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EU countries unanimously agree, in symbolic move, to provide aid to France

EU countries unanimously agree, in a symbolic move, to provide aid to France under Article 42.7 of the Lisbon Treaty

France invoked article 42.7 of the EU treaty, a never used clause triggering mutual defence among the 28 member states, during yesterday’s meeting of EU Defence Ministers, French, European and international media report. This is the first time an EU member state invokes this article, similar to article 5 of NATO Treaty which the US had invoked after the attacks from 11 September and whose activation had led to NATO’s intervention in Afghanistan,revista22.ro and Trouw report.

During a press conference in Brussels with French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, EU High Representative and EC Vice-President Federica Mogherini said that “the EU, through the voices of all the member states, unanimously expressed its strongest full support and readiness to give the assistance needed.” She added that support will take the form of “bilateral contributions,” which will therefore not be a part of the Common Security and Defence Policy, Le Figaro reports.

Ms Mogherini is further quoted by The Independent as saying that several countries “have already announced offers or support” – either by sending “material assistance” or by stepping up their involvement in other areas of the world. Ms Mogherini said that each EU member state would contribute, while acknowledging that the move is partly “a political act, a political message.” The most important thing about yesterday’s decision is the fact that EU Defence Ministers have “staged the real commitment of their states to standing up for the values of freedom and democracy upon which the European project was founded,” El País argues in an editorial, a comment echoed by NDR, which considers that France’s request is largely symbolic.

 European Parliament President Martin Schulz actually plays down, in an interview with Bild Zeitung, talks of “war” with France´s call for support from its European partners. The situation is serious, he says, but Europe is not at war. While France deserves unconditional solidarity, this mostly concerns the exchange of information, cooperation of security forces and perhaps financial support from the European Union, Mr Schulz notes. No one, he stresses, is in favour of a military operation on the ground. According to Le Monde, faced with EU leaders’ reluctance towards military involvement, French President Hollande had to ask for support in various forms, such as intelligence and logistics.

Mr Hollande’s political response to last Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris leaves European capitals “perplexed,” Luc de Barochez writes in L’Opinion’s. The French President’s rhetoric of war mixed with calls for national unity is perceived as “confused disarray,” Luc de Barochez claims, and France would be more convincing if it had a strategy against the Islamic State and for the future of Syria. Military interventions in the Middle East, ever since 11 September, are unpopular, he adds. France´s initiative has the potential to either split the European Union permanently or give an unexpected boost to further integration, Christian Mölling, from the German Marshall Fund, claims in Handelsblatt. For Le Monde, François Hollande has actually changed France’s strategy in Syria, the focus being now on the fight against the Islamic State, which means that the French President is now in favour of the creation of a “grand and single coalition” and is willing, after having denounced Moscow’s role in Syria, to form an alliance with Russia. As a consequence, the removal of Syrian President al-Assad is no longer the priority.

Just four days after the Paris attacks, France and Russia, at loggerheads over Ukraine for eighteen months, have put aside their differences in the name of the war on ISIS, Le Figaro further notes. Putin has ordered his navy in the Mediterranean to “cooperate with its allies” and to enter into “contact” with the Charles-de-Gaulle aircraft-carrier, which will set steam for the area on Thursday, French and Russian media report. In the WSJE, Jeffrey Gedmin and Gary Schmitt warn against putting too much faith in Russia helping solve the current crisis in the Middle East. Visiting Paris, US Secretary for State John Kerry also promised increased military cooperation between France and the USA to “fight and beat [ISIS] together.” The French President is due to hold talks with Mr Obama and Mr Putin next week.

©europeanunion2015

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