Czech President-elect Petr Pavel claimed Emmanuel Macron has moved on from his plans to push for an EU Army in favour of strengthened cooperation with NATO allies.
Speaking to EU stakeholders in Prague after a meeting with the French President, Pavel said: “European defence – I spoke about this in Munich with President Macron – is not about declaring that we have a European army or EU army.
“There has already been a big shift by President Macron – from the European army, he was talking about years ago, against the backdrop of NATO’s brain-deadness, to now saying we need to build European defence based on the European pillar of NATO, which I applaud.
“It is a reasonable shift.”
The French leader has long pushed for the bloc to have its own army, pledging in 2017 to fight for “autonomous action” and a “complement to NATO”.
The French President has also called on EU members to make themselves available to act independently of the US and NATO, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, stating: “Europe has to accept it must pay the price for peace.”
In March 2022, he said: “We cannot let others defend ourselves; whether on land, at sea, under the sea, in the air, in space or in cyberspace… Our European defence must take a new step”.
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The EU has had battlegroups of 1,500 soldiers standing by since 2007 but they have never been used.
The invasion of Ukraine has, however, triggered a series of policy changes across Europe, in particular, Germany.
The country reversed years of Angela Merkel’s defence policy to announce it would hit NATO defence spending targets and revive its under-resourced military.