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EU leaders discuss proposals for increased military cooperation

Most EU media report that European ministers of Foreign Affairs and Vice-President High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini met yesterday in Bratislava to discuss proposals for increased military cooperation. All UK media and most EU and US media reveal, that British Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon yesterday said Britain would oppose any EU proposals to combine European forces into a single army, while it is still in the bloc, as this would undermine NATO. According to the Daily Mail, Sweden, the Netherlands, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania all joined Britain in expressing concerns.

However, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who attended the meeting said, that tracing a common European defence policy has become a priority given the current global geopolitical situation, la 7 notes. “More Europe in security policy also strengthens NATO,” Handelsblatt quotes him as saying. “This does not mean the creation of a European Army. This is not something that is foreseen by the treaties. It is about using all the space and the instruments we have in the treaties already foreseen,” LRT televizija and SIC Noticias quote Federica Mogherini as saying during the meeting.
After the meeting, VP HR Federica Mogherini announced that the discussion would go on over the next months and that she expects a common proposal to be reached by the end of the year, reports. Also according to the WSJE and Magyar Hírlap, Federica Mogherini stated, that ministers had agreed to move forward with discussions about the proposals and that improved cooperation could help the bloc’s Member States spend their defence budgets more effectively.
Meanwhile, notes that Estonian Defence Minister Hannes Hanso said after the meeting, that EU member states are not planning to create a joint army, as the European defence ministers doubt, there is need for new military structures. In an article in La Repubblica, Andrea Bonanni notes that the current discussion over the possibility of creating a common European defence system, rekindled the same divisions that made this project impossible in recent years.
Donata Riedel comments in Handelsblatt that the UK’s blockade of increased security and military cooperation within the European Union is doomed to fail. According to Les Echos, it isn’t actually certain that the UK really will obstruct progress, especially since NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said that there is “no contradiction between a strong European defence and a strong NATO” and also because it is hard to imagine the UK choosing confrontation with the EU-27, while at the same time trying to negotiate the best possible Brexit deal.
Great Britain’s stance is another reason why the country should leave the EU as soon as possible, Gerhard Bitzan comments in Die Presse. In L’Echo, Frédéric Rohart writes that the security issue is quite urgent as the EU is about to become a straw house. Defence expenses decreased by 15% over the last ten years in all EU member states. While the world equips itself, EU member states keep defining their own national rules. Europe needs synergies and further integration in defence projects if it wants to protect its strategic autonomy.
Finally, Verkkouutiset reveals that the EUobserver has obtained an unofficial document by the Italian government revealing a plan on European military forces. The plan goes much further than previous plans to deepen EU military cooperation. Italy’s plan entails a strong and usable force called Joint Permanent European Multinational Force, which could also be used to support NATO or UN operations. According to the document, the joint project would have a tremendous political effect as a factor that unites Europe.
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