Monday

22nd Apr 2019

EU countries to boost defence budgets in light of Ukraine

Military chiefs have said the Ukraine crisis is a “wake-up call” for EU countries’ defence spending, as the US backed Ukraine’s use of force in eastern regions.

Speaking to press after a regular meeting of EU defence ministers in Luxembourg on Tuesday (15 April), the deputy chief of the EU’s external action service, Maciej Popowski, said: “We’ve had 70 years of peace now [in Europe], but we see that power politics is back with a vengeance, so it’s a wake-up call and now we need to get serious about defence.”

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Recent data from Sipri, a Swedish think tank, says Russia many EU states are continuing to cut defence costs (Photo: Defence Images)

He noted that “this was the feeling around the table” at the Luxembourg event.

He added that EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton told the ministers: “If Ukraine is not a trigger to get serious about spending, about pooling and sharing, about smart defence, then what more do we need to get real?”

Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who attended the debate, told press: "We need to train and exercise more together, for instance the Nato Response Force and the EU battlegroups, so that we stand ready for whatever the future may bring.”

The EU discussion comes after member states last December pledged to co-operate more strongly on defence, but with few concrete results so far.

Tuesday’s meeting saw the ministers decide to prolong for two years a military training mission in Mali and to launch a new police-training mission alongside the military project.

But Popowski noted that EU countries are dragging their heels in terms of committing vital assets to a peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic in what he called a problem for “EU credibility”.

The debate came as Ukrainian forces launched what they called “anti-terror” operations against heavily-armed pro-Russian separatists - some of whom are suspected to be Russian soldiers in disguise - in eastern Ukraine.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin said the action means Ukraine “is on the brink of civil war".

He has massed elite troops on the Ukrainian border and pledged to defend Russian-speakers in the country by invading the Ukrainian mainland if need be. But his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, noted on Wednesday that high-level talks between the EU, Russia, Ukraine and the US due in Geneva on Thursday can still go ahead despite Ukraine's counter-measures.

Popowski underlined that neither EU countries nor Nato forces will help Ukraine if it clashes with the Russian army. “Neither at Nato nor in the EU was there a discussion of military intervention,” he said.

But the US has put its naval vessels in the Black Sea on high alert, in part due to an incident earlier this week in which an unarmed Russian military jet repeatedly flew close to one of it ships.

State department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told media in Washington: “We are certainly calling for de-escalation. But the [Ukrainian] government is overseeing all parts of Ukraine, and they have a responsibility to take steps needed to maintain calm in their country.”

“[That] is hardly a civil war. That is maintaining peace and calm in their own country,” she added in response to Putin’s statement.

Like Popowski, she noted: “We’re not actively considering military assistance [to Ukraine].”

But she said the US and the EU are ready to impose further sanctions on Russia if Thursday’s talks fail to see Russia take a constructive approach.

“Well, we certainly would encourage them [Russia] – would discourage them from having a reaction. The Ukrainian government is maintaining – taking steps to maintain peace and order in their own country. So it’s hard to see what the explanation would be for Russian action there,” she said.

EU to expand Russia blacklist

EU countries are to expand their Russia and Ukraine blacklists and to send a small team of security experts to Kiev.

EU elections may strengthen Putin in Europe

Far-right parties are set to do well in next month’s elections to the European Parliament, a fact that has thrown a spotlight on their links with the Kremlin.

EU migrants sneaking into US from Mexico

Almost 1,000 Romanian nationals were caught trying to sneak into the United States in 2017, of which around half attempted to cross via Mexico. Nationals from countries like Hungary and the UK were also intercepted.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us