Blog AnalysisEU Defense (Doctrine)

An anti-European France? A problem located… at the Elysée?

At the Elysée… in 2008 (credit: NGV)

(BRUSSELS2, opinion) Has France become more British in its approach to the CFSP than in the past? We can really ask the question. Since the end of the French presidency of the EU, the reintegration of NATO and the Franco-British agreement, the French desire to promote European defense, to seek allies, to seek pragmatic solutions to develop the PeSDC wavered.

It is not really for lack of competent and determined officials to promote it within the ministries of foreign affairs or defense. But it is a fact, the European partners no longer meet any respondent on the French side. This can be verified in the various meetings and seminars organized as well as in the more political debates within the EU. The political will is no longer there. And, in this absence of will, it is useless to look for rational explanations (like the financial crisis) or to find a culprit in the European institutions, it nestles in a very strategic place in the French command system, at the highest level. of State: the Elysée.

The practice of hard cores rather than multilateralism

The tendency of President Sarkozy – and his entourage – has in fact been since the beginning – when he was already Minister of the Interior – in the search for dialogue between large countries – a mixture of intergovernmental approach and search for a core optimal hard – rather than in a multilateral and community approach. An approach not specific to defense (*), France now prefers approaches to 2, 3 or 4 countries even if it means directly opposing the community executive.

When it comes to defense, another factor must be added. The desire to get closer to Washington and London, to calm relations with the USA and the United Kingdom. Result: the promise made at the Atlantic Alliance summit in Strasbourg, of a more assertive presence in NATO which would make it possible to strengthen France's position and relaunch European defense or the Europe of Defense has not not produced, three years, after the expected effects.

The assessment of reintegration into NATO remains to be done

Certainly at the military level, the reintegration into the NATO military committee and the arrival of 8 to 900 French soldiers in the various planning committees changes the situation. But not yet the culture of alliance. This remains predominantly Anglo-Saxon. And it will take many more years – and more – for change to occur. As for France's weight in the Alliance, or in Europe, the Libya affair has shown that the result has so far not lived up to the ambitions.

Certainly from a political point of view, France is no longer perceived as pursuing an anti-NATO policy. A credible and verifiable result with several of our partners, particularly in Eastern Europe. But that's all. This advantage has not been taken advantage of to develop and boost Defense Europe. On the contrary… The Franco-British agreement was seen as a departure from the principle of collective bargaining.

Result: France, today, is no longer perceived as a reliable and engaging ally for defense policy. And the PSDC is broken, quite simply because there is no more motor.

(*) An anti-European France. The title may be shocking. But this is indeed the position felt not only in matters of defense. On the European budget, on the Schengen zone, Paris displays a position which is not the one it has traditionally defended over the last 30 years.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).