French president Emmanuel Macron has risked sparking a diplomatic crisis by claiming a potential threat from the US is a reason for the formation of a “real European army.”
Macron has already warned that Europe “can no longer rely” on the US for its security amid moves by president Donald Trump to decrease the country’s contribution to Nato.
But the French president went even further in an interview with French radio on Tuesday by categorising the US alongside Russia and China as potential threats to the continent.
“We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America,” he said.
“When I see President Trump announcing that he’s quitting a major disarmament treaty which was formed after the 1980s euro-missile crisis that hit Europe, who is the main victim? Europe and its security.”
And Macron said: “We will not protect the Europeans unless we decide to have a true European army.”
Pointing out that Russia “is at our borders and has shown that it can be a threat”, he argued: “We need a Europe which defends itself better alone, without just depending on the United States, in a more sovereign manner.”
His comments could cast a shadow over a gathering of world leaders, including Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin, in France on Sunday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.
But a European Commission spokesperson didn’t shy away from the ambition to create an “EU army” when asked about Macron’s comments at a press conference in Brussels.
“This is the commission that has put forward lots of initiatives and proposals to start building gradually a more meaningful and assertive defence identity in these difficult geo-political times,” they said.
The commission last year launched a £4.5bn defence fund for pooled research, development and procurement in a bid to make the EU more independent.
All but five EU member states have also signed-up to take part in a permanent military cooperation project. Brexit made it easier for the EU to get the project off the ground as the UK had always acted as a break on EU military cooperation.
Despite the advances in military cooperation, the commission spokesperson said Macron still faces a wait to see anything resembling a European army.
“We need to start where EU competence is more obvious, which is in the areas of research, procurement cooperation and possibilities for EU funding. I don’t think this defence identity will start with an EU army and we’ll do the rest.
“We have to start with the rest and we’ll see that at some point in time, probably somewhere down at the end of this process, we may see something that people already describe as an EU army or an EU pooling of resources to make this EU defence identity more visible or more meaningful.”