Minister welcomes "swift progress" on EU defence
European defence – Interview given by Mme Florence Parly, Minister for the Armed Forces, to the daily newspaper Le Figaro (excerpts)
Paris, 22 November 2018
Q. – Is bilateral defence cooperation with Germany on the right tracks?
THE MINISTER – Scepticism is sometimes expressed regarding European cooperation and particularly industrial cooperation. In reality, things are making swift progress. The cooperation launched by Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel in July 2017 includes crucial projects for the 21st century. We’re talking about major procurement: the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) and the tank of the future. I went to Mali 10 days ago with my counterpart, Ursula von der Leyen, and we took stock of those two major projects, agreeing to see each other again soon – which we did in Brussels on Monday. We took decisions that will enable manufacturers to work, because it’s up to us, governments, to remove the obstacles and allow them to move forward so that these projects aren’t delayed. As for the FCAS, under French leadership, studies will begin next January and the launch of demonstrators is planned for June, at the Paris Air Show. Regarding the tank of the future, under German leadership, design and R&D studies will be initiated in 2019. Ursula von der Leyen and I are determined to keep up the pace. I’m very satisfied with the working atmosphere existing both between our teams and our manufacturers.
Q. – Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel talked about a European army. What does that mean to you?
THE MINISTER – We must make progress on Defence Europe as quickly and as far as possible. Terrorism, cyber attacks etc… the strategic context and the threats are clearly leading us to this. Our adversaries don’t care about borders, and that’s led to a realization on the part of Europeans, who had set the issue aside. The French President and the Chancellor have provided a powerful plan for strong ambition. That ambition is in harmony with what we’re currently developing, i.e. cooperation at every level: capability-related with Permanent Structured Cooperation, innovation-related with the European Defence Fund, and operational and strategic with the European Intervention Initiative (EII). The EII, for example, brings together 10 countries and aims to enable interventions in vary varied contexts, from the climate disaster – as the example of Hurricane Irma has shown us – to high-intensity crises like in Mali.
All these “bricks” map out the ambition of a European army whose purpose is to contribute to a Europe which protects our fellow citizens. Moreover, the President said this as early as his Sorbonne speech: Europe must give itself a common intervention force, a common defence budget and a common doctrine for taking action. We’re making concrete progress on these three pillars. (...)
Q. – Do you have any evidence concerning the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi?
THE MINISTER – We know he was killed by Saudis in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. It’s a brutal, intolerable murder. It was necessary to adopt protective measures first. These were adopted and include the banning of 18 Saudi nationals from the Schengen Area. Beyond that, we’re awaiting the results of the investigation in order to decide what other measures have to be taken.
Q. – Is Daesh [so-called ISIL] finished?
THE MINISTER – Daesh is down but hasn’t disappeared. The territorial conflict is almost over, but there’s still a major risk of the movement’s resurgence. In Syria, the fighting is continuing on the eastern part of the Euphrates, around Hajin. For the Kurdish forces, which make up a major part of the Syrian Democratic Forces we support, everything hinges on ending the recapture of land. In the west, we’re keeping a close eye on the situation in the Idlib pocket. The threat of an attack by the Syrian regime’s forces would risk causing a humanitarian disaster there, given the number of civilians present. Moreover, we’re warning Damascus against the use of chemical weapons, because that would justify us reacting very strongly, as we did in April this year./.
Paris, 19 November 2018
The Minister for the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, is currently taking part in the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council of 19 and 20 November 2018. It has provided an opportunity, among other things, to officially launch 17 new projects for Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). This tool, created a year ago, strengthens Defence Europe through the development of concrete projects.
France has strongly committed itself to ensuring that this new series of projects is as ambitious as possible. We are thus involved in 11 projects and have ourselves initiated five of them, which will contribute directly to increased military capability in Europe.
This is notably the case of the project to modernize the Tiger, the attack helicopter used every day by Operation Barkhane in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel. Developed in cooperation with Germany and Spain, the project will allow the aircraft’s equipment to be modernized and improve its integration into future combat systems by enabling it, among other things, to synchronize its action with drones.
The development of a project for medium-range, ground-to-ground and air-to-ground, missile-type anti-tank weaponry is also part of this process. This weaponry is set to equip foot soldiers, combat vehicles and drones.
All these projects should ultimately enable us to act together more easily and effectively in joint operations. This is particularly the case with the “co-basing” project, which will facilitate the deployment of contingents from different European countries on the same operational base.
Thanks to these projects, we are taking another step towards a stronger Defence Europe capable of protecting European citizens. Florence Parly welcomes the progress made by all the member states in Brussels today, which shows that the European Union is also a practical Europe./.