After Trump, Europe aims to show Biden it can fight for itself

BRUSSELS/PARIS: The Donald Trump era may be coming to an end. But European Union ministers meeting this week to discuss the future of the continent’s defence will say the lesson has been learned: Europe needs to be strong enough to fight on its own.

EU foreign and defence ministers meeting by teleconference on Thursday and Friday will receive the bloc’s first annual report on joint defence capabilities, expected to serve as the basis for a French-led, post-Brexit, post-Trump effort to turn the EU into a stand-alone military power.

President-elect Joe Biden will halt his predecessor’s confrontational rhetoric towards allies, but he is not going to alter the underlying U.S. message that Europe needs to contribute more to its own defence, European diplomats say.

“We aren’t in the old status quo, where we can pretend that the Donald Trump presidency never existed and the world was the same as four years ago,” a French diplomat said.

An EU official said Biden’s victory was “a call to Europe to keep building a common EU defence, to be a useful and a strong ally, also for the NATO alliance.”

The EU has been working since December 2017 to develop more firepower independently of the United States. The effort has been driven mainly by France, the EU’s remaining major military power after Brexit.

During Britain’s membership, London tended to resist a major military role for the EU, putting an emphasis instead on NATO as the main forum for European defence. Its exit gives Paris an opportunity to push longstanding ambitions for a bigger EU role in defence, with more cautious support from Berlin.

“The United States will only respect us as allies if we are serious about our own position, and if we have our own sovereignty regarding our defence,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in a magazine interview on Sunday. - Reuters