EU Leaders Agree to Increase Defense Cooperation
European Union leaders, meeting at the European Council in Brussels, have agreed towards closer defense cooperation.
At their first summit dedicated to defense since 2008, the 28 leaders were looking for ways to boost military capabilities at a time when budgets are under intense pressure.
"With around 1.5 M jobs and a turnover of EUR 96 B, this is a sector that's very important for the European economy. But not only the European economy, as it's very well said in the conclusion of the European Council," said Jose Manuel Barroso, European Commission President.
"Cooperation in the area of military capability development is crucial to maintaining key capabilities, remedying shortfalls and avoiding duplication," the 28 leaders said in a statement.
They called on member states to "deepen defense cooperation by improving the capacity to conduct missions and operations," all based on a "more integrated" European defense industry.
Among specific steps, they approved joint development of drones and in-flight re-fuelling aircraft, satellite communications systems and cyber-defense.
British opposition to the EU having its own armed forces highlighted differences over how far they can go. UK Prime Minister David Cameron said he could not accept a separate EU military force.
"It makes sense for nation states to cooperate over matters of defense to keep us all safer... but it is not right for the EU to have capabilities, armies, air forces and the rest of it," Cameron said at the summit.
"We have to get that demarcation correct, between cooperation which is right, but EU capabilities which is wrong," he added.
The UK insists its armed forces must remain strictly under national control, operating through NATO, not the EU, to ensure European security.
Other EU leaders pointed out the benefits of cooperation rather than the drawbacks.
On foreign and security policy, "Europe can work much closer together," said German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
"We can pool our armament activities but above all, we must also have a coordinated policy," Merkel said.
The European Council endorsed the establishment of a common mechanism for the closure and rehabilitation of banks, which is part of the future banking union deal.
"I know it means a huge deal for markets and the financial world," European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said Thursday.
"We are truly putting the vicious link between failing banks and government finances behind us, and this will help to get the economies going again."
The EU summit continues Friday with discussions on the situation in Ukraine and the growth and employment measures.
After the session, Bulgarian PM Plamen Oresharski will meet with European Commission President Jose Barroso.
"I requested a consultation on various topics, including the European Commission's views on the upcoming monitoring report on Bulgaria," PM Oresharski commented.
Bulgaria's report on justice and home affairs is expected to be published after January 20.
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