Merkel voices support for Macron’s proposed European defence force

Angela Merkel on Sunday gave German support to French proposals for a joint European military “intervention force” that will take action in trouble spots around the world.

Britain has already backed the planned force, which will operate independently of the European Union, despite misgivings that it could be seen as a “European army”.

The force is a key element of Emmanuel Macron’s proposals to reform European defence and integrate the continent’s many militaries more closely together.

Until now German reluctance has been seen as a major obstacle, but Mrs Merkel on Sunday gave qualified support to the plans.

“I am in favor of President Macron’s proposal for an intervention initiative,” the German chancellor told Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper.

“However, such an intervention force with a common military-strategic culture must fit into the structure of defense cooperation,” she added.

“European defense cooperation is very important. Of the 180 weapon systems that currently coexist in Europe, we must move to a situation like the United States, which has only about 30 weapons systems.”

The new intervention force has been touted as an opportunity to involve Britain in European defence cooperation after Brexit.

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Earl Howe, the junior defence minister, said last month: “It will help to achieve what we are looking for, which is a deep and special partnership with our European colleagues in defence and security”.

Mrs Merkel said she welcomed the opportunity to involve Britain in the force. But she also stressed that the the EU’s existing defence pact and any “common military strategy” are “closely related”, which will stoke Brexiteer fears that the force could involve Britain in a European army by the back door.

Mr Macron is thought to be keen to involve Britain in future European defence cooperation as one of the continent’s most effective militaries.

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But he is also pushing for the force in part because of frustrations with the slow pace of EU defence integration.

Twenty-three member states signed up to a defence cooperation pact last year after Britain dropped its opposition in light of Brexit.

But progress has been slow amid foot-dragging from several members, including Germany, where there are traditional misgivings over the role of the military, given the country’s Second World War history.

Mrs Merkel emphasised that the German armed forces would remain commanded by parliament and not the government, and “would not take part in every mission”.