13:27 GMT +314 October 2019
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    German soldiers (Bundeswehr) are pictured at a training area on August 9, 2016 in Ohrdruf

    EU Defense Union Will be 'Alternative to NATO, Prevent Mass Purchases From US'

    © AFP 2019 / Martin Schutt / dpa
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    The recently-proposed EU defense union, borne of a Franco-German initiative, will seek to avoid duplicating NATO's functions; instead, it will aim to act as an alternative to the alliance, and prevent the mass purchase of US-made arms and equipment by EU member states, according to the Russian newspaper Izvestiya.

    On Sunday, French and German media reported that French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and his German counterpart Ursula von der Leyen had filed a proposal to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to set up the bloc's collective defense, including a new military HQ and swifter deployment of overseas missions.

    The six-page Franco-German paper says that "in the context of a deteriorating security environment … it is high time to reinforce our solidarity and European defense capabilities in order to more effectively protect the citizens and borders of Europe," as cited by French daily Le Figaro.

    According to the submitted manual, the UK had in the past opposed steps toward the creation of an EU army or duplication of NATO structures.

    The Franco-German paper now says that "taking into account the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the EU, we have to henceforth act as 27 [member states]".

    Russian newspaper Izvestiya has asked the Subcommittee on Security and Defense of the European People's Party (EPP), the largest faction in the European parliament, to comment on the proposal.

    "Brexit will not become the reason for disunity within the EU, contrariwise, we should all work together," a source in EPP's press service told the newspaper.

    "The proposal of the French and German defense ministers is aimed at strengthening the cooperation within the block and at setting up the union not only as a strong political and economic body but also as a military one," he further added.

    The document sets up an aim to make the European defense policy "more active and more useful" and to put forward a news basis for reconsideration of the whole of the European defense strategy.

    One of the key points of the proposal is aimed at preventing the mass purchase of US-made arms and equipment by EU member states, the newspaper says.

    Hence it proposes to expand the European production of tanker aircraft, satellite communication systems,  cybersecurity equipment and to finally complete the construction of MALE-class medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), jointly designed by France, Italy and Germany.

    The European Defense Agency (EDA), an EU offshoot in Brussels, will coordinate the above proposed initiatives.

    The document also calls for a single EU budget for military research and for joint procurement of air-lift, satellite, cyber-defense assets and surveillance drones.

    According to the French and German newspapers, among other proposals is that EU military missions, such as the Sophia anti-migrant smuggler operation or the Atalanta anti-pirate mission, should in future be commanded out of a joint military HQ instead of rotational command by EU states.

    EU states should also create a new command center for coordinating medical assistance, a logistics center for sharing “strategic” assets, such as air-lift capacities, and should share satellite reconnaissance data.

    Besides, the Eurocorps in Strasbourg, an existing military club between Germany, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy and Poland, could in future help the EU Council to plan missions in order to speed up deployment.

    EU "tactical groups", also known as "battle groups" — joint battalions created by small groups of EU states — should be made operationally ready.

    It also says the EU should foster a European esprit de corps by creating a new military academy or by having European courses at national military schools.

    EDA will seek to avoid duplicating NATO's functions, but rather to become an alternative to the alliance, trying to complement one another, a representative of EDA told Izvestiya.

    It will be in constant dialogue with the alliance while offering support to the EU member states.

    In a separate analysis on the proposed initiative, German newspaper Die Welt  however noted that although the US will remain "conjectural world power" for a long time, it already "lacks power and willingness to defend the Europeans from their self-imposed weakness and geopolitical dependency."


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    initiative, military cooperation, defense, security, European Defense Union, NATO, European Defense Agency, Ursula von der Leyen, Jean-Yves Le Drian, Germany, Europe, United States, France
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