Monday

20th May 2019

French EU defence plan is not anti-NATO, minister says

  • Sarkozy (l), Merkel (c) and Brown: France is fighting reluctance in the UK and Germany towards its proposals on EU security and defence (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

The US is still critical of the EU's common security and defence policy, a pet project of the bloc's French presidency, but French interior minister Michelle Alliot-Marie defended the initiative on Monday as not being aimed against NATO.

Challenged by the deputy chairman of the NATO military committee, Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberrry to explain France's view on the transatlantic link in the enhanced EU security and defence policy, Ms Alliot-Marie said "there are countries who don't have confidence in this [transatlantic] dialogue and believe a strong European security and defence policy is aimed at minimizing NATO, but I believe the opposite."

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

She stressed that the EU is better adapted to deal with certain conflicts, while in others "NATO power" is needed.

Both were addressing a 100-odd audience at the "Security and Defence Days" conference in Brussels on Monday evening.

Mr Eikenberry made acidic remarks about the EU's ability to plan, deploy and conduct successful missions, stressing that out of the bloc's 20 missions so far, five were short-term operations in Congo. "I'm not questioning the value of those missions, they were successful in the relief of pressing humanitarian problems, but what is the overarching strategic thinking in the EU with regard to the Congo?"

He also criticized the EU's "overwhelming preference for soft power" and lack of deployable troops despite massive spending on defence.

"European security in this century depends on peace and stability abroad. This is a paradigm shift often stated but still not evident in terms of policies and strategic choices. The current European strategy does not articulate clear regional priorities or comprehensive integrated responses to trans-national threats," he said.

The NATO deputy chairman nevertheless underlined that in the US there is openness towards a closer cooperation between his organisation and the European Union. "President's Sarkozy's notion of bringing more Europe into NATO is pushing against a door that is already wide open," he argued.

French defence minister Herve Morin told the Financial Times on Monday that the mood in Washington had changed, after president Sarkozy announced that France would become a full member of NATO.

"It took hours of conversation for the Americans to realise that France wasn't trying to set up a rival operation and that European defence could actually bolster the capabilities of the transatlantic alliance as a whole," Mr Morin had told FT.

Mr Morin also criticised British opposition to establishing a headquarters in Brussels for the EU's common security and defence policy (ESDP). "I appreciate British pragmatism but we have a situation where we have numerous headquarters - in Britain, France, Germany, Italy and now even Greece - and that costs us money," he said.

More ESDP even without Lisbon Treaty

Meanwhile, German conservative MEP Karl von Wogau, the chairman of the European Parliament's sub-committee on security and defence argued at a parliament hearing on Monday, that the failure of the Lisbon treaty, rejected in the Irish referendum, is no impediment for building up the ESDP.

The treaty would have allowed more EU power in the field of security and defense, which still remains a core competence of national governments, the MEP said. But he referred to the creation in 2004 of the European Defence Agency (EDA), an EU body aimed at helping the bloc's governments to co-ordinate and prioritise defence spending, as an example of how the ESDP can proceed without Lisbon.

Nick Witney, former EDA chief, argued the same line, while praising France's efforts to re-energize the ESDP. He also stressed the need for a common headquarters in Brussels, capable of strategic planning for the EU's different missions.

UK opposes Brussels headquarters

France's push for a common headquarter is being challenged by the UK argument that the EU can draw on NATO's planning capabilities and its 17,000-strong European headquarter in Mons, some 70 km south of Brussels.

This is enshrined in the current EU treaty of Nice, which says that "when a given crisis gives rise to an EU-led operation making use of NATO assets and capabilities, the EU and NATO will draw on the so-called "Berlin Plus arrangements."

"These arrangements cover three main elements that are directly connected to operations and which can be combined: EU access to NATO planning, NATO European command options and use of NATO assets and capabilities."

Feature

Salvini hosts anti-EU 'summit', as old ghosts haunt party

Italy's far-right League called for a "historic" defeat of pro-EU forces at its event in Milan this weekend, but fiscal clashes, fascist symbols, and mafia links cast Salvini's party in a controversial light.

Opinion

Europe's far-right - united in diversity?

Europe's far-right is set to rise in the next European Parliament election. This vote will not yet allow the populists to build a majority. But it may become another milestone in their process of changing European politics.

Agenda

EU votes on future leaders This WEEK

The political spotlight switches from Brussels to national capitals and regions this week as Europe gears up for the start of European Parliament elections on Thursday

May to step down after fourth EU vote

British prime minister Theresa May has agreed to step down after her fourth attempt to pass an EU exit deal in June - no matter what the outcome.

Europol busts global cybercrime gang

A loose network of cyber criminals recruited from an online Russian forum managed to infect thousands of computers in an effort to steal online banking credentials. The gang has been dismantled, with some now on the run.

Opinion

The ECB Song Contest?

One can't help feeling that the race to succeed Mario Draghi as president of the European Central Bank has taken on the flavor of the upcoming final round of the Eurovision Song Contest.

News in Brief

  1. Sweden Democrat MEP ousted for revealing sex harassment
  2. 80% of Erasmus students find job within three months
  3. September elections in Austria after Strache scandal
  4. Swiss voters approve tighter gun controls in line with EU
  5. Report: May's fourth Brexit vote a 'retread' of old ideas
  6. Turkey insists on right to drill for oil off Cyprus coast
  7. Anti-Salvini banners become new trend in Italy
  8. EU flies rainbow flag on anti-homophobia day

Opinion

Europe's far-right - united in diversity?

Europe's far-right is set to rise in the next European Parliament election. This vote will not yet allow the populists to build a majority. But it may become another milestone in their process of changing European politics.

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us