“Neither dependence nor submission” vis-à-vis the United States

After the Trump years, the European Union (EU) resolved to no longer rely on Washington, as in the past. The arrival of Joe Biden at the White House in January 2021 did not, at first, really change the situation. However, the war in Ukraine has brought the two allies closer together and, on the Old Continent, the temptation of Atlanticism is never far away.

In this context, will the Europeans continue to seek to build their model without depending on their American partner? In an interview at Worldthe European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, delivers his analysis – “neither dependence nor submission”, he says –, looking at the subject of sanctions against Russia, but also at defence, energy and industry. Sunday May 15 and Monday May 16, in Saclay (Essonne), is to be held the second meeting of the Trade and Technology Council between the EU and the United States.

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Doesn’t the United States see the current war as a means of bringing Europe back into its fold?

No. From the start of hostilities [le 24 février], the EU has become aware of the need to act collectively and in solidarity, and it is not lagging behind. In terms of sanctions against Moscow, it has advanced in parallel with the United States. She was even on point for a while. We will continue to ramp up, including on fuel oil and gas.

But the United States has released more money than Europe to help Ukraine…

We will see what will actually be done, beyond the announcements. Be that as it may, the United States has more means than us. Ukraine, for its part, plays its own part, striving to get the most out of what it can. She does it very well. For Europe, this war was like a wake up call [une prise de conscience]. She realizes her weaknesses. It is noticing the effects of its underinvestments in defense for a quarter of a century, but it is examining with determination the means of compensating for its weaknesses.

Even though all NATO member countries had pledged to devote 2% of their budget to defense – which Donald Trump had reminded us of in his own way – we see that, cumulatively since the creation of the zone euro, 1,300 billion euros of investments are missing, hence the deficiencies in certain capacities, in ammunition, etc. To reach this 2% target, we would have to invest 67 billion more per year. The challenge, for me, is to do it intelligently to accentuate the development of our defense industry and pool our efforts.

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