EU must 'rebuild joint security agenda' says Macron
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Speaking to Agence France-Presse (AFP), Mr Stoltenberg dismissed the bloc’s ambition to become independent from NATO and have its own army and defence corp. The NATO chief said the EU alone could never defend Europe, in a thinly-veiled swipe at President Macron who is longing for strategic independence.
Mr Stoltenberg said: “I don’t believe in Europe alone.
“I don’t believe in North America alone.
“I believe in North America and Europe together in strategic solidarity in NATO.
“Because I don’t believe that any country or any continent alone can manage the security challenges we face today.”
Mr Stoltenberg said that EU flanks are defended in the North Atlantic from Russian invasions by non-EU members such as the UK, Canada and the US.
He said: “More than 90 percent of the people in the European Union, they live in a NATO country.
“But only 20 percent of NATO’s defence spending comes from NATO EU members.
“But most importantly, this is about politics because any attempt to weaken the link, to divide Europe and North America, will not only weaken NATO, it will divide Europe.”
He continued: “I support EU efforts on defence, because more defence spending, new military capabilities and addressing the fragmentation of the European defence industry – all of that will be good for European security, for transatlantic security, for all of us.
“So all these efforts – as long as they complement NATO – we welcome them, but the EU cannot defend Europe.”
The NATO chief’s comments come as the EU is struggling to replace British soldiers in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Just a few days before the UK signed its Brexit agreement with Brussels in December, British troops returned home from Bosnia, leaving the EU to deal with Operation Althea on its own.
The operation, which was launched in 2004, currently consists of some 600 soldiers for peace-keeping tasks. Until December 2020, the bloc was counting on a reserve force of a few hundred soldiers from London.
Three months since the UK troops returned home and the bloc is yet to replace them – a major blow for those calling for a united armed forces.
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Romania offered to step in and save the bloc’s face with 134 soldiers.
The Romanian infantry company, however, will not cover all the missing heads.
A Romanian diplomat told Politico: “We indicated our intention to offer one infantry company for Althea strategic reserve.”
Since his election in 2017, President Macron has been pushing for the European Union to stand on its own feet when it comes to security, and no longer rely solely on US military protection inherited from World War Two.
Speaking to the Financial Times last month, the President said he wanted to pursue a “European strategic autonomy” adding “brain-dead” NATO needed deep reforms.
In an attempt to defend his comments, he later said his concept of European strategic autonomy in the defence sector did not mean he wanted to drift apart from the United States but that it would make Europe a more reliable partner and strengthen NATO.
“I do believe in NATO,” President Macron said during the Munich Security Conference, more than a year after causing confusion among other members of the transatlantic military alliance by saying NATO was “experiencing brain death”.
“I do believe NATO needs a new political momentum and clarification of its strategic concept. NATO needs a more political approach,” he added, speaking after the first G7 meeting attended by US President Joe Biden.
His comments on NATO’s “brain death”, coupled with his decision to seek more cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, had caused consternation among some European allies, especially in eastern Europe, which sees the United States as the only credible protection from neighbouring Russia.
He said: “I do believe the best possible involvement of Europe within NATO is to be much more in charge of its own security.”
The French leader added that all of that would make NATO “even stronger than before”.
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