Wednesday, 18 September 2013

And NATO chips in!

The secretary-general of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has called on EU countries to step up co-operation on defence, arguing in favour of moves towards a borderless EU defence market and intensified integration on military matters. He joined EU defence ministers, including Alan Shatter, for an informal meeting in Lithuania two weeks ago, where defence co- operation featured high on the agenda.
“I intend to bring the issue of co-operation between NATO and the European Union on defence matters and the need for Europe to intensify its efforts in capability development and invest more in security,” Rasmussen said at the alliance’s monthly press briefing in Brussels. “It is important for Europe and it is important for the transatlantic alliance, because a strong Europe is also a strong Alliance.”
 In Lithuania the EU ministers discussed a policy paper tabled by the European Commission in July that called for a relaunching of industrial co-operation on defence, including co- operation on drones, where Europe lags behind the United States and Israel.
EU heads of state and heads of government will revisit the matter at their December summit in Brussels. But the Commission believes that deep cuts in national defence budgets following the financial and economic crisis make a case for pooling resources. From 2001 to 2010 EU defence spending declined from €251 billion to €194 billion, while defence budgets increased significantly in emerging markets, according to the Commission.
“In times of scarce resources, co-operation is the key,” said the president of the Commission, José Manuel Barroso, “and we need to match ambitions and resources to avoid duplication of programmes.”
Rasmussen echoed this sentiment, saying at his monthly address that, “for all of us, the key is co-operation: to work together to make us all strong, not to duplicate each other’s efforts and thereby make us weak.”
Rasmussen sketched a vision in which the EU had “effective and modern defence industries, where competition drives innovation, where national borders are no barrier to international co-operation, and where effective equipment is developed in a cost-effective way.” And he went further, saying that closer co-operation on defence “is a vital part of Europe’s ability to ensure its future security.”
On 19 November EU defence ministers will meet, and on 19 and 20 December the EU summit will discuss, and possibly endorse, the Commission’s communication. 

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