The weekly Jonathan on Sunday slot
The close cooperation of Sarkozy and Cameron has been one of the most interesting features of the Libyan Crisis. Europeâ€™s two leading military powers have rarely worked together more closely. They used their seat at the UN Security council effectively.
With the US prepared to take a back seat, are we seeing the development of a new European military capability? On Cameronâ€™s watch, is Europe taking another step towards statehood?
Last November, Cameron and Sarkozy signed an agreement that, in the words of the prime minister â€œopened a new chapterâ€ in military co-operation. Spun at the time as a money saving measure, the headlines talked about shared aircraft carriers. But there was always more to it than that. The agreement had huge scope. Britain and France have agreed to pool operations and strategy from infantry to nuclear weapons. The goal is enhanced security for both nations. In times of austerity it makes a lot of sense. France and Britain have so much in common. But the move clearly has wider implications.
With the US taking a back seat, France and Britain are increasingly the de-facto military power in Europe. As surely as Germany and France run the Euro zone, the entente cordial is now responsible for European security. This is a big change. Perhaps this is what the Prime Minister meant when he described his agreement as â€œthe start of something new and not an end in itselfâ€. In all but name, we now have a European foreign policy and a Euro Force to back it up.
The Libyan crisis is the new Euro Forceâ€™s first outing. We must all hope that it is successful. Libya is clearly within the European sphere of interest. If we can sort out a mess on our own doorstep, Europeâ€™s credibility will rise on the world stage.
Additionally, Europeâ€™s reputation in the UK will receive a shot in the arm if Cameron and Sarkozy succeed. What better example of Europe working together could there be?
It will be hard for even the most diehard Eurosceptics to begrudge a successful Libyan intervention. The prime ministerâ€™s coalition partners will certainly be at ease with a European defence policy. In the days ahead we will get to judge the Prime Minister and the Presidente by their actions, not just their words. Perhaps we really are on the verge of â€œsomething newâ€. Historians may look back at this as Europeâ€™s breakthrough moment.
Jonathan is a Labour activist from West Sussex and writes weekly on PB