EU Internal Policy

EU military by the end of the year: Bloc’s army plans accelerate with UK out of the way

BRUSSELS expects a new framework for military cooperation between member states to be up and running by the end of the year, the bloc’s foreign affairs chief said today.

EU foreign affairs chief Federica MogheriniEbS

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini

Federica Mogherini insisted Permanent Enhanced Structured Cooperation (PESCO) should be ready to go in time for January 2018, marking a major stepping up in the club’s defence ambitions.Critics have repeatedly warned that the new system is a gateway to the creation of an EU army, although Brussels itself denies this and says it is just facilitating better military cooperation.
The creation on PESCO, which will come with its own centralised headquarters and ambitious plans for EU military missions abroad, was once considered a pipe dream of euro federalists.It goes hand in hand with plans for a centralised European Defence Fund, which is designed to help create an EU defence industry and reduce reliance on foreign powers like the US for military equipment.
Such formalised integration of European military capabilities has been resisted by Britain and other member states, especially in Scandinavia, for decades over fears it would undermine NATO. Eurocrats say it would do the opposite, by strengthening the European wing of the trans-Atlantic alliance.Despite its decades of previous resistance since the Brexit vote the UK has instead started cooperating, allowing Ms Mogherini to recently declare the EU’s defence plans have “advanced more over this last year than in the previous sixty”.Speaking at a meeting of defence ministers in Tallinn, Estonia, this morning, Ms Mogherini said: “We will be ready to launch the permanent structured cooperation and the European defence fund by the end of the year under the Estonian presidency.

“From this meeting today I would expect a very strong indication by the defence and foreign ministers that member states are ready to go and from our side we would be ready to prepare everything by the end of the Estonian presidency.”

This is a major achievement in just one year

Federica Mogherini

She added: “This is a major achievement in just one year. Last year we were very far away from this it seemed to be quite unrealistic and I think we’ve done a quite remarkable common European work.”Juri Luik, the Estonian defence minister, added: “We very much hope so that when the Estonian presidency concludes in December, PESCO will be ready to go and as many European countries as possible will join the organisation.“There’s no doubt that the political support can be wide but then there might be smaller groups of countries who focus on particular operations and who have military capabilities to address those challenges.”

He also called on all member states to respect the NATO commitment to spend two per cent of GDP on defence – a clear rebuke to German chancellor Angela Merkel who is refusing to do so.

He told “The UK believes it is approving military structures for the other 27, but the EU is completely clear that agreements unfortunately apply to the UK as full participants.”

This week Tory MEP Geoffrey Van Orden, a former British Army brigadier, added that the EU’s defence plans will inspire “no confidence whatsoever” in Eastern European member states.

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