Its finance minister Bruno Le Maire said the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan should be a “wake-up call” for the EU in terms of Europe’s defence. Many EU capitals are concerned that the bloc was forced to pull out of Kabul’s international airport after the US troops operating the facility were withdrawn by Washington. This cut short many of the evacuations being carried out by European nations.
Mr Le Maire said: “Europe has to become the number three superpower besides China and the United States.
“Let’s open our eyes, we are facing threats and we cannot rely any more on the protection of the United States.”
“Afghanistan is a wake-up call,” he added.
Paris has decided to invest £1.45billion more in defence this year and is calling on other EU nations to do the same.
Mr Le Maire made clear that the EU must continue to build on its single market in order to help achieve technological independence from large overseas companies and non-EU countries.
He said: “EU member states have to build the single market for finance and also they need to reach a political agreement on the banking union, in order to have more funds for new technologies.”
France is due to take over the EU’s six-month rotating presidency in the first half of next year.
Mr Le Maire said Paris would use this period to work toward the goal of becoming a military superpower.
“You cannot be sovereign on the political point of view if you depend on foreigners for semiconductors, electric batteries, satellites,” he said.
He called on Europe to invest more in hydrogen, cloud technologies, artificial intelligence, semi-conductors, space exploration, satellites and biotechnologies to become a world leader in the sectors.
France is just one of the countries backing proposals for a rapid-reaction military force for the EU.
EU defence and foreign ministers met in Slovenia last week to discuss plans for a new “initial entry force” to operate independently of the United States.
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The force could be deployed quickly to intervene anywhere in the world, with an emphasis on safeguarding the evacuations of officials and staff – as in Kabul.
EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said: “Afghanistan has shown that deficiencies in our strategic autonomy come with a price and that the only way forward is to combine our forces and strengthen not only our capacity but also our will to act.”
France and Germany back the concept, with Italy and Spain also in support of the formation of a 20,000 to 50,000-strong force that could act as a future EU army.
Previous plans for an EU army have been derailed by the need for unanimous support from all 27 governments.
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The existing EU “battle groups”, agreed in 2007, have never been used because of the difficulties in securing unanimous decisions.
But Mr Borrell and other EU officials believe the Afghan crisis has helped to shift the debate.
There are some suggestions that supportive EU governments could forge ahead with plans on their own if not all 27 nations agree.
Not all EU capitals are expected to sign up to the rapid-reaction force with plans still highly controversial.
One EU diplomat told the Times: “Which leader is going to allow their nationals to be killed in the name of the EU? No one seriously entertains the idea the EU will ever he be able to replace the US.”