MEPs: EU needs defence force 'under Union command'
By Benjamin Fox
Europe should create a civilian and military crisis operations HQ under EU command, according to a report by centre-right MEPs.
The proposal, contained in a policy paper published on Tuesday (3 September), by deputies from the European People’s Party, the largest group in the assembly, said EU "heads of state and government have to start building stand-by forces under Union command."
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It called for EU leaders to commit themselves to defining the union’s security interests, prioritising its strategic objectives and linking these with operational deployments.
They said this should include a definition of European defence interests and its geographical priority zones.
Launching the paper, deputies Michael Gahler, Arnaud Danjean and Krzysztof Lisek, all members of the Eparliament's security and defence sub-committee, noted that "deepening the EU's security and defence co-operation will help slash procurement costs and allow the EU to react faster to international crises."
Leaders will debate the idea of EU-level military integration at a summit in December.
For the time being, defence and security policy remains exclusively in the hands of national governments, many of which are reluctant to increase the EU's role in the field.
Last month, a French Senate paper outlined ideas to abandon plans for a Europe-wide defence system in favour of creating a so-called "Eurogroup" force which would work outside the influence of EU institutions.
The force would see four European generals in charge of co-operating on military operations.
Meanwhile, a report by the European Commission in July warned that the bloc's military strength was diluted by overlapping capacities and defence procurement at national level.
In a nod to this, the MEPs described it as an "unacceptable situation to have 10 different versions of one European attack helicopter or to have six different versions of one European military transport aircraft."
The commission's "ideas paper," also designed to feed into the summit talks, called on member states to review national defence capabilities and to identify what is hardware is needed for the protection of EU countries' interests.
Between them, EU governments spent €194 billion on defence in 2011, down from €251 billion in 2001.
Defence R&D spending also fell by 14 percent between 2005 and 2010, to €9 billion.
In contrast, the US spends seven times more on research and development than the EU's 28 member states put together, while Russia and China are expected to double their defence spending by 2015 when compared to 2011.