Emmanuel Macron’s Coalition of the Willing

Written by Paul Taylor

Impatient with German foot-dragging on defense, French President Emmanuel Macron will bring together a 10-nation coalition of the willing next month designed to prepare European armed forces to take action together in emergencies, and to bind Britain into military cooperation as it leaves the EU.

Defense ministers of France, the U.K., Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, Denmark and Estonia will sign a letter of intent in Paris in June, officials told me, pledging to develop a common strategic culture, share analysis and foresight on trouble spots that may require intervention and work to coordinate their forces for future operations.

Macron outlined the idea in his keynote Sorbonne speech on European integration last September, calling for a common European intervention force, defense budget and doctrine for action in contingencies where the United States and NATO may not get involved. France wants to recruit allies that could help share its military burden especially in Africa, where it intervened alone in Mali in 2012 to prevent Islamist militants seizing control of a weak state.

Frustrated by the big-tent, low-ambition start to the European Union’s so-called Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) in defense agreed last year at Germany’s insistence, the French leader is pressing ahead with a small core of like-minded nations outside EU and NATO institutional structures.

British Prime Minister Theresa May quietly endorsed the initiative at a Franco-British summit at the Sandhurst Military Academy in January but did not publicize the step to avoid antagonizing hard-line Brexiteers in her Conservative Party, to whom any idea of an “EU army” is anathema. She did announce a practical move to help the French in the Sahel region, making available three heavy-lift Chinook helicopters to support operations in Mali.

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About the author

Paul Taylor

Contributing editor at POLITICO, writes the Europe At Large column.