Alice Billon-Galland

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The Swift Response 22 military exercise in North Macedonia with 4,600 soldiers from France, the UK, the US, and other European countries to show NATO cooperation. Photo by ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP via Getty Images.

A convening of French and British leaders for the first time in five years on 10 March is a chance to capitalize on a long-overdue improvement in bilateral relations to build stronger security and defence ties.

With a re-elected French president, a new British prime minister, a wider UK re-engagement with the continent after years of Brexit-induced tensions, and the context of the war in Ukraine, there is a new rationale and window of opportunity for a Franco-British rapprochement.

The ‘big picture’ visions of both countries have come closer in recent years, especially in areas such as the need for Europeans to take more responsibility for their own security, and how to tackle Russia – both key topics in France’s recently published Revue Nationale Stratégique and the upcoming refresh of the UK’s Integrated Review.…  Seguir leyendo »

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak during a Q&A session on his government's priorities in Morecambe, UK. Photo by Owen Humphreys - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Relations between the UK and some EU member states have been improving recently and both sides should now invest in these further despite the still difficult, albeit improving, UK-EU relationship.

Until recently, the UK’s difficult relations with Brussels have interfered with its attempts to find new ways of engaging with European partners outside of the European Union (EU) framework.

The new Rishi Sunak-led Conservative government sees little political benefit in antagonistic relations with the EU and there appears to be no more personality clashes between leaders on both sides. This is visible in the constructive approach from both sides in the current discussions between the EU and the UK over potential adjustments to the Northern Ireland protocol, which both sides hope to conclude in the coming months.…  Seguir leyendo »

UK prime minister Boris Johnson (L) with French president Emmanuel Macron ahead of the 2022 G7 summit in Brussels. Photo by THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images.

The war in Ukraine has dramatically refocused attention on Euro-Atlantic security. As European nations – alongside the US – have imposed unprecedented sanctions on Russia and increased military support to Ukraine, this war will further complicate the already limited ability of Europeans to play a meaningful security role elsewhere.

It could be tempting to conclude that the renewed threat from Russia spells the end of Europe’s embryonic involvement in the Indo-Pacific. For example, the UK’s Integrated Review in 2021 had identified Euro-Atlantic security and Russia itself as the priority for London – and the outbreak of war in Europe seems only to further confirm this.…  Seguir leyendo »

UK prime minister Boris Johnson at a military briefing with Colonel James HF Thurstan, Commander of Operation Orbital in Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo by PETER NICHOLLS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images.

The concept of ‘European strategic autonomy’ has taken a hit as Europeans have been sidelined and the European Union (EU) has struggled to make itself relevant in the current standoff with Russia over Ukraine.

With NATO’s new Strategic Concept and the EU’s first Strategic Compass, 2022 was meant to be the year of European security strategies. But the conflict at the Ukrainian border has been a reality check about what role the EU can today play in European security.

Conversely, the Ukraine crisis has amplified the UK’s role as a security provider for Europe through NATO as well as bilateral and minilateral arrangements such as the new Ukraine-Poland-UK trilateral format or, beyond the current crisis, London’s leadership of the ten-nation Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF).…  Seguir leyendo »

A security guard uses a handheld thermometer to take the temperature of customers, wearing face masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as they wait to enter a bar in Liverpool, UK on 2 October 2020. Photo by Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images

Since the end of the Cold War, debates about security among both academics and policymakers have shifted away from traditional military or state security towards a broader conception of what security is – including, for example, ideas like ‘human security’.

More recently, there has been a widespread perception of a ‘return of great power competition’ and even renewed fears about great power war – in other words, a resurgence of traditional security debates that many hoped and believed were a thing of the past. At the same time, and especially since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, the concept of ‘security’ has also been increasingly applied to other areas like economic and health policies.…  Seguir leyendo »

The HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier heading to the Indo-Pacific region. Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images.

The announcement of the AUKUS agreement between Australia, the UK and the US, which put an end to the Franco-Australian submarine contract that constituted one of the pillars of the French Indo-Pacific strategy, has created a legitimate anger in France and clearly dealt a serious blow to trust and cooperation between France and the UK in a relationship already strained by years of post-Brexit disputes. Some senior figures have called for a rethink of France’s approach to the region, and even to alliances more generally.

Even though Paris has downplayed the role played by the UK in the new pact, which it sees mostly as exploiting the situation to score a post-Brexit political win, it has postponed the scheduled meeting between the French and British defence ministers – a sign that the wider relationship between France and the UK cannot be insulated from AUKUS.…  Seguir leyendo »

Climate placard during a protest by Extinction Rebellion outside the House of Representatives in The Hague, Netherlands. Photo by Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg recently said the 70-year-old NATO alliance had to be part of the response to the climate crisis as ‘the defining challenge for our generation and a crisis multiplier’. This statement came in the middle of an alarming build-up of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border – so just as Europeans were being given a reminder of the security threat for which NATO was originally designed.

The coincidence of Stoltenberg’s statement about the security implications of the climate crisis and fears about a Russian invasion of Ukraine illustrates the increasingly complex and diverse set of challenges Europeans face.…  Seguir leyendo »

HMS Queen Elizabeth departs from the Naval base on September 21, 2020 in Portsmouth, England. Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images.

All European countries – many of them NATO allies – see European and Euro-Atlantic security as the top strategic priority, though the ‘threat perception’ of central and eastern Europe tends to focus on Russia, and southern Europe on the Mediterranean and southern neighbourhood.

But Europe’s attention is now also increasingly turning to Asian security as developments in that region – above all, the rise of China – begin to heavily impact European interests. Even NATO is assessing links between Euro-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific security. But the resources Europeans can devote to Asian security are limited. If they are to play an increasing role in Asian security – given the wide range of challenges in that region – it is time to think in a more structured way about how it can be done.…  Seguir leyendo »

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R), French President Emmanuel Macron (C) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) speak upon their arrival for a round table meeting as part of an EU summit in Brussels on 17 October 2019. Photo by Olivier Matthys/Pool/AFP via Getty Images.

As the UK’s post-Brexit foreign policy takes shape, it is increasingly clear that joint cooperation with France and Germany will be of key importance. The current dispute with the US over imposing further sanctions on Iran shows that the UK values continuing strong cooperation with its European partners on key international issues, even at the cost of a major transatlantic dispute. Moreover, the recent first meeting of the German, French and British defence ministers in an E3 (European/EU 3) format signalled political commitment by all three partners to double down on joint diplomatic cooperation despite troubled UK-EU Brexit negotiations.

The UK working with France and Germany as part of the E3 has evolved in recent years from a shared approach to diplomacy on Iran’s nuclear programme to include a broader range of international security issues, such as the conflict in Syria and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.…  Seguir leyendo »

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) talks with French President Emmanuel Macron (C) and President of European Council Charles Michel (R) during an EU summit on 17 July 2020 in Brussels, Belgium. Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images.

With all EU economies still reeling from COVID-19, the ongoing heated deliberations on the bloc’s next budget, which will determine the amount of money matching its priorities for the next seven years, have taken on an urgency rarely felt in Brussels.

Relying in part on an unprecedentedly large volume of jointly issued debt, the European Commission’s plan for a €750 billion coronavirus recovery instrument is embedded within a revamped proposal for the EU’s long-term budget, of €1.1 trillion for the 2021-27 period.

Now the ball is in the member states’ court. All seem to agree that getting the EU budget right is crucial to fostering an economic recovery and ensuring the Union is on the right track towards its long-term pre-COVID objectives, from increasing its strategic autonomy to reaching climate neutrality by 2050.…  Seguir leyendo »

A pedestrian wearing a protective face mask passes a sign showing the stars of the European Union outside the Berlaymont building, which houses offices of the European Commission, in Brussels, Belgium, on 8 June 2020. Photo: Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

Already fighting for funding and political credibility, the coronavirus crisis has created new challenges for the EU’s defence ambitions. While the European Commission is trying to sustain a level of commitment, the prospect of budget cuts and a lack of European unity in the post-COVID-19 world will become more acute in the coming months of budget negotiations. Despite the pressures, member states should resist the temptation to underfund and sideline their ambitions. The case for EU defence cooperation is stronger than ever.

Since 2016, the European Union has been establishing new defence tools in response to the deteriorating strategic environment surrounding its borders, the challenges presented by Brexit and doubts over the US security guarantee.…  Seguir leyendo »