France and Germany announce plans to build fighter jets together
Our Foreign Staff 13 JULY 2017 • 10:57AM
France and Germany appeared to bury the hatchet over past rivalries on defence on Thursday, as they announced plans to build fighter jets together
Speaking after a joint cabinet meeting in Paris, French president Emmanuel Macron also called on Chancellor Angela Merkel to help provide a €1bn fund to fix Europe's economic woes.
The pair's development of both manned and unmanned warplanes would replace France's Rafale jets and the Eurofighter, rival jets that compete fiercely for global sales.
"I believe that we have shown shortly after the new government here was installed that we are ready to activate Franco-German relations with a new impetus," Mrs Merkel said.
Both leaders also pledged to push ahead with the Eurodrone programme, which is expected to produce Europe's first fleet of military drones by 2020.
“This is a revolution, but we’re not afraid of revolutions when they are peaceful, well-thought and meant to last,” said Mr Macron.
Defence experts said the announcement was a slap in the face to Britain, Europe's leading military power, in the wake of its decision to leave the EU."It is a sign to the British. It means 'you are leaving the EU and we are driving forward. We are no longer interested in you blocking the EU on defence'," a senior German defence industry official told Reuters news agency.
It came as Mr Macron called on Germany to contribute towards a €1bn project which would help develop IT and nanotechnology as part of wider efforts to improve the eurozone.
"We have launched calls for projects, along with the Germans, to attract researchers as part of the “Make our planet great again” initiative," he told French newspaper Ouest France.
The joint declaration on defence did not say what role, if any, Britain would play in the Franco-German-led development. The country is Europe's biggest defence spender and a partner in the Eurofighter project alongside Germany, Spain and Italy.
France and the United Kingdom - both permanent U.N. Security Council members with close defence and security ties - agreed to cooperate on nuclear and missiles technology in 2010, but some French officials have expressed concerns about the impact of Brexit on defence.
Some analysts and defence officials said the Franco-German push to create a new fighter could drive Britain further towards industrial and defence cooperation with the United States.
Currently, Britain has a foot in both camps through the Lockheed Martin F-35 and a share of the Eurofighter programme through BAE.
With less than three months to go before Germany's legislative elections, it will be difficult for Paris and Berlin to move ahead on key issues such as the reform of the eurozone.
The French leader has proposed creating a finance minister, parliament and budget for the eurozone, which would require changes to EU treaties.
"I want the eurozone to have more coherence and convergence," Macron said in the Ouest-France interview.
Macron warned Germany that it must move to correct the "dysfunctions" of the eurozone and give it "the fate it deserves".