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EU splintering at seams as France and Germany poised for major arms row

Macron: James Shields discusses calls for an EU army

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The idea was tabled by MEP Hannah Neumann in the European Parliament today and could see the EU Commission ban weapons exports to a specific country outside the EU for the entire bloc. The move could cause a split between France and Germany as the two nations have already clashed in the past on conflict of interests in each others’ defence deals.

Germany stopped selling weapons to Saudi Arabia over the murder of a journalist, arguing the government could use such arms towards its citizens.

The decision was not welcomed by France as the ban jeopardised joint military efforts.

The new proposal would create an EU “common risk assessment body” that could analyse countries set to receive the load.

The bloc’s executive would then either give the green light for the exports or ban them for the whole bloc.

The final decision would remain with the EU member state, but if this were to go against the Commission’s recommendation it would have to explain its decision before the European Parliament.

And if Brussels was not satisfied with the explanation, then the EU state could be taken before the European Court of Justice.

The proposal comes at a time EU leaders are pushing for the bloc to have more strategic autonomy after the US’ decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and to sign a defence deal for the Indo-Pacific with Australia and the UK.

France, with overseas territories in the Pacific and the Indian Ocean and 7,000 troops stationed there, considers itself an Indo-Pacific power. France had struck arms and security deals with India and, until recently, Australia, to protect its interests.

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Last month, Macron signed a deal with Greece for French frigates worth about €3billion.

The move was sold by both Macron and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis as a pact that would boost EU defence autonomy.

But some in the EU were sceptical of the deal and are concerned it would only serve to flare up tensions between Greece and Turkey in the Mediterranean.

One EU diplomat told Politico: “It is a bit bizarre to say the pact contributes to European sovereignty.

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“By all accounts, this is a traditional 19th-century defence pact between two European powers.

“It has definitely more to do with the pursuit of narrow national interests than with Europe.”

When asked whether this deal risked raising tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, Macron said the accord did not target a country specifically, but Greece, as the outer border of the European Union needed to be protected.

“I don’t get the feeling that in the summer of 2020 it was Greece that was bellicose in the eastern Mediterranean,” Macron said, alluding to Turkish actions in the region.

“As Europeans, it is our duty to show solidarity with members states. It is legitimate that we commit to equipping it so it can ensure its territorial integrity is respected and that we commit to cooperating to protect it in case of intrusions, attacks or aggressions,” he said.

He added: “The Europeans must stop being naive. When we are under pressure from powers, which at times harden (their stance), we need to react and show that we have the power and capacity to defend ourselves.

“Not escalating things, but protecting ourselves.

“This isn’t an alternative to the United States alliance.

“It’s not a substitution, but to take responsibility of the European pillar within NATO and draw the conclusions that we are asked to take care of our own protection.”

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