New French defense minister vows to push EU cooperation

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PARIS (Reuters) - France’s new Armed Forces Minister Sylvie Goulard has vowed to press ahead with European defense projects and work more closely with Germany, a move she said was vital to deter countries tempted to look inwards.

Goulard, a European expert, took the control of the renamed defense ministry last week, a surprise decision by President Emmanuel Macron that further emphasized his European push and desire to work towards greater defense integration.

“I am attached to making European defense projects move forward,” she said in a her first message to military and civilian personnel released on Saturday.

“Some elements already exist, but others still need to be conceived and developed to better ensure our security in these times of interdependence. To achieve this effort, work with Germany will be decisive.”

A European lawmaker who speaks four languages, Goulard is respected in Brussels as a straight talker, having acted as adviser to former European Commission president Romano Prodi.

A close ally of Macron, she ranks fourth in the government hierarchy, and becomes only the second woman to head the ministry, which reverts to its pre-1974 name of Ministry of the Armed Forces.

Goulard also said she wanted to ensure that Franco-British security and defense cooperation did not suffer from London’s decision to leave the European Union.

An advocate of closer EU integration, Macron backs a “multi-speed” Europe, an idea that has earned growing support in Germany and other EU countries since Britain voted to leave the bloc.

In the past, France has tended to be seen by allies as an intransigent, go-it-alone power because of its military interventions in arenas like Libya, the Middle East and the Sahel.

Reporting by John Irish Editing by Jeremy Gaunt