European Commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen has dramatically defied the French President in a shock power move in Brussels. The incoming EU chief hit out at Emmanuel Macron for his recent comments about Nato as well as EU expansion amid a tussle for power to shape the European Union. This week, Mr Macron caused a stir among EU capitals after he remarked that the Nato alliance was “brain-dead”.
In an interview with The Economist, Mr Macron claimed that a lack of US leadership had gutted the 70-year-old military alliance.
He cited the US failure to consult with Nato before pulling forces out of Syria in October, as the French leader questioned whether Nato was still committed to a collective defence.
Russia commended Mr Macron’s remarks as “truthful words”.
However, EU leaders quickly rounded on Paris, with even key ally German Chancellor Angela Merkel lashing out at Mr Macron.
Mrs Merkel distanced herself from Mr Macron’s “drastic words” in an unusual condemnation of a fellow EU leader.
Echoing these remarks, Ms von der Leyen also offered her support to Nato.
During a press conference in Berlin yesterday, the incoming EU chief said: “I think that despite all the bumps in the road, Nato has proven itself to be a wonderful shield of freedom.
“The history of Europe can’t be told without Nato.”
She warned that if the EU ignores the Balkans, “others will fill the gap — China, or Russia, Turkey or Saudi Arabia”.
The former German defence minister’s attack on Mr Macron sets up a clash over who will lead in shaping the EU.
Ms von der Leyen also predicted an expanding role for a European army, hinting that “soft power” was no longer enough.
This comes a day after Germany’s defence minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer called for Germany to play a more active military role.