Blog AnalysisEU Defense (Doctrine)

Acting together, Emmanuel Macron's key word. A triptych for European defense

(B2 at the Hôtel de Brienne) In his address to the armies on the eve of the July 14 parade, Saturday (July 13), Emmanuel Macron held, among other subjects (the modernization of the army, pensions, remembrance to the dead and support for the wounded), to reiterate the need for a European defense

Emmanuel Macron at the Hotel de Brienne alongside F. Parly (Min. Armies) and G. Darrieussecq (Min. Armies). In the foreground, General François Lecointre, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces (© NGV - B2)

“Never since the end of the Second World War has Europe been so necessary. Building a defense Europe, in conjunction with the Atlantic Alliance, is a priority for France. It is the red thread of this parade. »

This speech is interesting from different points of view

Beyond words that may seem agreed, the French president seems to redefine what Defense Europe represents for him. A vision that is expected to be more consensual with all European partners and Americans alike.

No more terminological hesitation

First, after some terminological hesitation — European defence, European army (1) — we come back to the original word " Defense Europe which has the advantage of not defining just one aspect, but of symbolizing the whole of European defense policy (the Germans use the term European Defense Union which is quite similar in a way).

A triptych of actions

Then, the President presents this Europe of defense as being based on three elements: strategic culture, common capabilities and operations. It thus traces a certain coherence between various initiatives which seemed a little confused.

French strategic autonomy at the service of Europe

Finally, he leaves aside strategic autonomy, which is also redefined as French strategic autonomy " at the service of Europe ". Which is more believable. The notion of 'French-style' strategic autonomy is not shared (far from it) in Europe. He also launches an appeal with his foot to the most skeptical European partners about a European initiative that is too 'detached' from the Atlantic Alliance.

Ability to act collectively

For the French president, the key words are now: “ Act together " et “strengthen our ability to act collectively ». “Because our security and our defense go through Europe. » This Europe of Defense does not mean “not to renounce national sovereignty nor to renounce the Atlantic Alliance”.

Add our strengths

“This means [that] adding up our strengths can allow us to gain strength and efficiency. It is to acknowledge the fact that our Europe is also a Europe that protects, and that this mission for our peoples will make it even more credible. »

A common strategic culture

“Acting together means building a strategic culture for tomorrow and being able to consider joint operational commitments” indicated the French president, highlighting the European intervention initiative or EII (2), which was in honor of the July 14 parade.

Common skills

« Developing common projects and collective capacities makes sense he said, referring to the 34 PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation) projects, the European Defense Fund and the Future Air System (SCAF) project developed jointly with Germany and France.

National operations with European support

« There is no longer an operation today without European partners, without European dynamics citing the operation Barkhane in the Sahel, Chammal in the Levant (Iraq and Syria) or the mission Clemenceau around the Charles-de-Gaulle carrier battle group.

Clear strategic autonomy

We want " strengthen our strategic autonomy, which must be part of a European framework indicated the chairman, referring to the effort to modernize the equipment undertaken (see box). " Our nation must act today to remain in control of its destiny alongside the Europeans. »

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde, in Paris)

  1. « The European army is ambition said French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly in an interview with Parisian
  2. This initiative resulting from the speech of the Sorbonne and launched a year ago seems to skate a little despite the official statements.

A substantial effort to modernize the French army

The president also wanted to assert himself as the guarantor of the French army's modernization effort, which involves the arrival of new modern equipment.

Committed modernization

« The modernization is launched clarified Emmanuel Macron, citing in particular the 3rd generation Rafale aircraft, the Griffon program for the army, the new Suffren attack submarine, the new assault rifles equipping the army or the new frigate FREMM and the Antilles-Guyane ship and ships. Equipment in good and due form included in the military programming law (1). " I will personally oversee its application. (2). The President also announced the creation of a Grand Space Command.

A budgetary effort over the long term

« The budgetary effort for defense will be kept because the strategic context requires it. It is my responsibility as head of the armies to see far, never to give in to the sirens of the short term, to maintain our nation in the long time of victory says E. Macron. And to add: France is ambitious for Europe. It is also and, above all, for itself”.

A message for internal and external purposes

This message has primarily an internal vocation, history to cauterize the wounds of an army a little shaken by the eviction militarily of General de Villiers from his duties as Chief of Staff in 2017, but also to justify in the eyes of French public opinion a budgetary effort at the time of delicate choices. It also has a European scope (see above) and beyond, aimed at Donald Trump's United States, regular seekers of greater burden sharing, as well as certain worrying neighbours: Russia, Syria and Turkey (3).


  1. To be fair, it must be said that this modernization was initiated under its predecessors. There is thus a clear continuation of the Hollande-Macron presidencies. Two events mainly motivated this increase in power: the intervention in the Sahel in January 2013 and the attacks of 2015. A singular difference with most of the other European countries which only began to become aware of the necessary re-engagement after the Russian intervention in Ukraine (at the Wales summit in September 2014) and the few additional warning shots from Donald Trump.
  2. Read also: LPM. France puts the booster on its defense and wants to remain the reference army in Europe
  3. Turkey is mentioned knowingly. The Turkish government is now clearly opposing the French positions, supporting adversary forces on the ground in Syria and Libya. Its drillships are present in the maritime exclusive economic zone of Cyprus to the detriment of Cypriot and French interests (Total being present), not to mention the equipment with S400 anti-aircraft defense missiles.

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).

3 thoughts on “Acting together, Emmanuel Macron's key word. A triptych for European defense"

  • ping: European cooperation in the spotlight on July 14 - B2 Bruxelles2

  • ping: France creates a major space command - B2 Brussels2

  • Hello
    If we compare your post on the European defense talks with the one above, we see that in 2 years E Macron has rather made the Europe of defense regress… PESCO, IED, more than symbolic presence of Europeans in the Sahel, renunciation of European strategic autonomy, disintegration of NATO, European HQ in limbo...
    And how to talk about developing a common strategic culture without first defining the political goals. But EM only has it for France and would like the 26 other countries to adopt them without discussing…what interest for the Poles to defend France Africa in the Sahel?

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