Macron calls for European rearmament, security talks with Russia

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STRASBOURG, FRANCE (AFP) – French President Emmanuel Macron called on Wednesday (Jan 19) for Europe to become a “power of the future”, capable of guaranteeing its own security in the face of Russian military moves on the continent’s doorstep.

The 44-year-old leader, who is set to seek re-election in April, addressed lawmakers at the European Parliament to lay out his priorities for France’s turn holding the six-month rotating presidency of the 27-member bloc.

The agenda intends to “create together a European power of the future… an independent Europe that has given itself the means to decide its own future and not rely on the decisions of other major powers,” he said.

Over his four-and-a-half years in power, Macron has consistently argued for what he calls European “strategic autonomy”, seeking to match the continent’s undisputed economic weight with diplomatic and military strength.

Many experts see the vision as far-fetched because of policy divisions between member states and their unwillingness or inability to pool their defence resources.

Macron argued that Europeans needed to build their own “collective security framework” and re-arm themselves, implying that the continent needed to work outside of the US-led Nato alliance that guarantees security for most EU states.

“Security on our continent requires strategic re-armament,” he added, saying that “frank and demanding” talks with Russia were also needed.

“As Europeans, we need to collectively make our own demands and put ourselves in a position to enforce them,” he said.

The European Union was not involved in direct talks with Moscow during a week of diplomacy last week to try to ease tensions caused by Russia’s decision to mass tens of thousands of troops on its border with Ukraine.

Macron said he “regretted” that proposals earlier this year from him and former German Chancellor Angela Merkel for the EU to hold direct talks with Russia had been refused by other EU member states.

Macron said a new “security framework” needed to be put forward “in the next few weeks” during France’s presidency of the European Council.

“We need to build it between us, Europeans, share it with our allies in Nato, and propose it for negotiation to Russia,” he told lawmakers.

At the heart of the framework would be principles agreed with Russia 30 years ago, he said.

These included rejecting the use of force or coercion, giving states “choices to accede to alliances or bodies that they wish to,” the “inviolability of borders” and the “rejection of spheres of influence.” “We in Europe need to stand up for these inherent rights,” Macron said.

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