Macrons dream of an EU army accelerates as unprecedented Ukraine crisis worsens

Ursula Von der Leyen sidelines Boris for Macron and Biden

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The French leader has long pushed for the bloc to have its own army, pledging in 2017 to fight for “autonomous action” and a “complement to NATO”. Just five years later, his re-election, France’s rotating presidency of the EU and the war in Ukraine, have all helped Mr Macron’s dream move a step closer to fruition.

According to Cécilia Vidotto-Labastie, an expert in defence issues and researcher at the Institut Montaigne, the French EU presidency enabled the bloc to “define European defence itself”.

She argued despite the topic being “taboo” for some EU governments, President Macron’s leadership acted as an “accelerator”.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine also helped the French leader speed up plans for a united defence programme that is likely to see an EU joint purchase of arms to replace member states’ military contributions to Kyiv.

According to an EU diplomat speaking to Euractiv, the war marked “an unprecedented geopolitical situation that has led the EU to activate a real defence policy”.

Purchases to replace European arms stocks could be made “on a European scale”, the diplomat added.

Contacted by Euractiv, the Elysee Palace echoed: “The challenge is to strengthen the European defence industry in order to reconstitute stocks and modernise equipment.”

The French President has also called on EU members to make themselves available to act independently of the US and NATO, stating: “Europe has to accept it must pay the price for peace.”

Mr Macron said in March: “We cannot let others defend ourselves; whether on land, at sea, under the sea, in the air, in space or in cyberspace… Our European defence must take a new step”.

The Baltic nations have been highly opposed to the idea, as they fear it will undermine NATO, which until now, has remained a key deterrent in Russia from spreading the conflict in Ukraine into mainland Europe.

Britain has always vetoed moves towards it when it was an EU member for the same reason.

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The idea has always been seen as a distant prospect, due to a lack of political will from member states wary of sending their troops into action under an EU flag.

The EU has had battlegroups of 1,500 soldiers standing by since 2007 but they have never been used.

The invasion of Ukraine has, however, triggered a series of policy changes across Europe, in particular, Germany.

The country reversed years of Angela Merkel’s defence policy to announce it would hit NATO defence spending targets and revive its under-resourced military.

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