EU coun­tries sign key de­fence pact

Global Times US Edition - - WORLD -

The EU took a step to­ward closer de­fence ties Mon­day, with 23 states sign­ing a land­mark pact aim­ing to boost co­op­er­a­tion af­ter Brexit.

The per­ma­nent struc­tured co­op­er­a­tion on de­fence agree­ment (PESCO) seeks to im­prove EU co­or­di­na­tion on de­fence and weapons sys­tems de­vel­op­ment.

It is part of ef­forts led by Ger­many and France to re­boot the EU af­ter Bri­tain’s shock de­ci­sion to quit and fol­lows the an­nounce­ment in June of a 5.5-bil­lion euro ($6.4 bil­lion) Euro­pean De­fence Fund.

The EU’s diplo­matic chief Fed­er­ica Mogherini hailed the agree­ment as “a new page of Euro­pean de­fence,” say­ing coun­tries had al­ready pro­posed more than 50 projects.

Sim­i­lar ef­forts to deepen mil­i­tary links have been frus­trated for decades, partly by Bri­tain’s fierce op­po­si­tion to any­thing that might lead to a Euro­pean army.

But Brexit and Rus­sia’s an­nex­a­tion of Crimea in 2014 has once again brought the need for a strong Euro­pean se­cu­rity stance back into fo­cus.

The shift in US pol­icy un­der Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump – who be­rated Euro­pean part­ners on mil­i­tary spend­ing at a NATO sum­mit in May – has also led many to ques­tion whether Wash­ing­ton can be re­lied upon to pro­tect Europe as it has in the past.

“It was im­por­tant for us es­pe­cially af­ter the elec­tion of the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent that we can or­gan­ise our­selves in­de­pen­dently as Euro­peans,” Ger­man De­fence Min­is­ter Ur­sula von der Leyen said.

“This is com­ple­men­tary to NATO, but we also see that no­body will solve the se­cu­rity prob­lems that Europe has in its neigh­bor­hood – we have to do it our­selves.”

NATO will re­tain its pri­mary role, but Mogherini said the EU could of­fer re­sources the al­liance does not have, such as nav­i­gat­ing se­cu­rity and de­vel­op­ment is­sues in Africa.

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