Macron urges new EU security deal in 'frank' dialogue with Russia

·3 min read
French President Macron addresses EU parliament in Strasbourg

STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) -French President Emmanuel Macron called on fellow members of the European Union on Wednesday to work together to draw up proposals for a new security deal with Russia in the coming weeks involving a "frank dialogue" with Moscow.

Speaking amid growing worries over a Russian military build-up at Ukraine's borders, Macron did not spell out what the "new stability and security order" he is seeking could entail, but said it must ensure Europe defends its interests.

"We will make sure that Europe makes its unique and strong voice heard," he told the European Parliament as he laid out France's priorities for its sixth-month EU presidency.

Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned during a visit to Ukraine that Russia could launch a new attack at "very short notice https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/blinken-says-russian-attack-ukraine-could-come-very-short-notice-2022-01-19" but that Washington would pursue diplomacy as long as it could.

Some European states fear they are being bypassed and their security concerns ignored as Russia deals directly with Washington in security talks over the continent - with some coordination with the EU.

"It is good that Europeans and the United States coordinate, but it is necessary that Europeans conduct their own dialogue," Macron said. "We must put together a joint proposal, a joint vision, a new security and stability order for Europe."

Europeans would share the proposal with NATO allies before discussing it with Russia, he said.

A proponent of the EU having its own "strategic autonomy" in the field of defence, Macron added that the bloc must bring itself to a position to make sure "it can be respected," including by making sure it is not too dependent on Russia for its energy supplies.

Macron, who faces an election in three months' time, said that France and Germany want to continue seeking a solution to the tensions over Ukraine in talks with both Russia and Ukraine.

A bid by Macron for better ties between the European Union and Russia in July 2019 failed as former Soviet Baltic countries feared a Russian trap to win concessions from the bloc.

They believe any such diplomacy should be run through the NATO-Russia Council, a forum that has long served as a platform to discuss security concerns and grievances.

NATO itself will soon send its written proposals to Russia, responding to Moscow's security demands and suggesting serious talks on arms control and measures of transparency, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday.

Separately, Macron told the EU Parliament that the EU must review its relationships with the Western Balkans and offer them sincere prospects of joining the bloc.

The EU must also propose a new alliance to African countries, he said, adding that EU and African countries would discuss it at a summit in February.

(Reporting by Benoit van Overstraeten, Myriam Rivet, Ingrid Melander, Tangi Salaün and Tassilo Hummel; writing by Ingrid Melander; editing by Hugh Lawson, William Maclean and Philippa Fletcher)

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