France’s National Assembly has approved the country’s full return to NATO’s military command after 43 years.President Nicolas Sarkozy has long been pushing for the move. However, faced with strong opposition, Prime Minister François Fillon had to ensure a positive result by turning the question into a vote of no confidence in the government. This way members of Sarkozy’s UMP party, which has a majority in the assembly, fell into line. Fillon told parliament: “Foreign policy is driven by the head of state who is elected by the people and it must not be negotiated by parliament. That is why I ask your approval of this policy.” Some members of Sarkozy’s party had echoed opposition fears that France would lose diplomatic influence and independence. Socialist former Prime Minister Lionel Jospin said Sarkozy’s position was unconvincing and would undermine national consensus on defense issues. He added it could damage France’s identity. General Charles De Gaulle withdrew France from NATO’s military command in 1966, believing it to be too US-dominated. Since then France has had no vote on military strategy but has continued to contribute to NATO missions such as the current one in Afghanistan, where there are 3,000 French troops.
French parliament votes for full return to NATO