17th Feb 2019

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 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join 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.

Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table

EU probes into Hungary and Poland on rule of law and democracy are back on the agenda of EU affairs ministers - but with little guidance from the Romanian presidency, without a clear idea where the procedures are headed.


Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?

There can be no more excuses for business. They will be held for responsible for their failure to take action to prevent the risk of human and labour rights through their supply chains.


Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK

Brexit talks will continue in Brussels, as UK PM Theresa May's government is trying to find a way out of the political impasse at home. Murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's fiancee will speak at the European Parliament next week.

EU Parliament demands Saudi lobby transparency

A resolution demanding Saudi Arabia release prisoners and stop gender-based violence was passed by over 500 MEPs on Thursday in Strasbourg. They also demanded greater transparency over Brussels-based lobbying for the Saudis, following an EUobserver exclusive.

News in Brief

  1. Spain's Sanchez calls snap election on 28 April
  2. 15,000 Belgian school kids march against climate change
  3. May suffers fresh Brexit defeat in parliament
  4. Warning for British banks over Brexit staff relocation
  5. Former Italian PM wants Merkel for top EU post
  6. Antisemitic incidents up 10% in Germany
  7. Italy's asylum rejection rate at record high
  8. Hungary will not claim EU funds for fraudulent project


Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK

Brexit talks will continue in Brussels, as UK PM Theresa May's government is trying to find a way out of the political impasse at home. Murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's fiancee will speak at the European Parliament next week.

Saudis paying College of Europe to lobby MEPs

The Bruges-based College of Europe is setting up private meetings with the EU institutions for seven ambassadors plus seven high-level officials from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

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”

Latest News

  1. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table
  2. Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?
  3. Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK
  4. Belgian spy scandal puts EU and Nato at risk
  5. EU Parliament demands Saudi lobby transparency
  6. Saudi Arabia, but not Russia, on EU 'dirty money' list
  7. EU agrees draft copyright reform, riling tech giants
  8. Rutte warns EU to embrace 'Realpolitik' foreign policy

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us