December 7, 2023

Not at the expense of NATO

Not at the expense of NATO

FEuropean Union heads of state and government spent five hours on Tuesday evening talking about the role the EU should – and could play – internationally. This was their first meeting since the end of June, and a lot happened in the meantime. Both had a relationship with America. At the beginning of July, Washington abruptly withdrew its combat troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban occupied the country, and the Europeans found it difficult to reach safety. The second surprise that followed mid-September, Europe again faced a fait accompli: this time it was the secretly negotiated security agreement between Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, or AUKUS for short.

Thomas Gotchaker

Political correspondent for the European Union, NATO and the Benelux countries, based in Brussels.

It became known when the European Union was just presenting its Indo-Pacific strategy – a strategy that also relied on Australia as a partner. Paris’s bid for a multibillion-dollar submarine deal collapsed. When he arrived at the conference venue in Brdo Pree Krango (Ige near Krenburg) in Slovenia, French President Emmanuel Macron spoke of “a world that is becoming more and more inverted.” How is the EU supposed to be alone in such a world?

Macron was cautious

To put it right from the start: Despite the two incidents, the meeting did not turn out to be a major settlement with the United States. Macron himself was cautious. Yes, there were decisions that “I cannot say express appreciation for Europe,” referring to the American University of Kosovo. You have to get stronger and take care of your own affairs. But then he asserted that Americans were a “historical ally” and that he “trusted history”. Explanations are needed, but so is “renewed cooperation”.

Before leaving Paris, the French president received US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. Then the Elysee Palace spoke of a “serious” and “very productive” conversation. In turn, Biden’s security adviser, Jack Sullivan, admitted in a television interview with France 2, that there were errors in complicity, and promised that from now on they would cooperate better with France, especially in the Sahel region. The American also praised European defense efforts.

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That was in line with the statement released after a phone call between Biden and Macron. The two will meet in person at the end of October when Biden comes to Europe for the G20 summit in Rome. Until then there is still much to discuss. When asked if he was confident Biden would take France seriously in the future, Macron replied in Brdo: “We’ll see.” He hoped it was possible and it was possible. But it is not about words or perceptions. It’s about the facts and what we do together.”