Amid austerity, EU agrees to boost defense cooperation

Amid austerity, EU agrees to boost defense cooperation
# 20 December 2013 23:47 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. - European Union leaders agreed on Thursday to cooperate more closely on making falling defense budgets go further, while President Francois Hollande failed to win any promise of EU help to pay for French military operations in Africa, APA reports quoting Reuters.

Austerity-hit EU countries have slashed spending in response to the financial crisis, scaling back on ships, tanks and fighter jets and undermining Europe's military strength, much to the concern of the United States, its most important ally.

EU leaders, discussing defense at a summit for the first time in five years, called on member states to work together to spread the cost of developing expensive military kit.

They pledged to launch projects to develop a European drone by 2020-2025 and to look into a new generation of government satellite communications.

They also promised to increase the continent's air-to-air refueling capacity, after the 2011 Libya conflict demonstrated a shortage of tanker aircraft, and strengthen cyber defense.

Cameron said Britain, one of Europe's most capable military powers but one that has also scaled back spending, would support cooperation but drew the line at a European army.

"It isn't right for the European Union to have capabilities, armies, air forces and the rest of it. We need to get that demarcation correct between cooperation which is right and EU capabilities, which is wrong," he told reporters.

Britain has always been suspicious of giving too big a military role to the EU, fearing it could undermine NATO.

France, which has deployed 1,600 troops in Central African Republic to prevent worsening violence between Christian militias and largely Muslim Seleka rebels, has called for a permanent EU fund to be set up to finance military interventions like the French actions in Central African Republic and Mali.

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