Emmanuel Macron’s EU army dreams dashed after crunch summit shows bloc divided

President Biden calls Emmanuel Macron after AUKUS controversy

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European Union leaders failed to overcome divisions over whether to develop an independent defence force despite anger at the chaotic withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan and new impetus from Emmanuel Macron after France was excluded from a US geostrategic pact.

Leaders meeting over dinner in Slovenia on Tuesday split into classic divisions of eastern states fearful of Russia and wanting to strengthen Europe within NATO and those led by Germany, Italy, Spain and France that want a more robust EU capability.

Before the closed-door dinner in Brdo Castle outside the capital Ljubljana, the French President told reporters that the 27-nation bloc must do more to manage crises on its borders and to be responsible for its own security.

The EU leaders were joined by the six Balkan leaders of Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, North Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania today, part of the bloc’s decades-long strategy to create a “ring of friends” from southeastern Europe to North Africa.

“We Europeans need to be clear with ourselves. What matters to us in our security, on our borders, our independence?” said Macron, who had questioned the reliability of US protection of Europe before last month’s dispute over an Indo-Pacific pact.

The transatlantic row was triggered last month by the United States’ secret negotiation of a military accord, known as AUKUS, with Australia and Britain to counter China, excluding France.

Proponents of a stronger EU defence say the warnings have been many: Washington’s “pivot to Asia”; Britain’s departure from the bloc; former US President Donald Trump’s “America First” that undermined EU priorities; failing states on Europe’s frontiers and a more aggressive Russia.

But despite progress on building a common defence fund to develop weapons together, the EU has yet to deploy its battalion-sized battlegroups in a crisis.

“The leaders’ debate was between whether, in terms of force, we need to choose between our economic or military strength,” said a senior EU official, referring to the EU’s role as the world’s biggest aid donor and trading bloc.

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Ahead of the dinner, Latvia’s Prime Minister Krisjanis Kariņs told Politico: “The EU-NATO alliance, the transatlantic alliance is a very important aspect which should not in any way be compromised.”

Macron said he would meet US President Joe Biden at the G20 meeting in Rome on October 30-31.

He said: “We need to look with lucidity at the decisions taken by our allies.

“There were choices that were made and I can’t say that France and Europe were taken into account, but we have a history that is bigger (than this).

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“We will catch up during the G20.

“I think it is the right occasion to see how we can re-engage.”

“It is about facts and what to do together,” he told reporters at the Brdo estate outside the Slovenian capital Ljubljana.

Australia’s decision under AUKUS to cancel a lucrative submarine contract with France in September and opt for US-designed, nuclear-propelled vessels incensed Paris.

Macron said the episode was a sign that the EU needed to do more on its own, particularly in crises on the 27-nation bloc’s borders.

The EU has also set out its own strategy to increase its presence in the Indo-Pacific and counter China’s rising power.

“We must look at the way Europe should address challenges in its neighbourhood, the crises that exist, its own security and to continue to work in good faith with historic partners and allies,” Macron said, in reference to the United States.

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