Merkel Seeks to Unite European Defense Industry as Threats Loom

(Bloomberg) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron are pushing for a more united defense industry, citing renewed ties between the two nations as a way to bolster the safety of the European Union in the face of flagging American support.

At a signing of a Franco-German treaty in the western German city of Aachen, an extension of the landmark 56-year-old Elysee Treaty at the heart of bilateral relations, Merkel lauded closer ties between the two nations on defense and foreign policy.

Merkel Seeks to Unite European Defense Industry as Threats Loom

“We’re committing ourselves to a common military culture, a common defense industry, a common line on weapons exports,” Merkel said at the signing ceremony Tuesday. “With this, we both want to do our part to contribute toward a European army.”

European leaders have sought to bolster their joint defense as U.S. President Donald Trump has taken an antagonistic stance toward the trans-Atlantic relationship and questioned the importance of multilateral organizations, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The formation of an EU army became a point of trans-Atlantic tension last year, when Trump attacked Macron for raising the issue.

Strategic Autonomy

“The U.S. are our friends but we can’t always depend on them,” Macron said, adding that it wasn’t his intention to have one army replace two, but to tighten cooperation. “Strategic autonomy is about having enough soldiers and the right equipment and to make sure we aren’t dependent on others for this equipment.”

In Aachen, both leaders celebrated the treaty, signed at the ancient seat of the Emperor Charlemagne, as a signal of European unity that defies a wave of populism and nationalism that has taken hold in the 28-member bloc.

“Our common ambition must be that Europe shields our people from the tumults of the world,” Macron said. “Because we love Europe, we have decided to continue to build it with force and determination.”

Merkel bemoaned an attack on multilateral institutions, including the United Nations, setbacks in the global fight against climate change and the U.K.’s exit from the EU.

“We’re doing this because we’re living in special times, because in these times we need more decisive, unambiguous, clearer and future-oriented answers,” Merkel said.

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