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30th Jul 2016

Military chief: EU becoming 'marginal' in Asia-centric world

  • Chinese soldiers - the changing world order is leaving EU countries behind (Photo: Patrick Rodwell)

EU countries must share military resources or become "marginal" powers on the world stage, a Swedish general has said.

Hakan Syren issued the warning after chairing a regular meeting of EU military commanders in Brussels on Wednesday (31 October).

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"We have shrinking budgets and we have changing responsibilities. It was shown in the Libya conflict ... I would say there's a new world out there," he told press.

"The centre of gravity is moving from our continent to the Far East and we must come up with a long-term response to make sure we are not marginalised," he added.

Syren's remarks echo US President Barack Obama last year when he said the end of the Cold War and the rise of China mark the beginning of a "Pacific century."

They also come after former US defence chief Robert Gates said EU countries could not have toppled Libya's Muammar Gaddafi - "a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country" - without American help.

For his part, Syren said "pooling and sharing" - an EU agreement on military resources - has to be "taken to the next level" in 2013 as a response.

He noted the pooling pact has spawned 15 projects over the past two and half years.

But he added: "There are several, over 12, manufacturers of armoured vehicles [in the EU]. Do we need that? We are buying four different types of combat aircraft right now. Do we need that? Do we have the money for that?"

He identified joint EU war schools, joint equipment maintenance and military manoeuvres as future areas for co-operation.

He also referred to joint EU operations in Somalia and Uganda as a "success."

But he noted that a new operation in Mali will have to be tailor-made rather than using Somalia as a model.

EU officials earlier this week told Reuters member states are planning to send 200-or-so military experts to Mali and another 200 soldiers to keep them safe.

The EU force will try to get Mali's army in shape to attack Tuareg tribes in the north of the country.

EU countries fear the Tuareg-controlled territory of Azawad is becoming a base for Islamist extremists on the model of Afghanistan.

EU free movement must be curbed, UK says

British leader Theresa May has said free movement of EU workers to Britain cannot continue as in the past, while visiting Slovakia and Poland on Thursday.

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