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EU needs to focus on defense issues: Italian PM


08:39, July 26, 2013

ROME, July 25 (Xinhua) -- Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta said on Thursday after meeting with visiting NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Rome that defense policies are an increasingly important issue for the European Union (EU).

"The time has come for the European Council (EC) to discuss defense policies," which require more efficiency in the future "as the challenges are changing," Letta told a joint press conference with Rasmussen.

He wished that in the next summit set in December, the EC will be able to make important decisions. "The EU needs to focus also on these issues that are extremely relevant, after in recent years it has centered mainly on the union, on its single currency and the economic crisis," he said.

One of the main arguments related to defense policies are its costs, Letta said, adding that the EU needs "to avoid duplications and save money in the military structure."

The Italian premier also confirmed his country's commitment for Libyan stabilization both in the institution building and training of local armed forces, and announced that he will be visiting the Italian troops in Afghanistan on Aug. 12.

"Italy has been a strong member of our alliance since its creation and continues to demonstrate a strong commitment every day in many different ways," Rasmussen said.

The secretary-general praised the Mediterranean country's contribution including its role in leading NATO's International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) in the west of Afghanistan as well as its intention to take part in the new mission, which is being planned to train and assist the Afghan forces when NATO's combat task is completed by the end of next year.

He also added that the Italian navy has recently successfully completed a tour leading a NATO-led counter piracy mission off the Horn of Africa.

"These contributions are even more valuable at a time when all our nations have to make tough budget choices,"Rasmussen said, adding that "yes, security has a price but insecurity has a cost that we cannot afford."

"By working together as allies and by making sure that defense spending is given priority, we can increase security for all at a price that we can afford," the secretary-general said.

In his view, Italy provides a powerful example by participating in 17 of the alliance's international smart defense projects, which is "the best way to get value from money, to have a strong Europe in NATO and in the world while strengthening transatlantic solidarity."

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