By Javad Heirannia

Transatlantic differences justify European efforts to become more autonomous: Finaud 

November 21, 2018

TEHRAN - Marc Finaud, the former French Foreign Ministry spokesman, says that “the reasons why France and Germany saw an interest in developing further EU strategic autonomy were related to the apparent reduced American interest in transatlantic solidarity, and the prospect of the United Kingdom leaving the EU, because the UK was one of the two leading military powers in Europe but always opposed any progress towards a ‘European army’.”

Former Senior Resident Fellow at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) adds “establishing a ‘real European army’ can only be a long-term goal, even if it has been made easier with Brexit.”
A senior member of Geneva Centre for Security Policy also says that “transatlantic differences indeed weaken the Alliance and justify European efforts to become more autonomous.”
Following is the full text of the interview:

Q: The idea of forming a joint European army is not a new idea, but in recent days, with the comments of Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel and the reaction of Trump has taken a new dimension. What are the reasons for the progress of this project by countries such as France and Germany?

A: Indeed this idea dates back to the Cold War and the failed attempt of the European Community of Defense in 1952 that paved the way for the establishment of the European Union and the integration of West Germany in NATO. Over the years, the European Union did develop its own common and security policy that included joint military capacities and coordination that were distinct from NATO’s and are part of the 2007 Lisbon Treaty. Because of the priority given by most EU Member States to NATO for ensuring collective defense but also the presence of neutral countries within the EU, the balance and distribution of roles between the two organizations was always carefully maintained, and the EU used its military and civilian capacities mostly in external crisis management operations (for instance in Bosnia, Somalia, Iraq, Ukraine, Libya, Niger, Kosovo, etc.). More recently, the reasons why France and Germany saw an interest in developing further EU strategic autonomy were related to the apparent reduced American interest in transatlantic solidarity, and the prospect of the United Kingdom leaving the EU, because the UK was one of the two leading military powers in Europe but always opposed any progress towards a ‘European army’.

Q: Speaking to the "Europe 1" radio, French President Emmanuel Macron called for the formation of a real European military to counter Russia's threats and also independence from the USA. In the interview, the French president said: "We have to defend ourselves against Russia, China, and even USA." Why does France now name the United States alongside China and Russia as a threat?

A: This was a distorted quote. In fact, President Macron said that the EU should have its own army to protect itself from Russia and China but also to become less dependent on the U.S. for its own defense.

Q: Trump opposed the plan and in response to French President Macron's remarks called the formation of this army offensive. Due to the Trump reaction and his renewed appeal to Europeans to give money to NATO, can these disputes threaten NATO's future?

A: The fact that the Trump administration unilaterally announced its withdrawal from the JCPOA and the INF Treaty was indeed considered in Europe as a blow to European security, and the American pressure for increased defense spending by the European Member States of NATO, in reality, means pressure to import more American armaments. Such transatlantic differences indeed weaken the Alliance and justify European efforts to become more autonomous.

Q: Ursula von der Leyen, the German defense minister, recently said that the founding of the European Army and its future activities could not only increase the security of European countries but also solve international crises. If the joint European army does missions outside Europe in addition to missions inside Europe, Is this not a parallel with NATO?

A: For many years, both NATO and the EU developed their own distinct capacities to conduct external operations while maintaining good cooperation and coordination. This allows avoiding duplication while the EU conducts both civil and military crisis management operations in countries where NATO is absent. In any case, establishing a ‘real European army’ can only be a long-term goal, even if it has been made easier with Brexit.

TEHRAN - Marc Finaud, France Former spokesman of Foreign Ministry says that “More recently, the reasons why France and Germany saw an interest in developing further EU strategic autonomy were related to the apparent reduced American interest in transatlantic solidarity, and the prospect of the United Kingdom leaving the EU, because the UK was one of the two leadings military powers in Europe but always opposed any progress towards a ‘European army’.”

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