21st Jun 2021

France to push for intervention force created by EU big six

French president Nicolas Sarkozy is spearheading an initiative to create an elite defence force made up of the six EU biggest states - France, Germany, the UK, Spain, Italy and Poland.

French MP French MP Pierre Lellouche, a spokesman on defence for Mr Sarkozy recently presented the idea and conditions for countries to join the defence "hard core" group in the French daily Le Figaro.

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It is envisaged that the six countries would adopt common rules for reinforced co-operation, such as spending a minimum of two percent of their GDP on defence, join a common defence equipment market and provide 10,000 troops for an intervention force.

Moreover, the elite group would commit to carry out joint security anti-terrorism projects, as well as defence infrastructure programmes, such as missile defence or space and intelligence technology.

According to the Brussels weekly European Voice, Paris aims to launch the initiative in 2009, after the new EU Lisbon treaty has been ratified in all member states, as it contains a provision for "permanent structured co-operation" which could establish a legal link for the core defence project to be set up.

The provision was already included in the old EU constitution that the French and Dutch voters rejected in referendums in 2005, with officials suggesting that the UK and France had pushed for it to be included at the time, the European Voice reports.

Still, it is expected that unlike France, Britain will only publicly support the plan after the new treaty's full ratification.

Although it should be possible for all countries to join mini-groups within the EU - such as the defence elite - the idea is likely to ruffle feathers among some smaller countries.

At the moment, even within the six biggest states viewed as potential members of the new club, only the UK and France would fulfil the criterion of two percent of GDP expenditure on defence.

The idea of a joint market for defence equipment also featuring at the EU level, with the European Commission pushing for a deal which could secure more efficient spending among all the bloc's member states.

Currently, internal market rules are not applied to the defence market, allowing member states to exclude defence contracts from EU procurement rules. Moreover, national licensing procedures make transfers of defence material between countries difficult.

According to the commission, a common defence market would significantly improve the military capabilities of member states without increasing defence expenditures.

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