120 asylum seeking children and teenagers in Greece have so far been relocated to a handful of EU states in a scheme the European Commission says is a demonstration of solidarity. EU states have pledged to take in 2,000.

Hydrogen strategy criticised for relying on fossil fuel gas

Civil society organisations criticised that the commission is relying on early-stage technologies that require the continued use of fossil fuels, undermining the EU's 2050 climate-neutrality target set in the Green Deal.


The opportunistic peace

This will be the most selfish act in recent economic history. It will burden future generations and by no means make the weakest member states better off.

EU mulls new system to check illegal pushbacks of migrants

The European Commission says it may create a new system to monitor push backs by EU states. The announcement follows weeks of dithering by the commission, which has refrained from condemning abuse by Greek and Croat authorities, despite mounting evidence.

News in Brief

  1. Rushdie, Fukuyama, Rowling warn against 'intolerance'
  2. Clashes in Belgrade after new lockdown measures
  3. US passes milestone of 3m coronavirus infections
  4. France wary of any future lockdowns
  5. Lithuania bans Kremlin-linked Russia Today programmes
  6. UK nominates Liam Fox for WTO top job
  7. Italy supports Spain's Calviño for Eurogroup job
  8. France and Germany warn Israel on annexation 'consequences'


The opportunistic peace

This will be the most selfish act in recent economic history. It will burden future generations and by no means make the weakest member states better off.


On toppling statues

The internationally-acclaimed author of King Leopold's Ghost, Adam Hochschild, writes on Belgium's problems with statues, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  3. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  5. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis

Latest News

  1. Five ideas to reshape 'Conference on Future of Europe'
  2. EU boosts pledges to relocate minors from Greece
  3. Hydrogen strategy criticised for relying on fossil fuel gas
  4. Merkel urges EU unity to hold off economic fallout and populism
  5. The opportunistic peace
  6. EU mulls new system to check illegal pushbacks of migrants
  7. EU forecasts deeper recession, amid recovery funds row
  8. Revealed: fossil-fuel lobbying behind EU hydrogen strategy

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us