Macron: James Shields discusses calls for an EU army
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French President Emmanuel Macron will tell his European peers the AUKUS crisis could be an opportunity to make the case to the United States that the European Union can play a strategic role in the Indo-Pacific, French officials said on Monday.
Australia’s decision to cancel a big submarine contract with France and go for US-designed vessels instead as part of a new security alliance with Washington and Britain to counter China has riled France and caused tension between Western allies.
“We could turn a blind eye and act as if nothing had happened. We think that would be a mistake for all Europeans,” an adviser to Macron told reporters.
“There really is an opportunity here.”
European Union countries can play a strategic role in the Indo-Pacific region with the United States in terms of trade, security, defence and defending freedom of navigation, the official said, without elaborating.
Macron will take part in an informal summit of EU leaders in Slovenia today during which he will update his counterparts on his conversation with US President Joe Biden last month after France briefly recalled its ambassador to Washington.
“We don’t want to push Europeans into making a sort of binary choice between partnership with the U.S. or Europe turning inward,” the Macron adviser said.
“The issue is how to create the conditions for a partnership in the best interests of Europeans, knowing the United States obviously remain our allies.”
Macron has struggled to convince all EU member states to get on board with his push for European “strategic autonomy” in the field of defence, with many in eastern Europe especially seeing this as possibly weakening the transatlantic security alliance.
France, with overseas territories in the Pacific and the Indian Ocean and 7,000 troops stationed there, considers itself an Indo-Pacific power and had struck arms and security deals with India and, until recently, Australia, to protect its interests.
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Last month, Macron signed a deal with Greece for French frigates worth about €3billion.
The move was sold by both Macron and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis as a pact that would boost EU defence autonomy.
But some in the EU were sceptical of the deal and are concerned it would only serve to flare up tensions between Greece and Turkey in the Mediterranean.
One EU diplomat told Politico: “It is a bit bizarre to say the pact contributes to European sovereignty.
“By all accounts, this is a traditional 19th-century defence pact between two European powers.
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“It has definitely more to do with the pursuit of narrow national interests than with Europe.”
Tensions between Greece and Turkey have been rising over disputed waters in the Mediterranean that contain fossil fuel reserves.
When asked whether this deal risked raising tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, Macron said the accord did not target a country specifically, but Greece, as the outer border of the European Union needed to be protected.
“I don’t get the feeling that in the summer of 2020 it was Greece that was bellicose in the eastern Mediterranean,” Macron said, alluding to Turkish actions in the region.
“As Europeans, it is our duty to show solidarity with members states. It is legitimate that we commit to equipping it so it can ensure its territorial integrity is respected and that we commit to cooperating to protect it in case of intrusions, attacks or aggressions,” he said.
He added: “The Europeans must stop being naive. When we are under pressure from powers, which at times harden (their stance), we need to react and show that we have the power and capacity to defend ourselves.
“Not escalating things, but protecting ourselves.
“This isn’t an alternative to the United States alliance.
“It’s not a substitution, but to take responsibility of the European pillar within NATO and draw the conclusions that we are asked to take care of our own protection.”
The French leader also signed a deal worth €257 million with the Czech Republic to sell the Eastern European country 52 Caesar artillery guns.
Most of the guns will be assembled in the Czech Republic.
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