Europe must be more independent and strengthen its defence, says Macron | France

Emmanuel Macron has warned that Europe must become more independent for its own defense and to secure its energy supply following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The French president says the conflict has ‘changed the era’ across the continent and he will convene a summit of European leaders next week to discuss how to meet the ‘unprecedented challenge’ it has created .

In a 14-minute address on primetime television, he warned that France was facing upheaval and higher prices and that the country and its European partners needed to invest to wean itself off Russian gas and become self-sufficient in energy production as well as defense. food production issues and questions.

“We can no longer depend on others to feed us, heal us, inform us, finance us,” Macron said. “We cannot depend on others to defend us, whether on land, at sea, under the sea, in the air, in space or in cyberspace. In this regard, our European defense must take a further step.

He added: “The war in Europe no longer has a place in our history books or our schoolbooks, it is here, before our eyes. Democracy is no longer considered an indisputable system, it is called into question, before our eyes. Our freedom, that of our children, is no longer acquired.

“To this brutal return of tragedy in history, we must respond with historic decisions.”

Macron, who last month shuttled between Moscow and Kiev trying in vain to prevent the Russian invasion, firmly blamed the war on Putin’s hands, saying Europe and NATO had “everything to prevent it”.

“President Putin chose war… alone, deliberately and by reneging on his commitments to the United Nations. This war is not a conflict between NATO and the West on one side and Russia on the other; there are no NATO troops or bases in Ukraine. These are just lies. Russia is not being attacked, it is the aggressor,” he said.

“This war is even less what baseless propaganda would have you believe, a fight against Nazism. This is a lie; an insult to the history of Russia and Ukraine, to the memory of our elders who fought side by side against the Nazis. Russian leaders attack the memory of the Holocaust in Ukraine as they attack the memory of the crimes of Stalinism in Russia,” Macron added.

He accused Putin of having a “revisionist reading of European history which wants to take us back to the darkest hours of empire, invasions and exterminations”.

Macron said France would welcome Ukrainian refugees and he described Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as “the face of honour, freedom or bravery”. The president’s somber, statesmanly speech on Wednesday night came as he is expected to announce he is running for re-election. Candidates have until Friday 6 p.m. French time to declare themselves.

The most recent opinion poll, taken ahead of his national address, suggests the president is enjoying an unprecedented surge in support, with 28% of voters saying they will back him in the first round of elections next month, well ahead of his closest rival, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, on 17%.

However, Macron warned that there were economic difficulties ahead; the war would hit French agriculture, industry and all economic sectors dependent on the import of raw materials or the export of goods to Russia and Ukraine, he said.

“The rise in the price of oil, gas and raw materials will have consequences on our purchasing power; in the future, the price of a tank of gasoline, the heating bill, the cost of certain products may be even higher. Faced with these social and economic consequences, I have only one objective: to protect you.

He said Prime Minister Jean Castex had been tasked with drawing up an “economic and social resilience plan” to deal with the difficulties faced by the public.

Russia’s attack on Ukraine gave weight to Macron’s long-held belief that the EU should have its own common defense force. In a speech delivered at the Sorbonne University in Paris shortly after his election in 2017, he said the EU should have “capacity for autonomous action” through a joint military force, a shared defense budget and a common defense policy. Any new EU force would complement, not rival, NATO, he said.