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Modern Roman empire will help strengthen European unity, says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has built on Emmanuel Macron’s proposal to create a “European Political Community” by proposing the creation of a modern Roman Empire, which would encompass Turkey and other key North African states in an effort to promote European unity. to reinforce.

Earlier this week at the G7 summit in Germany, the Élysée Palace suggested the British Prime Minister had expressed “interest” in the French president’s plan during a bilateral meeting.

Macron’s proposal for a community that would be wider than the EU of 27 is primarily aimed at bringing Ukraine and other Eastern European countries into the “family”, even if they are not yet members or may never join the block.

The possibility of having the UK in the proposed community after Brexit has been an afterthought for Macron, who has long wanted to improve bilateral ties with London but found Johnson an unreliable interlocutor, according to French officials.

Speaking to journalists while traveling to Madrid for a NATO summit, Johnson argued that the idea came from him first, adding that he also favored a wider alliance with countries in North Africa.

“I had this idea when I first became foreign minister,” he said, referring to his time in the post from 2016 to 2018. “My view is that we need to rebuild the whole concept. I think Turkey should be there. I think the Maghreb should be there and I think we should actually recreate the Mare Nostrum of the Roman Empire.

Johnson said Macron’s idea was “worth a look” if it was compatible with the UK’s broader goals, but noted that it was also important to build relationships between countries, rather than “invent new structures.” “.

Boris Johnson speaks to journalists during a flight

Boris Johnson speaks with journalists on Tuesday during a flight to NATO summit © Stefan Rousseau/PA

However, when Macron proposed the idea in the European Parliament, he recalled that his predecessor François Mitterrand had proposed a broad European club in 1989, when the Soviet Union collapsed.

The 27 member states have started discussing Macron’s proposal, but have different views on what it should entail. Several support a loose club to discuss common challenges. “There is no meeting room where everyone, from Iceland to the UK, gathers,” said an EU diplomat.

They pointed out that the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which has 57 members, is hampered by Russian membership.

In recent days, British officials have said relations between Johnson and Macron have improved, following previous tensions over issues such as crossing migrant channels and Brexit.

Johnson and Macron agreed on Sunday to reset relations during one-on-one talks at the G7 summit, according to a No. 10 official, who described their newfound closeness as “le bromance”.

The Élysée was significantly less enthusiastic about the Johnson-Macron meeting, with only one senior official saying: “It went well. That is it.”

Paris is frustrated not only by the Johnson administration’s backtracking on the Brexit deal, but also by repeated briefings from Downing Street since the invasion of Ukraine, suggesting Macron is being too lenient towards Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Johnson will address the NATO summit later on Wednesday, where he will warn that threats to world peace will increase over the next decade and urge countries to increase defense spending.

The British prime minister has said he will not boycott a meeting of G20 leaders due to take place in Indonesia in October if Putin is present. “I would be absolutely surprised if Putin goes in person… He’s a pariah figure,” he added.

Johnson also said Western countries needed to convince the rest of the world of their case against Russia.

Additional coverage by Andy Bounds in Brussels

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