ELN expert:

Le Pen aims at full defense autonomy

News ID: 3962889 -
TEHRAN, Apr. 26 (MNA) – An expert from ELN shed light on different visions of both French Presidential election front runners toward the EU, NATO and possible European Army.

Finishing with second-place in first round of presidential election of France, Marine Le Pen has dragged her National Front party from the dark fringes of its first 40 years. This party has never been so close to gaining power in France since World War II

But her success is so alarming that as soon as the preliminary results were announced, all of her major opponents and rivals called for her defeat in the second-round runoff on May 7. They asked their supporters to vote for Emmanuel Macron, the centrist, pro-European Union candidate and former economy minister.

Different visions of Le pen and Macron for Europe has caused concerns among politicians across EU so that many believe the fate of this union depends on the result of France presidential election.

To shed further light on the issue, Payman Yazdani of Mehr News International Service asked Alice Billon-Galland, a researcher from London based European Leadership Network (ELN) about Le Pen and Macron’s visions on EU, NATO and possible European army.

Le Pen’s stance originates from her nationalistic and opposing attitudes toward integration procedures created after Second World War. Based on her attitudes she is against NATO and wants to leave the alliance. At the moment, what structures can replace structures like NATO, EU and so on?

According to Le Pen, the most important is France’s strategic and operational independence. To her, this independence is undermined by supranational and intergovernmental organizations such as the EU and NATO which take over states’ sovereignty and lead to a decline in French power. She thus opposes such organizations out of principle and wants to replace them with targeted cooperation between sovereign nations.

Arguing that France should not fight “wars that are not its own,” she opposes the very foundation of NATO as a system of collective defense – whereby its member states agree to mutual defense in response to an attack by a third (Cf. Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty). She is in favor of leaving the NATO Integrated Military Command Structure at once but has declared that she would wait to see how NATO evolves under a Trump presidency to decide whether or not to leave the Alliance altogether. Concerning the EU, if elected she would organize a referendum on leaving the Union. A strong opponent of Brussels-based supra-nationalism, she opposes any effort at building a common defense but supports the creation of command structures to facilitate targeted military cooperation in the field.

Le Pen’s stance toward the issue of security resembles realistic approach. Like all realists, she is after the security which is maintained by each political entity. Based on this, Le Pen wants to increase France’s military spending. Can her approach provide EU with better security than NATO-based integrative approach? What do you think of this?

Le Pen’s approach is about increasing national defense spending (2% of GDP on defense by 2018 and 3% by 2022) and ensuring that France is fully autonomous when it comes to defense capabilities. She aims at full defense autonomy at the national level in order to guarantee the country’s independence - not the EU’s or Europe’s independence. In this sense her stance resembles the realistic approach in so far as she argues that states are the primary actors of the international system and recognizes no political entities above them. When it comes to wider EU or European security, she argues that Europe will be better protected if each nation takes responsibility for its own defense – so at the national level. The only cooperation format she envisions is operational: command structures to facilitate targeted military cooperation in the field by sovereign nations.

The other way of looking at the European security issue is to aim for European in parallel with and as an addition to national strategic independence. Given the importance of defense and security shortfalls of Europe as a whole, pooling and sharing capabilities (cf. work of the European Defense Agency) is a way to avoid duplication and reduce costs. Although full of challenges and disagreements as to strategy and goals, cooperation at the European level (EU, NATO, or bi- and multi-lateral) is a cheaper, faster, more pragmatic and efficient way to provide output. Moreover, cooperation does not necessarily mean co-dependence (cf.2013 French Operation Serval in Mali) but does entail long-term relationship and a focus on European as well as French autonomy – which Le Pen rejects ideologically.

Considering different attitudes toward the EU security and historical evidences, don’t you think that it is possible this may lead to a security dilemma?

Cf. above. I am not sure what you mean by “security dilemma” but Le Pen’s desire to leave the EU and to have limited European security and defense cooperation, if it happened, would bring about uncertainty and I believe weaken European security.

Some believe that the UK left EU because they know that EU will disintegrate in future, so in a pre-emptive act they left this union in order to prevent disintegrations consequences and its heavy price. Do you agree with this?

I have heard of this theory but can neither confirm nor deny it. It is, however, important to remember that the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union was decided by a popular referendum.

If Macron wins, do you think that the EU army will be formed? If yes, what will be the fate of NATO? Does Trump’s ascend to throne have effect on increasing of tendency to strategic autonomy among the EU members?

None of the leading candidates – or even of all eleven – argues for an EU army. All candidates, including Macron, express a Gaullist will to preserve French strategic autonomy. So no, if Macron wins, I don’t think that an EU army will be formed.

When it comes to EU defense, Macron calls for European strategic autonomy through both the strengthening of bilateral defense agreements and sub-formats of defense cooperation for willing and capable member states. His propositions include the creation of a Permanent European Headquarters (coordinating with NATO and national command posts), the formation of a European Security Council, and the establishment of European Defense Funds to finance common programs and joint military Research & Development. He also argues for the activation of the EU Battlegroups but in no way for an EU army.

Trump’s coming to power has indeed led many EU member states to consider more seriously the necessity to foster European strategic and operational autonomy. France has been arguing in favor of European strategic autonomy for a long time – something member states finally agreed on when they committed to the implementation of the latest EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy at the end of last year. The current uncertainty around US foreign policy and US commitment to NATO is an argument cited by some French presidential candidates such as Macron, Fillon, and Hamon to justify moving forward in building European defense collaboration.

What will be the possible EU army relation with the UK, US, NATO?

Cf. above. There is no plan for an EU army.

Alice Billon-Galland works as a Researcher at the European Leadership Network (ELN). Alice’s current research focuses on French foreign and defense policies, as well as the likely impact of the upcoming presidential election on European defense cooperation. Together with Denitsa and Julia, Alice participates in the European Defense research program, conducting research on NATO burden-sharing and following developments in the European Union Common Security and Defense Policy [CSDP].

Interview by Payman Yazdani

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