German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday rekindled the Franco-German friendship by launching a series of defence projects, including plans to build fighter jets, drones and Europe's own GPS system.
The two leaders of Europe buried the hatchet over past rivalries and appeared in the zeal to move forward on a United EU front, minus United Kingdom.
"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," Merkel said at the joint cabinet meeting in Paris on Thursday.
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.
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. Working alongside Spain and Italy, the program plans to power the drones using a twin-engine concept, according to the two countries. Berlin has promised to lead on the initiative.
To ensure the “strategic autonomy” of Europe’s military space applications, the Paris-Berlin alliance should also work on fitting the EU’s nascent Galileo constellation of satellites, which provides a European alternative to the U.S. GPS system, with a high level of security, the governments said.
The Franco German Defence and Security Council, created in 1988, met earlier on Thursday, and included both countries’ interior ministries for the first time, as well as their defense and foreign affairs ministries, a move designed to emphasize Merkel and Macron’s intention to cooperate more closely in the fight against terrorism.
According to defence experts, the Franco-German alliance of defence projects was an answer to Britain, Europe's leading military power, for 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.
Apart from the defence deals, French president Emmanuel Macron also called on Chancellor Angela Merkel to help provide a €1bn fund to fix Europe's economic woes.
"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.
Tweet translation: Unique meeting of the Franco-German defence and Security Council to revive the Europe of defence and combat terrorism.
Réunion inédite du Conseil franco-allemand de défense et de sécurité pour relancer l'Europe de la défense et lutter contre le terrorisme. pic.twitter.com/1cxITuhKXO— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) July 13, 2017