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Ten-country European defense coalition launched in Paris

French President Emmanuel Macron holds a cabinet meeting at the prefecture in Charleville-Mezieres, France, November 7, 2018. Etienne Laurent/Pool via REUTERS

PARIS: A coalition of European militaries ready to react to crises near the continent’s borders was launched Wednesday with Finland becoming the 10th country to join, amid calls by French President Emmanuel Macron for a “real European army.” The French-led initiative would not conflict with the almost 70-year-old, U.S.-dominated NATO alliance, proponents say, but reflects in part concerns about a more isolationist U.S. under President Donald Trump.

The European Intervention Initiative took official shape in Paris after months of negotiations with Germany, who France wants at the center of the force.

Macron proposed the idea more than a year ago but was met with skepticism by other European Union nations, the idea coinciding with the EU’s launch of a landmark defense pact meant to promote joint military investment.

Germany, Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Estonia, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal have all given the green light for the French-led move.

Members will work on planning, on analyzing new military and humanitarian crises, and on eventual military responses to those crises.

“In an environment where threats and upheavals of a geopolitical or climatic nature are multiplying, the initiative must send the message that Europe is ready, that Europe is capable,” a French Defense Ministry official said.

The departure from the EU of Britain, long opposed to EU military collaboration outside NATO, has revived talk of defense cooperation as have concerns Trump might prove less willing than former presidents to come to Europe’s defense in the face of a newly assertive Russia.

The initiative does not “contradict or circumvent the EU’s historic defense efforts, nor those of NATO,” the defense official said.

“On the contrary, it will only improve interoperability between the participating countries.”

Tuesday, Macron called for a “real European army” to reduce dependence on the United States.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 08, 2018, on page 9.

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