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11th Apr 2021

'Historic' defence plan gets launch date at EU summit

  • 'European defence policy was supposed to start in 1954, we proposed it in 2014, it's happening now,' said EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. (Photo: Simon Ballantyne)

Europe's military capabilities are set to get a boost when joint defence plans are launched within the next three months.

EU leaders, at a summit in Brussels on Thursday (22 June), endorsed a Franco-German push to get governments to announce whether they will sign up to the new pan-EU defence scheme.

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Speaking to reporters at his first EU summit, French president Emmanuel Macron described the latest move as "historic".

"For years and years there has not been any progress on defence, there has been one today," he said.

German chancellor Angela Merkel echoed his views, noting that the proposal will make it possible for participating EU states to carry out missions throughout the world.

"In the next few weeks and months, we will look at possible projects, the criteria that will have to be met," she said, adding it would complement Nato.

Macron noted both France and Germany are set "to go even further" than what had been agreed among all 28 EU states.

Without elaborating, he said talks on stronger Franco-German defence ties would be thrashed out in Paris at a ministerial conference on 13 July.

The initiative is part of an European Commission-led policy drive that, among other things, seeks to use EU funds to finance defence research.

The Commission earlier this month had proposed to add €500 million in 2019 and 2020 for new military development.

Post 2020, the figure increases to some €1.5 billion every year for both research and development of new military technology.

"European defence policy was supposed to start in 1954, we proposed it in 2014, it's happening now," said EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

EU council chief Donald Tusk said the plans would allow much deeper integration on defence.

Public money for military industries

Critics say the plans amount to subsidising the EU's defence industry to develop new weaponry.

German Green MEP Ska Keller said it made no sense using EU funds to support the industry at the expense of other programmes like regional funds.

She noted better cooperation would instead prevent duplication and inefficiencies among EU states on things like tank design and save billions a year as result.

"We could save with good cooperation €100 billion more or less per year," she told EUobserver.

An online petition opposing the defence plans have been signed by some 117,000.

"They believe there are better ways to spend their tax money to ensure the EU is a safe place," said Virginia Lopez Calvo, a campaigner for the online petition website, We Move Europe.

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The Commission has offered to put aside €1.5 billion a year for joint defence spending in what could be the first step toward the creation of an EU army.

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The EU has allowed its defence and security policies to be shaped by powerful lobbyists, many of whom are linked to firms that win lucrative contracts, an investigation shows.

Medical HQ to spearhead EU military push

The first joint project, a medical HQ, designed to make the EU into a "credible" military power will be in place by the end of next year.

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