Politique européenne de défense : à quand l'autonomie stratégique?

Politique européenne de défense : à quand l'autonomie stratégique?

Mar 11, 2023, 4:38:37 PM UTC
By favouring bilateral cooperation over European integration, we risk losing Europe as an international lever
Tribune : Politique européenne de défense : à quand l'autonomie stratégique ?

> President Macron has moved away from his long-standing position in favour of strategic autonomy, choosing instead to favour defence commitments within the European pillar of NATO.

> By favouring national agendas and bilateral cooperation to the detriment of real European integration, France risks alienating its partners and losing Europe as the only lever we will have at international level.

Volt France - Sven Franck

Sven Franck

Co-president Volt France

On 10 March, President Macron will host his British counterpart Rishi Sunak for a new Franco-British summit. This is a reboot, after a four-year hiatus due to Brexit and numerous disagreements ranging from fisheries disputes to the Aukus military alliance affair. A pragmatic British Prime Minister offers an opportunity to strengthen ties at the bilateral level. But if President Macron's recent abandonment of Europe's strategic autonomy is a harbinger, the meeting risks further diluting the European project and revealing the flaws and weaknesses that characterise its foreign policy for France as well as the European Union.

The kaleidoscope of bilateral treaties

It should come as no surprise if a broader agreement is signed between the two countries, accompanied by the drafting of a new clone of the Elysée Treaty to complete the collection of similar treaties that France maintains with its neighbours Italy (Quirinal Treaty) and Spain (Barcelona Treaty). With the UK playing at the European level - having already invited to join the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) on defence and seeking to participate in the European funding programme Horizon 2027 - one wonders what is left of President Macron's European vision, when he seems to be more interested in completing a kaleidoscope of bilateral treaties, accompanied by a political community of EU and non-EU member states.

The end of autonomy and the European army?

Worse still, in his recent meeting with the incoming Czech president and former chairman of NATO's Military Committee, Petr Pavel, President Macron moved away from his long-standing position in favour of strategic autonomy, opting instead to favour defence commitments within NATO's European pillar. Pavel's assertion that Europe lacks "strategic elements" in areas such as logistics or communications - prerequisites for large-scale military operations - is at best surprising considering, for example, our rail network or Eutelsat. However, it remains measured against the change in position of President Macron, who has been a strong advocate of a European army since he took office in 2017.

It is also a gamble to speculate on the long-term stability of the transatlantic relationship, with only two years to go - and perhaps two years to go before re-election - of a US president who has questioned the very existence of the European Union and the fundamentals of NATO, supported the Brexit and walked away from major international treaties. Moreover, whether it is the US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) encouraging European industry to relocate to the US, or the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) attempting to undermine our GDPR, we must be aware that while the US and Europe are united in common causes, we are also economic competitors. Europe must be an ally and a partner, but we must avoid falling into the technological and geopolitical dependencies that our government seems to be leading us towards.

What about our European vision and ambition?

The war in Ukraine has tested President Macron's definition of strategic autonomy in Europe. It has inevitably failed. The 'European Defence Fund' has a budget of €8 billion for the period 2020-2027 to finance technological gaps and interoperability between the different defence systems of EU member states, while France alone will invest €460 billion in its army for the period 2024-2030. A European army is about more than sewing European flags onto uniforms. Autonomy is more expensive than dependencies. As long as France - together with the other EU member states - is not prepared to make consistent commitments to investment in European capabilities, interoperability and cooperation in decision-making procedures, a European army, like a federal Europe, will remain a chimera and an empty election promise.

The world is changing rapidly. By favouring national agendas and bilateral cooperation over real European integration, France risks alienating its partners and losing Europe as the only lever we will have at international level. We should avoid the mistakes made by the UK, which believed that its own history and hubris would count in a world where Europe can be one actor among others. Otherwise, none of us will play a meaningful role. Perhaps the forthcoming Franco-British summit will be an opportunity for the British Prime Minister to advise France not to squander its chance to contribute to the European project, as the UK has done.

If you also think that Europe can be much more ambitious and that it should do much more…


  • (fr) Euractiv - Emmanuel Macron no longer thinks about a European army, says Czech president, March 2023 (lien)

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As the first truly pan-European party, Volt is committed to reforming the European Union and responding to today's challenges in a coordinated way at European level. Volt's vision: a progressive Europe with an inclusive society, a climate-friendly economy, an adaptable education system and self-determined digitalisation.

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Sven Franck - Co-president de Volt France
Mail : sven.franck@volteuropa.org 

Robin Fontaine - Non executive member of the board
Mail : robin.fontaine@volteuropa.org 

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Update on March 12th 2023, photo by Aleks Marinkovic on Unsplash.