Macron to take charge of EU army plans as Von der Leyen hands French president more power

Macron criticised over push for EU army by Italian MEP

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It was unveiled today that the French President will use his time in charge of the EU’s six-month rotating presidency to champion a bolstering of the bloc’s military capabilities. European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen said the pair would convene a summit of EU leaders next year to discuss the issue. The gathering was announced during the Brussels boss’s State of the Union speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

She used the occasion to accuse EU leaders of not having the “political will” to use Brussels-led “battlegroups” to intervene in military conflicts.

Paris is a leading light in the push for further military integration.

Just last week French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said the bloc had to be more ambitious on defence and global leadership.

The drive has been accelerated in the wake of the upheaval in Afghanistan, when European nations were forced to abandon their evacuation programmes after the withdrawal of US troops from Kabul’s international airport.

As a result, more European capitals believe there is a need to ensure the bloc is less reliant on US-led military operations in the future.

Discussing the issue today, Mrs von der Leyen said: “The European Union is a unique security provider. There will be missions where NATO or the UN will not be present, but where the EU should be.”

The Commission President added: “The good news is that over the past years, we have started to develop a European defence ecosystem.

“In the last weeks, there have been many discussions on expeditionary forces. On what type and how many we need: battlegroups or EU entry forces.

“This is no doubt part of the debate – and I believe it will be part of the solution.

“But the more fundamental issue is why this has not worked in the past.

“You can have the most advanced forces in the world – but if you are never prepared to use them – of what use are they? 

“What has held us back until now is not just a shortfall of capacity – it is the lack of political will.”

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EU “battlegroups” were agreed in 2007 but have never been used because of difficulties in securing unanimous agreements for their deployment.

It is understood that France wants to champion a new system based on a “coalition of willing”.

Under the plan, EU troops could be deployed quickly to intervene anywhere in the world, especially to safeguard the evacuation of officials and staff from conflict zones.

Officials say they believe their is going to be a shift away from unanimous decision-making for EU army projects in the wake of the Afghan crisis.

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France will urge fellow EU governments to consider the possibility dropping the requirement for all leaders to support military intervention.

There is also plans in the pipeline to further integrate defence policy.

Mrs von der Leyen pitched the possibility of dropping VAT on military equipment made in the bloc.

She believes this will convince EU countries to do their equip their armed forces with European technologies.

Mr Macron recently attacked German defence minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer’s attempt to scupper EU army plans.

She said that “illusions of European strategic autonomy must come to an end” and that “Europeans will not be able to replace America’s crucial role as a security provider”.

Mr Macron said he disagreed “profoundly” with the German’s comments.

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