Five EU countries call for new military 'structure' http://euobserver.com/defence/118226
Five leading EU countries, but not the UK, have said the Union needs a new military "structure" to manage overseas operations.The foreign and defence ministers of France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain issued the call in a joint communique after a meeting in Paris on Thursday (15 November).The paper says: "We are convinced that the EU must set up, within a framework yet to-be-defined, true civilian-military structures to plan and conduct missions and operations."It adds: "We should show preparedness to hold available, train, deploy and sustain in theatre the necessary civilian and military means."It lists a number of EU military priorities for the coming years: helping Somalia to fight Islamists and pirates; "a possible training mission to support the Malian armed forces" in reconquering north Mali; "assistance to support the new Libyan authorities" against Islamist militias; "normalisation" of the Western Balkans; "conflict resolution" in Georgia; and police training in Afghanistan.The communique also calls for more "pooling and sharing" of EU defence hardware in the context of crisis-related budget cuts.It identifies "space, ballistic-missile defence, drones, air-to-air refuelling, airlift capacities, medical support to operations [and] software defined radio" as pooling areas.The reference to new "civilian-military structures" comes after the UK last year blocked the creation of a new operational headquarters (OHQ) in Brussels for EU military missions.Britain's Telegraph newspaper earlier this week cited a "senior French source" as saying that EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton supports the idea of an OHQ, which will become a "ripe fruit" in the "long-term" as EU military operations multiply.
Ashton officials denied the report.Meanwhile, the UK's role in future EU defence co-operation was a big topic at the Paris meeting.French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said the UK can join the group-of-five at any time: "The text which we have developed is open to all of our colleagues, especially Great Britain."French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the communique is designed to "create a movement" ahead of an EU summit on defence in 2013.For his part, Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski said: "If the EU wants to become a superpower, and Poland supports this, then we must have the capability to exert influence in our neighbourhood ... Sometimes we must use force to back our diplomacy."
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