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Macron steps up push for EU strategic autonomy

By JONATHAN POWELL in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-09-23 09:09

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a joint statement with Chile's President Sebastian Pinera (not seen) after a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, Sept 6, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

France continues to push for the creation of a European Union military force in the wake of a submarine supply contract row with Australia, and the United States' withdrawal from Afghanistan.

France's President Emmanuel Macron would be willing to give its United Nations Security Council seat to the EU in the next step toward building a bloc-wide army, British media reports said on Wednesday.

A close ally of France's president told The Daily Telegraph that Macron would be willing to discuss sharing the UN seat if the EU were allowed to speak with a single voice on foreign policy. But some EU member states are said to be resistant to handing France and Germany too much power on foreign policy.

The French government later denied the Telegraph report that it would give its permanent seat at the UN to the EU, according to Reuters. "We formally deny this. The seat is ours and will remain that way," a spokesperson for the French presidency said.

The paper said Macron is leading a diplomatic push for closer EU military integration that could lead to discussions about the bloc's representation on the Security Council.

"I think that if we move on these things we can put on the table also the discussion on the Security Council," said Sandro Gozi, a former Italian Europe minister now serving as a member of the European Parliament for Macron's party.

France will take over the rotating presidency of the bloc on Jan 1, giving it a key role in intergovernmental negotiations, noted the Telegraph. It said Macron is also in place to become the EU's most influential leader, with Angela Merkel due to step down as Germany's chancellor after Sunday's election.

Gozi added: "This is a unique opportunity for him and for Europe.

"We must be prepared to confirm our transatlantic alliance but also to become adult in terms of our security and take on our responsibility. Certainly, Macron will push a lot. I would say this is probably his highest priority now."

France is the only EU member state to have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, while the EU holds observer status. The United Kingdom, US, China and Russia have the four other permanent seats.

EU leaders will soon discuss strengthening the bloc's common defense, said Maro Sefcovic, the deputy head of the European Commission.

"I think that after Kabul, after AUKUS, this was, I would say the natural conclusion, that we need to focus more on the strategic autonomy," Sefcovic told news agency reporters in Brussels on Tuesday.

Last week, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen called for more military independence for the economic bloc during her annual State of the European Union speech in Strasbourg. She also outlined plans for a defense summit, which will be held in France next year.

"It is time for Europe to step up to the next level," she told the European Parliament. "Europe can, and clearly should, be able and willing to do more on its own.

"The bloc must be able to intervene militarily without the help of the United States, but lacks the political will," she said.

Support was voiced for a 5,000-strong EU "rapid response force" at a meeting of foreign and defense ministers in Slovenia earlier this month.

Britain, which left the EU last year, has long been opposed to a European military force, with concerns voiced that it would undermine the NATO military alliance of North America and Europe.

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