Macron petitions Europe to support its own defense industry amid new ‘war economy’

PARIS — French President Emanuel Macron is calling on neighboring nations to support the continent’s defense-industrial base before looking abroad.

Standing before an audience of international weapons makers, military delegations and other stakeholders, Macron made an impassioned plea for Europe to focus inward to defend itself as European nations pledge to increase defense spending amid an evermore unstable geopolitical environment — particularly the war in Ukraine.

France has entered into “a war economy that I believe we will be in for a long time,” he said in a speech Monday at the Eurosatory military technology conference outside Paris. This is the first time he attended the forum since becoming president in 2017, and it is the first iteration of the event since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The nation will need to invest further in its defense-industrial base as well as become more agile and innovative in order to respond to its troops’ needs while supporting the equipment requests of certain partners, he added.

Macron urged his European compatriots not to repeat previous mistakes. “Spending a lot to buy abroad is not a good idea. We should spend a lot, but we should think in the veins of European strategic autonomy,” he said. “We need to reinforce a European technology and defense-industrial base.”

About 73% of this year’s Eurosatory attendees hail from European nations, according to the event’s organizer, COGES, which is a subsidiary of the Group of French Industries for Land and Air-land Defense and Security, otherwise known as GICAT.

Macron acknowledged the many ongoing collaborations between France and its neighbors, but said there is more to be done to develop joint programs, improve partnerships and encourage European sovereignty. As he lauded the success of French exports to nations such as Indonesia and Egypt, he also pledged to advocate for additional foreign investment.

“You will have me at your side to convince the investors of the world to join this sector and to advance it,” he said.

At the same time, European countries must become more willing to accept “cooperation” across their programs and to better standardize offers to strengthen competitiveness on the global market, Macron noted.

“I see here what is the reality of the French market, and what is the reality of the American market,” he said. “The second invests more than us, but it has a more simplified offer.”

“A real European standardization is what is needed,” particularly in the cyber, space and maritime domains,” he added.

Since his first term began in 2017, Macron has been strongly pro-European. He supported the launch of the European Defence Fund and contributed to the European Union’s nascent “Strategic Compass” document. Since his election to the presidency, France’s military has steadily increased its budget, investing a cumulative €26 billion (U.S. $27 billion) in defense over the past five years, according to the Armed Forces Ministry.

Geopolitical events — from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to ongoing conflicts in the Sahel region — prompted Macron to ask his military leaders to adjust the six-year defense spending plan, known as the 2019-2025 military program law. The revised plan should be completed in the next few weeks, he added.

Macron was reelected to his second and final five-year term in April. He walked the Eurosatory floor and visited French industry booths Monday alongside his newly selected armed forces minister, Sébastien Lecornu.

Vivienne Machi is a reporter based in Stuttgart, Germany, contributing to Defense News’ European coverage. She previously reported for National Defense Magazine, Defense Daily, Via Satellite, Foreign Policy and the Dayton Daily News. She was named the Defence Media Awards’ best young defense journalist in 2020.

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