EU to boost joint de­fense spend­ing

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The EU un­veiled am­bi­tious plans yes­ter­day to boost joint de­fense spend­ing in­clud­ing on shared as­sets like drones and he­li­copters, as con­cerns grow that Pres­i­dent-elect Donald Trump may down­grade the US se­cu­rity com­mit­ment.

Trump shocked long­time NATO al­lies in Europe when he sug­gested on the cam­paign trail be would think twice about com­ing to their aid if they had not paid their de­fense dues. That prospect, com­bined with the Ukraine and mi­grant crises plus nu­cle­ar­armed Bri­tain’s shock vote to quit the Euro­pean Union, have moved se­cu­rity sharply up the bloc’s agenda.

“If Europe does not take care of its own se­cu­rity, no­body else will do it for us,” Euro­pean Com­mis­sion head Jean-Claude Juncker said in a state­ment as the plans were an­nounced. “A strong, com­pet­i­tive and in­no­va­tive de­fense in­dus­trial base is what will give us strate­gic au­ton­omy,” said Juncker, who has long pushed for a more ac­tive EU mil­i­tary role and ul­ti­mately what he calls a “Euro­pean Army”.

To stand on its own two feet, the EU “must invest in the com­mon de­vel­op­ment of tech­nolo­gies and equip­ment of strate­gic im­por­tance-from land, air, sea and space ca­pa­bil­i­ties to cy­ber se­cu­rity,” he said. What is known as the Euro­pean De­fense Ac­tion Plan tar­gets more ef­fi­cient de­fense spend­ing and in­creased joint re­search and pro­cure­ment.

‘Com­pet­i­tive de­fense mar­ket’

It pro­poses in­creas­ing the cur­rent 25 mil­lion eu­ros ($27 mil­lion) al­lo­cated to de­fense re­search in the over­all EU bud­get to 90 mil­lion eu­ros by 2020, when it should be re­placed by a ded­i­cated pro­gram worth 500 mil­lion an­nu­ally. An­other fund, po­ten­tially worth five bil­lion eu­ros per year, would help mem­ber states ac­quire mil­i­tary as­sets jointly so as to re­duce the cost, the state­ment said, cit­ing as ex­am­ples drones or he­li­copters. —AFP

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