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France Should Stay in NATO Command, Former Minister Says

France should remain part of NATO’s integrated military command and push for greater influence within the 28-nation alliance, a former foreign minister recommended in a report.

In a statement, President Francois Hollande said he “largely approves” the conclusions of the report by Hubert Vedrine, who was foreign minister from 1997 to 2002 in a previous Socialist government.

Hollande, shortly after his election six months ago, asked Vedrine to study the consequences of the decision of his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, to return France to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s integrated command in 2009 after a 43-year absence. Sarkozy’s decision was criticized at the time by the Socialist Party, which said it would impinge on France’s independence.

“A (re)exit from the integrated command is not an option,” Vedrine wrote in the report, which is posted on Hollande’s website. “It wouldn’t be understood by anybody in the U.S., nor in Europe, and would give France no new influence, quite the opposite.” It noted that no other European country followed the French line after 1966, when President Charles De Gaulle quit the integrated command and expelled foreign troops from France after a dispute over command of nuclear weapons.

France always remained a member of NATO’s political structure.

France should be “vigilant and demanding” in terms of shaping the alliance’s future to ensure that NATO remains a primarily military alliance focused on the “euro-Atlantic zone,” Vedrine wrote. “NATO was not born to be the gendarme of the world.”

France should ask for a greater role for European defense industries within the alliance, and on a parallel track push for greater defense cooperation between European countries, the report said.

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