France: Clement Beaune discusses ‘test for Europe’
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The French leader was tipped to be spearheading plans for a European Defence Union at the expense of France’s seat on the UN Security Council. French MEP Sandro Gozi was reported to have revealed that President Macron is in discussions over the introduction of an EU army in connection with France’s Security Council position. Mr Gozi, who is from Macron’s LREM Party, said: “I think that if we move on these things we can put on the table also the discussion on the Security Council.”
France is the only EU member state to have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council after Brexit.
French officials flatly denied the report published on Wednesday in the Daily Telegraph.
“No, France has not offered to leave its seat on the United Nations’ Security Council. It belongs to France and it will remain so,” the presidency said on its Twitter account.
Jumping on the news, Presidential rival Marine Le Pen tweeted: “According to several statements by Sandro Gozi in an article in the Daily Telegraph, Macron offered to make our seat on the Security Council available to the EU in exchange for a move towards a European army.
“If this information is correct it is an act of treason against the Nation. If it is not, Emmanuel Macron must say it quickly.”
In a bid to discredit the National Rally leader, Mr Beaune also hit out at the UK.
He said: “What a shame to use the vilest anti-French lies of the British tabloids to divide our country!
“Especially when you call yourself a patriot and a republican.”
EU nations have so far been unwilling to send troops into battle under an EU flag.
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Brussels-led “battlegroups” were agreed in 2007 but have never been used because their deployment requires unanimous support from the 27-member bloc.
Paris believes a Security Council concession could be enough to convince member states to drop their opposition to such plans.
During her flagship State of the Union speech, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen accused EU leaders of lacking the “political will” to deploy Brussels-led troops around the world.
She insisted the bloc should be able to send “battlegroups” into conflict zones without the help of the US.
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Mrs von der Leyen, a former German defence minister, told MEPs that the abrupt end to the US-led mission in Afghanistan raised questions about the bloc’s capabilities.
She urged EU nations to put aside their long-held reservations about putting boots on the ground and build a “Defence Union”.
“There will be missions where Nato or the United Nations will not be present but where Europe should be,” Mrs von der Leyen told the EU Parliament in Strasbourg.
She added: “You can have the most advanced forces in the world – but if you are never prepared to use them – of what use are they?
“What has held us back until now is not just a shortfall of capacity – it is the lack of political will.
“And if we develop this political will, there is a lot that we can do at EU level.”
France takes over the EU’s six-month rotating presidency in January, handing it a key role in the bloc’s decision-making processes.
Mr Macron and Mrs von der Leyen are due to hold a summit of EU leaders to discuss the bloc’s military capabilities.
Mr Gozi told the Telegraph: “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.”
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