EU defense ministers meet to boost military cooperation amid tightening budget

21:27, December 09, 2010      

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European Union (EU) defense ministers met here Thursday to strengthen military cooperation and share capabilities among their countries as the ongoing financial crisis has squeezed military budgets of some EU members.

The meeting was the first-ever formal gathering of EU defense ministers, who had only met in informal sessions or in formal ones together with their foreign counterparts.

Since the Lisbon Treaty took effect last December, defense ministers have called for their own formal sessions.

At Thursday's session, the EU defense ministers would mainly focus on greater pooling and sharing in the field of military capabilities amid mounting financial pressure.

A senior EU official told reporters on Wednesday that due to the finance crisis, "you have to do with less resources, you have to do better and you have to cooperate."

Since the beginning of this year, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece and Bulgaria and other EU members have announced or are planning to cut military expenditures.

The cuts in military spending have raised serious concerns over the development of defense capabilities of EU members.

However, the impact of the shrinking military budgets has forced EU countries to cooperate and give a boost to the EU's Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP), instead of the institutional improvements stipulated in the Lisbon Treaty.

At the informal meeting in Ghent of western Belgium last September, EU defense ministers recognized the need to further cooperation, by increasing pooling and sharing in the fields of training, logistics, medical affairs, transport, information and communication, to reduce the impact of budget cuts.

Recently, Germany and Sweden issued a joint paper to urge EU countries to carry out a "systematic analysis of military capabilities and support structures" to identify areas of potential cooperation.

The paper suggested capabilities such as combat forces, fighter planes, warships, and intelligence should remain strictly sovereign of EU member states.

Areas that could be pooled together include personnel training, strategic airlifts and logistics capabilities, it says, adding that military academies, pilot training and maritime surveillance could be areas where nations decide to share tasks and roles.

The recent France-Britain defense cooperation agreement would also be a focus of the meeting.

In November, France and Britain signed a historical military cooperation agreement to share unclear weapons research, pool aircraft carriers, and train joint expeditionary forces.

However, the bilateral agreement driven by financial pressure has raised controversy over its influence on the CSDP.

Source: Xinhua


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