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Macron calls for joint EU army project to step up a gear

FRENCH President Emmanuel Macron called for accelerating the development of a joint European army today, saying the continent “cannot rely on the United States.

“It’s up to us to meet our responsibilities and guarantee our security and therefore European sovereignty,” he declared in a speech to diplomats, saying they should step up discussions on “defence co-operation” across the continent.

Steps towards an EU army advanced in November when 23 of the bloc’s 28 members signed up to Permanent Structured Co-operation (Pesco), ending the longstanding neutrality of Austria and Ireland, which traditionally steered clear of military alliances.

The EU is committed to strengthening transport infrastructure to allow quicker mobility across the continent for heavy weaponry such as tanks and called on member states to boost defence spending to 2 per cent of GDP in line with Nato requirements.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in June she supported Mr Macron’s commitment to a combined military, praising his “intervention initiative” and saying the bloc needed better co-ordinated militaries to enable “joint strategic action.”

Britain has not signed up to Pesco, but Ms Merkel said it would be welcome to participate in the joint military force even after Brexit.

The roots of the EU army go back to the 1980s, when EU commission president Jacques Delors called for a joint military to “fight the resource wars of the 21st century.” Perceptions that US President Donald Trump is an erratic partner have led EU leaders to shift the project up a gear.

The French president said co-operation should be extended to Russia in a sharp departure from British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s call last week for EU countries to line up behind US President Donald Trump in an anti-Russia front.

But such co-operation would depend on “progress” over the civil war in Ukraine, where anti-fascist resistance forces battling the Kiev government and allied neonazi paramilitary groups have received Russian assistance.

Mr Macron did not elaborate what “progress” would look like on the issue.

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