Paolo Gentiloni, the EU’s commissioner for economy and taxation, told CNBC about the need for the bloc to develop on the geopolitical stage, while the United States and other Western allies are taking a step back.
“We are an economic superpower, but we cannot be completely absent in a geopolitical role,” he told CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick at the European House Ambrosetti Forum on Saturday.
Gentiloni’s name checked what he called the “terrible” conclusion of the war in Afghanistan in recent weeks, as one example that the U.S. and others have reduced their commitments on the global stage. His comments add another voice to the argument that the EU should develop a common defense policy, which many see as a precursor to a full EU army.
“I think we can coexist very well,” Gentiloni said when asked if that would be a threat to NATO, of which some EU countries are members.
Undermining NATO is considered one of the key reasons why the EU has not established its own army, as well as different levels of defense spending within the bloc. Critics are also wary of further EU integration.
“NATO was born and shaped mainly to deter the Russian presence in Europe, and those roles remain absolutely crucial. And I personally also strongly support NATO,” Gentiloni said.
“What I’m saying is that if the role of the European Union is growing, if we have a good economic recovery, if we try to be a leader in climate transition and many other aspects of our ambition, we can’t be completely unimportant and silent about this geopolitical dynamic.”
French special forces soldiers are guarding a military plane at Kabul airport on August 17, 2021, when they arrive to evacuate French and Afghan citizens after the astonishing military occupation of Afghanistan by the Taliban.
STR | AFP | Getty Images
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell went a step further this week, telling reporters in Slovenia that the bloc should create a “first entry force” of 5,000 troops to reduce its dependence on the United States.
Two 1,500-strong EU battle groups were established in 2007, but were never deployed.
“Sometimes there are events that catalyze history, that create a breakthrough, and I think Afghanistan is one of these cases,” Borrell was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Asked about Chinese antagonism and whether the EU would face the Asian superpower as a single bloc in the future, Gentiloni said it could ultimately benefit the US
“There is economic co – operation [with China], trade cooperation, but we are different systems. It is inevitable that the model of a different capitalism, a capitalism that is not connected with democracy, with freedom, will be an alternative to the European model, “he said.
“And we will be partners so strongly [the] The United States in such a confrontation, but [it’s] also in the interest of the US if this European partner is also geopolitically stronger and [has] greater influence … We always describe Europe as a silent superpower, Venus and Mars. OFFICE, [the] it is time to give Venus geopolitical power as well. “
Speaking at the same event, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire agreed that this development of a common defense policy could represent a new position for Europe.
“There is a need for a new geopolitical approach to Europe,” Le Maire told CNBC at a news conference.
He added that the EU must now become the third geopolitical superpower next to China and the United States.
“This is my deepest political conviction … let’s open our eyes, we are facing political threats,” he said.
“We can no longer rely solely on the protection of the United States. That is obvious, so we must be our own protection.”