President sets out vision for Europe’s future security
International security – Statements by M. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic, at the Munich Security Conference (excerpts)
Munich, 15 February 2020
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The question you implicitly ask is about the relationship between a European defence ambition and NATO. I believe very strongly that we need to have a stronger Defence Europe. That’s why I regard what we’ve managed to create in recent years – a European Defence Fund, enhanced cooperation and, as I proposed at the Sorbonne, the establishment of a European Intervention Initiative to bring together strategic cultures – as historic and extremely important steps in order to have European finance and common capability projects – FCAS and MGCS are tremendous Franco-German examples – and to have a common strategic culture behind this.
I think we need this for the sovereignty reasons I mentioned earlier. Sometimes it’s been misinterpreted or misunderstood. It’s not a project that is against NATO or an alternative to NATO, but as I’ve said, for me European collective security has two pillars: NATO and Defence Europe. It’s not an alternative, but it’s the logical consequence of the situation we’ve seen in recent years.
We have an American partner who tells us, “you must invest more in your security”, which is true. We have the United States of America which tells us, “since the fall of the Wall, you Europeans have disinvested, thinking peace had arrived. The world has changed. I’m not your neighbourhood sheriff”. And when I look at what’s been done – including, incidentally, under President Obama’s administration – it’s already an American strategic repositioning, a decision to be less invested in the Middle East, to pivot much more towards the Pacific and say, “Europe must shoulder its responsibilities in neighbourhood terms”.
But I think we need NATO, very clearly. But we need to build consistently with NATO – both for ourselves and in response to America’s demand – our own capability that gives us credibility vis-à-vis the American partner. The capability to say we’re putting ourselves in a position to protect ourselves and carry out useful actions, and the capability to have freedom to act. I say this because that’s also very important in order to have a foreign policy. If we have no freedom to act, we have no credibility in foreign policy. And we can’t be a junior partner to the United States of America, because sometimes we have disagreements we must take on board. On Iran, we have disagreements. Unless we’ve built genuine financial and economic and military sovereignty, we can’t have our own diplomacy. We’ve experienced this with the JCPOA. So we need this Defence Europe. (…)
Nothing new in relation to NATO: in the NATO framework, France contributes to strategic thinking in the nuclear realm; it doesn’t take part in exercises and it won’t take any part in them; that’s always been the case. But I say we must now enter into a strategic dialogue with all those partners who so wish, including on nuclear issues.
In that framework, we’re ready to have joint exercises, because the aim is to build a common strategic culture. At European level, the stage we’re at, in my opinion, is to say, “France believes in a Defence Europe”. And so we’re ready to take this step and propose, to all those partners who so wish, entering into an unprecedented strategic dialogue and looking at a common culture in this area. And I think it’s a very important factor, and that’s what is new in the context of this Defence Europe and in this coordination between Defence Europe and NATO.
But if you’ll allow me, this means us all looking – I mentioned it to a few of you – at some things we overlook. And I think there are some things Europe overlooks in relation to military power. And we’re at a moment in our history when we have to remove them.
There are two major things we overlook, vis-à-vis Germany and Eastern Europe. And it’s up to us to view these in the light of our history, very unashamedly, very respectfully, and see how we can put them right. We built Europe on the relinquishment of German military might. That’s how it was built at the start. And subsequently things were built by allowing the two allied powers – Britain and France – to construct a military power, equipped with a nuclear capability; not Germany.
But Germany had a debate about the nuclear issue. It did so through, i.e. with, the United States of America. And I suppose you could say an idea sort of took root in Germany that you could talk about an American but not a European or French nuclear capability, because the idea of power is thought of solely in terms of the United States of America and the shadow it casts.
And I think that today we’ve got to say to ourselves, very unashamedly, that “if we really want a sovereign Europe, in other words a Europe which puts itself in a position of protecting its own people, how do we imagine the relationship to power, including in Germany?” It’s a debate. I’m speaking about this in my capacity as French President and I’m speaking about this with all the weight of our shared history, but [also] our ability to transcend that history.
And I know this isn’t a straightforward debate in Germany, at all. But I think we’ve got to debate the subject calmly. Yet power can’t simply be based on the intervention of a trusted third party, the United States of America. It must be thought of in a European way too. And on the other side, in Eastern Europe, since, basically, the fall of the Wall and even enlargement, there’s something else which is overlooked, the idea of saying, “Western Europe abandoned us; Western Europe let us be invaded and allowed a curtain to fall in Europe in ’47”. And so it said to itself, “I suffered under the Soviet Empire’s power. I prefer the Americans’ relationship with power because the Americans didn’t abandon me”.
I’m simplifying, but that’s really how I believe things were experienced. And the question regarding our European adventure, the reunification of Europe we’ve been experiencing with our partners from Central and Eastern Europe for 15 years now, concerns how we rethink together our shared security and therefore trust.
And so it’s a really good subject. But I’m telling you all this to illustrate that many of the concerns there may have been about this ambition on Defence Europe, or about what new things I’ve proposed, are also linked to these things we overlook in Europe, which we’ve got to get over because we’re entering a new era. (…)./.