Status: 21/09/2023, 20:38 p.m.
By: Nadja Zinsmeister
Germany and France are arguing about how Europe should improve its air defense. Defense Minister Pistorius makes a clear statement.
For some time now, Germany and France have been arguing over whether European countries should buy more weapons from the United States for air defense or instead rely on in-house production. As became public in an interview with German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius and his French counterpart Sébastien Lecornu published on Wednesday, there is still disagreement on the question: money for time, is the debate.
"What is important to us is that we have a shield over Europe as soon as possible," German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius told French newspaper Le Monde. "We are ready to buy non-European systems while we wait for the fact that we have developed our own systems in Europe." According to Pistorius, Europe cannot afford to lose time – which can be seen as an allusion to the tense security situation in Europe since Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine.
Pistorius wants to buy weapons for air defense in the US – France wants to keep the money in Europe
Pistorius assured that the European defence sector and also the French industry are important partners, but they cannot deliver everything that is needed. "The U.S. is our ally, our largest partner in NATO. It is completely justifiable to buy American systems," Pistorius said.
Boris Pistorius during a joint visit by the French and German Defense Ministers to the Evreux airbase. © Lou Besnoist/POOL AFP/AP/dp
In France, there is a different opinion on air defense. "At a time when European taxpayers will have to put a lot of money on the table and when Europe is more likely to try to favor the European defense industry, everyone will agree that we are not strengthening our autonomy by buying the American Patriot system," Sébastien Lecornu said in the interview, echoing statements made by French President Emmanuel Macron in June.
For quite some time, Macron has been trying to persuade European countries to conclude contracts with the industry of the EU bloc, instead of spending European money on US companies, among others.
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The background to the discussion is the "European Sky Shield Initiative" (Essi) project, which is intended to help close gaps in NATO's protective umbrella for Europe, especially in view of the Ukraine war. The plan is to create a four-stage air defense system, ranging from immediate protection of the battlefield to repelling threats from a greater distance. The project also includes the purchase of Israel's far-reaching Arrow 3 system, which Germany wants, and 19 countries are now participating in the project. France is not there because of Macron's desire for strategic autonomy for Europe.
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In addition to expanding air defense, Germany and France want to jointly develop tanks and military aircraft. To discuss the plan further, Pistorius and Lecornu plan to meet in Evreux on Thursday. Both armaments projects are currently proving to be difficult, as politics and industry are pursuing different interests. Pistorius, meanwhile, reiterated that both countries are sticking to the project and "thus laying the foundation for one of the most modern tank systems in the world," the defense minister told AFP. (nz with afp material)