France and Germany seek to revive EU defence policy
By Honor Mahony
The EU needs to do more for international security France and Germany have said as they call for improved battlegroups and the use of drones in civilian airspace.
In a joint letter and ideas paper, dated Friday (26 July), the foreign ministers of both countries say that amid "asymmetrical threats" the EU needs to "assume increased responsibility for international peace and security."
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They add that they are committed to making a planned EU defence summit in December a "success" with "tangible results."
Among the results they are hoping for is agreement on improved "operational effectiveness" of EU battle groups, clusters of 1,500 soldiers meant to be deployed rapidly.
Launched in 2007, they have never been used. And ambitions have been scaled back amid dwindling defence budgets.
Berlin and Paris say this could be countered by "advanced planning on the most likely scenarios" where battle groups could be used.
The paper also suggests "seizing the opportunities" arising from the creation of a single European air traffic space. These include opportunities for military aircraft and the use of drones.
It calls on the European defence agency to examine the "operational and financial impact of SESAR (Europe's single air traffic control infrastructure) on military aviation."
Member states and EU institutions are urged to "progress towards the air traffic insertion of remotely piloted aircraft systems."
The paper also calls for an upgrade in cyber security systems, an EU-level "clearing house" to help regional allies to prevent or manage military crises; better border management and a maritime strategy that outlines how the EU should safeguard its "strategic interests."
The Franco-German initiative comes after France earlier this year found itself alone in putting soldiers on the ground in Mali to fight jihadists, with other EU countries reluctant to help out.
Meanwhile, although France and the UK, the EU's most significant military powers, made the most noise about a military intervention in Libya in 2011, they were unable to take action without the US' help.
More broadly, Washington has said it will intensify its role in the Asia-Pacific region, leaving the EU to do more in its own neighbourhood.
Paris and Berlin say their paper should form the basis of discussions at an informal foreign ministers' meeting in September. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is also due to produce an interim paper on defence before the September meeting, to be followed later in autumn by a fuller report.
The EU commission has also chipped with ideas on making defence spending more efficient and the importance of implementing defence-related legislation.
The papers will feed into the 19 December gathering of EU leaders, exactly a year after leaders laid out the main weaknesses of EU defence policy.