22nd Jan 2021

Greeks to invite Turkey to participate in EU force

Turkey will be invited to take part in the first European Rapid Reaction Force, (RRF) operation. This information was given by Greek minister of Defence, Yannos Papantouniou, when speaking to journalists in Athens on the priorities of the Greek EU presidency. "We want Turkey in the continent which will replace NATO in Skopje and we will propose this," Mr Papantouniou said on Friday.

Military operation in FYROM

The Copenhagen Summit on the 12-13 December, confirmed the Union’s "readiness to take over the military operation" in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, (FYROM) as soon as possible in consultation with NATO.

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The EU will be in a position to send the Rapid Reaction Force into position for peacekeeping tasks for the first time following agreement with FYROM, Mr Papantouniou said.

Greek priority is defence

The Greek presidency has announced a number of concrete initiatives to raise defence issues on the European agenda. One is to strengthen European defence industries by using EU research and technology programmes for defence related issues. Currently, Europeans spend only a quarter of what Americans spend on defence related research and technology.

A European Armament Agency should be established and a first debate held on these topics in the spring Brussels council, Mr Papantouniou told journalists. The Greek prime minister has send a letter to the president of the Commission, Romano Prodi, to co-ordinate ideas for this debate ahead of the March summit.

Candidates to attend defence conference in May

The 19 panels in the European Capabilities Action Plan, (ECAP), will be encouraged by the Greeks to deliver their final reports by 1 March. So far, 27 shortfalls have been identified which must be covered before the European Rapid Reaction Force can become fully operational, the Greek minister said.

These shortfalls are mainly in the area of military transportation and in communication systems. A conference to evaluate the situation is foreseen by the Greek presidency to be organised in May and the candidate countries will be invited to take part in this as they are expected to make full contribution to the force as all other EU states.

Common market for defence products

On the Greek presidency's agenda is also the establishment of "a common market for defence products."

The Greek Presidency wishes that EU research funds be used for arms technology research, the creation of a single market for arms, and the creation of an EU arms agency, which can set Europe-wide standards for arms.

"We expect to put forward these proposals at the summit in March and there are large benefits for the European arms industry. Demand will rise when guidelines for arms are harmonised and then we expect that a number of arms producers within the European Union will merge, so that the best can take up the competition from the US," Mr Papantoniou said on Friday, Politiken reports.

Americans spend 3.5% of their GDP on defence, while France and the UK spend 2-2.5%. Some EU members spend only 1%. The Greek defence minister said this was too little. "The EU is of values, and we must have a force to implement these values" the Greek minister said, underlining that the EU should not try to reach the American level of arms expenditure.

European defence is a long term thing, which we would not see in the next 5-10 years, Yannos Papantouniou said: "But we can start to play a larger role and promote our values in the world better."

EU starts security and defence missions in 2003

1 January 2003 will be an important milestone for the EU as it marks the start of its first operation under the European Security and Defence Policy – the EU Police Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Moreover, following a landmark agreement between NATO and the EU earlier this month, the Union will for the first time deploy its own soldiers in the Balkan republic of Macedonia possibly by February 2003, taking over the NATO "Amber Fox" peace-keeping mission.

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