21st Jan 2022

European defence plan creates tension

France, Germany and the UK, who have put the cat among the pigeons by working on a common defence paper, have been joined by Belgium.

Guy Verhofstadt, the Belgium Prime Minister, on Thursday took part in an impromptu meeting of the big three before a scheduled dinner for all 25 governments to discuss defence issues.

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The meeting is being interpreted as a direct snub to the Italian Presidency which apparently knew nothing of it.

When asked by journalists about the defence meeting, Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi deliberately chose to misunderstand the question.

He said that as far as he was concerned the four countries that met were Germany, France, Spain and Russia who were in fact discussing a UN Resolution on Iraq.

Transatlantic rifts

This new co-operation between the UK, France and Germany is not only having serious repercussions in Europe but also across the Atlantic.

US ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns on Wednesday qualified the defence project outside the Alliance as a "threat" to the organisation.

He has called for an emergency meeting in NATO to discuss the issue.

The UK, which has been a staunch ally of the US in the Iraq war, surprised several last month by agreeing in Berlin to take part in developing a leading defence group within the EU – so long as it was open to every member state.

The Berlin meeting followed an initiative by Belgium, France, Germany and Luxembourg in April for enhanced co-operation in defence.

Mr Verhofstadt said on Thursday that European defence would strengthen NATO.

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