VILLEPINTE, France (AFP) – French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday called for a boost to defense budgets following Russia’s operation in Ukraine, saying France was now on a “war economy” footing.
Speaking at Eurosatory, a weapons industry fair, Macron said Europe needed “a much larger defense industry” to avoid relying on suppliers elsewhere for its equipment needs.
Since Russia’s operation in February, France “has entered into a war economy in which I believe we will find ourselves for a long time”.
Macron said he had asked the defense ministry and armed forces chiefs of staff to adjust a six-year framework defense spending plan running to 2025 to the new geopolitical situation, to “match the means to the threats”.
Even before Ukraine, French military spending had gradually increased since Macron came to power in 2017 to reach 41 billion euros ($43 billion) this year, and is currently scheduled to hit 50 billion euros in 2025.
“We didn’t wait for strategic changes to re-invest,” Macron said, but Russia’s war had created “an additional need to move faster and become stronger at a lower cost”.
Macron said that “anybody doubting the urgency of these efforts only needs to look to Ukraine, where soldiers are asking for quality weaponry and they are entitled to a response from us”.
According to Le Monde newspaper, the government’s armament agency DGA is considering a draft law that would allow the requisitioning of civilian equipment or civilian factories to make weapons.
As European governments bolster defense budgets, they need a larger EU-based defense industry to meet the new military needs, Macron said.
“Let’s not repeat the errors of the past going forward,” he said. “Spending large sums on purchases from elsewhere is not a good idea.”
Europe needs a defense industry that is “much stronger and much more ambitious” than now, he said, “or we will create our own future dependencies”.
A European fighter plan project is, according to experts, currently running about a decade late, while a new French-German battle tank project, MGCS, is not expected to be operational for nearly another two decades.
Macron’s centrist alliance was in danger of falling short of a majority after the first round of parliamentary elections saw a surge in support for a new left-wing coalition.
Macron’s “Ensemble” (Together) alliance ran neck-and-neck with the left-wing Nupes grouping in Sunday’s first round, with the former netting 25.75 percent of the popular vote compared to the latter’s 25.66 percent.
Under France’s constitution, the president has exclusive control over foreign and defense policy, but needs a majority in parliament to pass domestic legislation.