Emmanuel Macron has called for the creation of a “true European army” to allow the EU defend itself from external threats.
The French president has pushed for closer EU defence union since coming to power last year but his proposals have been met with a lukewarm reception from member states.
Speaking to Europe 1, he said that a true European army could help combat threats ranging from Donald Trump to Vladimir Putin.
“We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America,”
“When I see President Trump announcing that he’s quitting a major disarmament treaty which was formed after the 1980s Euro-missile crisis that hit Europe, who is the main victim? Europe and its security.”
The French president continued: “We will not protect the Europeans unless we decide to have a true European army.
“We need a Europe which defends itself better alone, without just depending on the United States, in a more sovereign manner.”
Mr Macron was speaking in Verdun, northeast France, as part of a week-long tour of battlefields leading up to First World War Armistice centenary commemorations on Sunday.
Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin will be visiting France for commemoration ceremonies in Paris on Remembrance Sunday.
However, it would appear that the election of Mr Trump to the White House has acted as a catalyst for many in regard to boosting the EU’s defence capabilities, with leaders warning they cannot simply rely on the United States.
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said last year that “deference to Nato can no longer be used as a convenient alibi to argue against greater European efforts”.
A number of proposals have been put on the table for how EU nations could cooperate more closely on defence with the European Commission says closer defence cooperation “is not about creating an EU army”.
Under the new “Permanent Structured Cooperation” (Pesco) initiative legislated for in 2009 and activated in 2017, 25 of the 28 armed forces are in the process of stepping up cooperation between their militaries. Denmark, Malta and the United Kingdom have decided to opt out of the voluntary system.