26th May 2019

Italy tables new defence proposal

  • The new plans may mean that Brussels can remain the headquarters of NATO, and an alterantive location doesn't have to be found. (Photo: NATO)

Italy has put forwards plans aimed at ending Britain’s rift with France over defence issues.

The proposal, to be discussed by ministers in Rome later today (October 3), could see the UK playing a central role in a new European military force. London has previously been wary of this for fears of undermining NATO.

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The compromise proposal seems to agree with plans circulated by British officials at the end of August, which recommend the creation of a "planning cell" that would be based in NATO's military headquarters in Belgium.

What Italy is suggesting is a team of about 40 "mobile" officials that would be responsible for planning military operations. These officials would rotate around national military headquarters in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Greece. This system would not require setting up an alternative to NATO, and so would be more acceptable to London.

British officials, quoted by the Independent, commented on Thursday that the proposal was a "step in the right direction", but expressed doubts about how it could work in practice.

Plans to form a defence advance guard - a so-called "hard core" of member states that would be subject to strict rules, similar to the way the eurozone operates at the moment - were less well received.

Italy recognises that, as the largest military player in Europe, any agreement on defence needs Britain on-side. For its part, Britain is keen to encourage more spending on European defence, and is likely to welcome Italy's proposal to force the inner-core countries to give firm spending pledges.

Defence is one of the more contentious areas of the EU’s draft constitution, which Italy hopes will be finalised under its presidency of the EU by the end of the year. The Intergovernmental Conference to discuss the new constitution kicks off tomorrow (October 4) in Rome.


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