PARIS — France is seeking a greater integrated European defense and has invited Britain to play a role, despite its plan to leave the European Union, said French President François Hollande, The Guardian daily reported Monday.
The U.K. has close bilateral defense ties with France, which explains the French invitation to take part in “a more integrated European defense policy” despite London's EU departure, the report said.
“In my mind, the U.K., even outside the E.U., should be associated with that,” Hollande was quoted as saying.
France is drawing on concerns over the Trump administration’s loosening of international ties to boost the move toward greater defense cooperation in Europe, the report said.
“As for his (U.S. President Donald Trump’s) ignorance of what the European Union is, that means we must prove to him the E.U.’s political cohesion, its economic weight and its strategic autonomy,” Hollande reportedly said. Europe must seek to avoid a “submissive” role arising from a dependence on outside powers, he added.
London has long resisted a drive from Paris for a stronger European military cooperation, as NATO and Washington’s leading role in the transatlantic alliance have been the reference point for British policy.
Hollande spoke to The Guardian and four other European papers — Le Monde, La Vanguardia, La Stampa and Süddeutsche Zeitung — ahead of a mini-summit Monday with the leaders of Germany, Italy and Spain at Versailles, just west of the capital.
Britain and France, seen as the leading military powers in Europe, signed in 2010 the Lancaster House defense treaty, seeking to boost bilateral cooperation in operations and industrial efforts, including nuclear weapons research.
Meanwhile, Germany opposes a French and Italian proposal to use government-backed bonds in the capital markets to fund a planned €5 billion (U.S. $5.3 billion) EU defense research fund, Reuters reported.
Such funding would "violate the basic principles of good budget practices and therefore is not a viable option for financing European defense efforts," Handelsblatt reported, according to Reuters.
Germany also objected to national contributions to the EU defense fund to be exempt from the European stability and growth requirements, which seek to reduce the national debt to 3 percent of gross domestic product, Reuters reported. The European Commission proposed the fund in November as a cost-cutting measure, allowing European states to buy together helicopters and planes.
France and Italy backed the commission proposal to allow the fund to be raised by government-backed issuance on capital markets, Reuters reported.