21st Jul 2019

EU defence agency gets the go ahead

EU defence ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday have agreed to the setting up of a European defence agency.

Ministers from the 25 current and future member states agreed that an ‘establishment team’ should be set up in January 2004 with the aim of getting the agency up and running before summer 2004.

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  • EU defence agency - to highlight discrepancies between theory and practice in EU defence (Photo: European Commission)

Addressing the meeting of EU defence ministers, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said, "I will do my best to give the agency a strong profile in terms of efficiency, competence and results of its work".

Geoff Hoon, the UK Defence Secretary, welcomed the decision.

He said defence ministers "felt quite strongly that it is a matter for European defence ministers to push this along as we’re the ones to most readily recognise the problems that we face in practice".

The aim of the agency, whose headquarters will be in Brussels, is to help member states improve the large gap between theory and reality in their defence capabilities.

The Italian EU Presidency said the agency would be "a very positive development for a Europe of defence".

Italian defence minister Antonio Martino pointed out that Europe spends half that of the US on defence but only has ten per cent of its capabilities.

What will the US say?

However, some have already anticipated that Washington may see the agency as a protectionist move to buy European only.

"I think that it is very important that this should not be seen to be protectionist", said Mr Hoon.

"If we can develop appropriate European solutions to fill equivalent gaps in those capabilities … that is right and proper ... because it is our industry and our people. But it should not be an automatic assumption that it should be a European solution", said the UK Defence Secretary.

In the same breath, he countered that US legislation which urges the Pentagon to buy defence parts from American manufacturers "is not something that I approve of".

No separate military headquarters

The agency, which will highlight just where EU member states are lacking the money and equipment to back up their defence rhetoric, is set to make the UK's case against a separate military headquarters in the EU stronger.

Mr Hoon reiterated today London's opposition to any such plans - originally pushed by France, Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium earlier this year.

"We see no need for a separate operational headquarters and if other countries are being persuaded of that we are entirely pleased that they see the force of our case".

"Here we are struggling to fill capabilities then we should not be talking about creating institutions that are not necessary", he pointed out.


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