27th May 2019

Ministers want defence outside euro-pact

German, French and Belgian defence ministers on Monday backed an idea by the Italian defence minister, Antonio Martino, that military investment should no longer be counted as part of a state's budget deficit.

Germany, France and Italy are already at risk of breaching the stability pact rules and further spending on military would only make their deficit larger.

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The stability pact, which underpins the euro, demands that national deficits must be lower than 3 per cent of gross domestic product.

German defence minister Peter Struck said, when meeting his colleagues for an EU capability conference in Brussels on Monday, 19 May, that he could very well imagine that finance ministers would have massive reservations in spending more in the military area.

For the 60,000 strong European Reaction Force, Germany is planned to contribute

33,000 troops.

The UK defence minister Geoff Hoon made it clear, that EU countries are not yet up to the job. It took the British 70 days to deploy 45,000 troops to Iraq, while the EU has tasked itself to be able to deploy 60,000 troops in 60 days up to 4,000 km outside the European Union.

Ten new project groups to cover shortfalls

A declaration from Monday's meeting on EU Military Capabilities concluded that the EU now has "operational capability across the full range of Petersberg tasks" but is still "limited and constrained by recognised shortfalls".

Monday's meeting of defence ministers was the last to be headed by the Greek EU presidency, which has chaired EU defence meetings for 12 months.

The Greek defence minister Ioannis Papantoniou, lined up the results of their work during the past year - NATO and the EU have signed agreements to work together and the EU has taken over, for the first time, the full responsibility of NATO action in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

"Had it not been for the Iraq war, the EU flag arriving in the Balkans would have made headlines in the papers," said Mr Solana after the defence ministers meeting.

Of 42 shortfalls in the EU military identified by an earlier Military Capability Conference, 26 remain unsolved.

Ten new project groups were set up at Monday's conference to cover these shortfalls, including strategic airlift, unmanned aerial vehicles, communication infrastructure, special operation forces and space based assets. 25 million euro have been set aside to defence related research.

Greek defence minister Ioannis Papantoniou recalled that to move the EU defence co-operation beyond the current peacemaking and humanitarian aid tasks into real defence operations is a matter to be dealt with by the Convention and in the end by the Intergovernmental Conference.

Solbes issues harsh pension warning to member states

A pension time-bomb is waiting for the member states unless they get their public finances in order, was the stark warning by monetary affairs Commissioner Pedro Solbes today. Belgium, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Austria and Portugal are all on the pensions black list.


Jubilant Greens in party mood after first EP projection

A party like atmosphere has seized the Greens as a packed room of people discuss around food and drinks. Elsewhere, the centre-right EPP appear sombre, as they huddle around their computers behind closed doors.

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