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Germany and France vie for European leadership at NATO

November 20, 2019 at 6:22 pm

French President Emmanuel Macron makes a speech as he holds a press conference at the end of the second day of the European Summit at the European Council in Brussels, Belgium on 18 October 2019. [Dursun Aydemir – Anadolu Agency]

France and Germany each sought to claim European leadership within NATO on Wednesday in the first ministerial meeting since French President Emmanuel Macron warned that the US-led military alliance was experiencing “brain death”, Reuters reports.

Public questioning of the alliance comes ahead of a summit in London for NATO’s 70th anniversary in two weeks and reflects both broader transatlantic frictions and the space in leadership left by Britain’s decision to leave the European Union (EU).

Amid questions about US President Trump’s reliability, anger at Turkey’s incursion into Syria last month and American doubts over Europe’s commitment to its own defence, Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Europe must not go it alone.

Maas instead proposed to counterparts at a NATO foreign ministers meeting that Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg create a commission of experts to debate strategic issues.


Separately from Berlin’s proposal, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also raised the idea of a “wise persons” group to consider NATO’s future, two diplomats said, although details were not immediately available.

Both ideas would widen NATO’s original remit, since its 1949 foundation, of protecting Europe and North America, to potentially encompass new areas such as Syria’s eight-year-old civil war and the Middle East.

Macron, in a Nov. 7 interview with the Economist, expressed doubt about NATO’s security maxim that an attack on one ally is an attack on all. He called for more European defence integration to allow for speedier reactions to crises near Europe’s borders without NATO or the United States.

Macron said there was also a lack of coordination between European allies on the one hand and the United States and Turkey, with NATO’s second largest military, on the other.