French Armed Forces Minister Urges NATO Not to 'Be Afraid' of EU Defence Integration
After the abrupt US and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan and the concerns it triggered within the EU, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in September that the bloc needed to "step up to the next level" and beef up its ability to confront security threats and global crises.
French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly has sought to allay the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) concerns regarding the European Union's defence plans, urging counterparts from the alliance "not to be afraid," reports Reuters.
"When I hear some defensive statements on European defence and when I observe certain threats, including within this organisation, I say, 'don't be afraid!'" said Parly on Friday as NATO wrapped up its two-day defence minister-level conference at Brussels headquarters.
Parly insisted that plans to boost European defence were in no way "in opposition to NATO."
"Quite the contrary â€“ a stronger Europe will contribute to a strengthened and more resilient alliance," said Parly at the session that also included the EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell.
US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin offered a response to Parly's remarks at a news conference as he called upon NATO's allies to rise up to the challenge of their "number one job" â€“ "credible deterrence and defence."
"What we'd like to see are initiatives that are complementary to the types of things that NATO is doing," Austin told the media.
Austin dismissed any speculation there were contradictions between a European and an American strategy in the Indo-Pacific to counter China's military ambitions, vowing the joint effort would ensure "the Indo-Pacific area region remains free and open."
Secretary of Defence Lloyd J. Austin III met with France's Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly to discuss a plethora of issues, such as the US-France bilateral relationship, collaboration on counterterrorism in the Sahel, and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, according to a Department of Defence readout. Austin and Parly also weighed in on the prospects of boosting cooperation in the cyber and space domains.
Austin's remarks on Friday echoed a joint statement issued by US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron on 22 September in the wake of the AUKUS agreement. Paris was left incensed by the three-way security alliance, which was announced on 15 September by the US, UK, and Australia, because it cost Paris a submarine deal with Canberra's navy.
Furthermore, talk of boosted European defence gained traction in the wake of the hasty US and NATO Afghan pullout. European nations led by France began advocating greater "strategic autonomy" for the continent militarily.
Ursula von der Leyen had stated in mid-September that the bloc should seek the "political will" to confront an array of security threats and global crises, adding that EU military forces would be "part of the solution." The EU has historically relied on NATO for military action.
German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer also said earlier this month the EU should become "a strategic player to be reckoned with," while stressing that the bloc could not defend itself independently against its potential adversaries without American help.
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