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|Friday, December 08, 2000, updated at 20:12(GMT+8)|
EU Leaders Get to Approve Defense Plan After US WarningLeaders of the European Union at their Nice Summit are expected Friday, December 8, to give green light to a politically sensitive draft report on a planned EU Rapid Reaction Force, avoiding possible fraction with the United States over EU-NATO ties.
EU defense ministers agreed on November 20 on the process of setting up the force of 60,000 personnel to meet its "headline goal" by 2003.
As the current six-month EU president, French President Jacques Chirac said Thursday that European defense planning should be independent of NATO, showing obvious difference from recent remarks by US Defense Secretary William Cohen.
Cohen said earlier this week that if the new forces were to be set up as competing structure, NATO could become a "relic of history." He also warned that NATO and US security ties with Europe would be eroded if the EU insists on separate operational planning for the rapid reaction force.
But Chirac intended to focus on a separate EU military role. " This European defense must naturally be coordinated with the alliance, but as far as its planning and implementation is concerned, it must be independent of SHAPE. Coordinated but independent," he told reporters in Nice.
SHAPE, the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers in Europe, is NATO's military command and control center in Europe, which is based in Mons, Belgium. NATO's headquarters, the political center, is in Brussels.
News media across the Atlantic indicated recent comments by EU and US officials may trigger a new round of row between the EU and the United States.
But observers hold that it is a long way to go for Europeans to set up a separate army without US role.
The EU's High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana said last month that the EU needs to maintain decision-making autonomy, avoid duplication and draw on NATO's expertise for the military plan.
An EU "Military Capability Commitment Declaration" said that the EU as a whole will be able to deploy up to 60,000 troops within 60 days for a mission of at least a year, which was set at the EU summit last year in Helsinki, the capital of Finland.
In quantitative terms, the voluntary contributions announced by the EU member states constitute a pool of more than 100,000 persons and about 400 combat aircraft and 100 ships, making it possible fully to satisfy the needs identified to carry out the different types of crisis-management missions within the EU " headline goal," according to the draft report to be approved by EU leaders in Nice.
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