Marine Le Pen, the leader of the political party National Rally (former National Front), has accused French President Emmanuel Macron of seeking to build a "new empire" after he called for the creation of a "real European army" and warned of the rise of nationalism on the continent.
"If there is anyone today who is carrying the conflict, it is Emmanuel Macron," Le Pen told France's Radio Classique, as quoted by Le Figaro daily. She added that the French President "continues to surf on fears of a new war, which is quite hypothetical."
According to Le Pen, a vocal critic of European institutions, Macron was the "defender of this new empire that is the European Union, and that crushes citizens living under its rule."
Her comments came after Macron said in a radio interview on Monday that the EU nations should create a "real European army" to protect themselves, mentioning China, Russia and the US as potential enemies. He maintained that the European Union was endangered by Washington's decision to pull out of the INF Treaty, a 30-year-old agreement with Russia that banned ground-based intermediate-range systems.
Macron's idea has found support in the European Commission, which has been long advocating the creation of a single European force. Chief Spokesperson of the European Commission Margaritis Schinas said that "this is the Commission that put forward lots of initiatives and proposals to start building gradually a more meaningful and assertive defence identity in these difficult geopolitical times."
However, some defence experts claim that a single European army cannot exist without a single governing body and would also raise the question of how to manage national nuclear arsenals.
For his part, former UKIP leader Nigel Farage described Macron's army call as a "dangerous" move that can insult the United States. "Do you know something, they've been lying to us for 50 years about the true intentions of the European Union. These people really worry me. I think a European army is very dangerous. What an insult, and what a worry this is for those that believe in cooperation with America and others in NATO," Farage said.