French president seeks more European military links amid defence pledge
Emmanuel Macon also confirmed his plan to restore national service for 18-to-21-year-olds.
French president Emmanuel Macron will boost defence spending in the coming years to guarantee his country’s domestic security and maintain military engagement abroad, as he repeated his wishes for increased European military co-operation.
Addressing soldiers on board the assault ship Dixmude off the naval base of Toulon, Mr Macron promised to increase spending by 1.8 billion euro (£1.5 billion) this year to 34.2 billion euro (£30 billion).
Insisting on the need for better European cooperation aimed at developing a “strategic autonomy”, Mr Macron said Germany will be an essential partner alongside the UK. He insisted the alliance, including both EU members and non-member states, would not be in competition with Nato.
He also pledged to bring French defence spending to 2% of GDP — from about 1.8% currently — by 2025, in a move aimed at “stopping the erosion of our military capacity”.
Six months after a crisis over cuts in the military budget led to the appointment of a new chief of staff of the armed forces, Mr Macron said the financial effort was “unprecedented”.
Last summer, General Pierre de Villiers resigned after a clash with Mr Macron and was replaced by General Francois Lecointre.
Gen De Villiers had resisted 850 million euro (£721 million) in cuts to last year’s budget.
Mr Macon also confirmed his plan to restore national service — one of his campaign promises — a measure that will be funded with a separate budget. The one-month conscription is expected to involve about 600,000 people every year, aged between 18 and 21.
The former banker added that France’s nuclear arsenal will remain at the heart of military strategy, and stressed the importance of maintaining the army’s capacity to intervene “everywhere in the world”.
Revealing that French soldiers had rescued 106 migrants off Libya coast earlier this week, Mr Macron praised French troops for their involvement in current French overseas operations, including Sahel, Western Africa and the Middle East.
The French president said: “We have entered an era of great turbulence.
“With globalisation, our country’s interests are no longer limited to our territory. Sometimes, defending our territory consists in fighting terrorists thousands of kilometers away”.
The budget for overseas operations will be gradually increased to reach 1.1 billion euro (£720 million) in 2020, compared to 450 million euro (£397 million) last year.