France’s nuclear weapons should be part of European defence debate, Macron says

By Thomson Reuters Apr 28, 2024 | 10:23 AM

By Mathieu Rosemain

PARIS (Reuters) – France’s nuclear weapons should be part of the European defence debate, French President Emmanuel Macron told a group of regional newspapers on Sunday, in comments that drew fire from his political opponents ahead of EU elections in June.

Macron has been more strident on defence issues recently, having called on Thursday for stronger, more integrated European defences as he outlined his vision for a more assertive European Union on the global stage, saying “Europe could die”.

In an interview set up by EBRA, a group of French eastern regional newspapers, he said a “credible European defence” should go beyond the protection already offered by NATO.

“That may mean deploying anti-missile shields, but we need to be sure that they block all missiles and deter the use of nuclear weapons,” he said.

Regarding nuclear weapons, while France’s doctrine has so far been to use them when the country’s vital interests are threatened, Macron said he was open to give a more “European dimension” to these interests.

“I’m in favour of opening this debate, which must therefore include missile defence, long-range weapons and nuclear weapons for those who have them or who have American nuclear weapons on their soil,” he said.

His comments drew criticism from opponents on the right and the left of the political spectrum on Sunday.

“Macron is becoming a national danger!,” far-right European lawmaker Thierry Mariani wrote on social media platform X.

“#We can’t wait for June 9th to give him a clear signal that his policies are over!,” Mariani, a member of France’s Rassemblement National (RN) headed by Marine Le Pen, added in a reference to the approaching EU parliamentary elections.

“These comments are exceptionally serious,” said European lawmaker Francois-Xavier Bellamy, who will lead right-wing party LR into the EU vote.

“We are touching the nerve of French sovereignty”, he added in an interview on Europe 1 radio station.

Those at the other end of the political spectrum were equally angry at Macron’s comments.

“The nuclear deterrent cannot be shared,” said far-left French lawmaker Bastien Lachaud on X. “Under the guise of defending European soil, #Macron wants to liquidate France’s strategic autonomy.”

(Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain; Editing by Hugh Lawson)