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EU defence ministers push ahead with military projects

  • EU is moving ahead with deeper military cooperation (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

A group of European defence ministers are pushing ahead with joint defence projects as part of broader effort at deeper military cooperation.

Federica Mogherini, the EU's foreign policy chief, described the meeting among the ministers in Brussels on Tuesday (7 March) as "historic".

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The ministers signed off on some 17 collaborative projects, part financed by the EU budget, to create a so-called Permanent Structured Cooperation pact.

Ministers from 25 EU states had last December agreed to move forward on the plans with an overall aim to develop defence capabilities for EU military operations.

Tuesday's get together in Brussels was the first such formal defence meeting. The United Kingdom, Denmark, and Malta are not taking part.

Talks on allowing countries outside the EU to join have been postponed for later this year, amid speculation over the UK's eventual departure from the European Union.

The initial batch of projects include maritime surveillance, a European medical command, armoured infantry fighting vehicles, among others.

"We will also launch the process to generate new projects to be adopted by November this year," said Mogherini.

The idea, led by France, Germany, Italy and Spain, is that better cooperation among those involved will lower overall military expenditure.

It also aims to speed-up EU crisis interventions in conflict areas around the world.

A European defence fund, set up by the European Commission, will finance industrial research.

The European parliament backed the defence and security plans last December.

But not everyone is in favour.

The European Network Against Arms Trade, campaign group, says EU funds should not be diverted into military technology.

The commission last year announced it would put aside some €1.5bn a year for joint defence spending.

A small portion of the money, or around €40m, may be taken away from other EU funded areas in energy, environment and science.

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