DN - Defence Notes

Defying US, Paris and Berlin stand firm on EU defence pact

16th February 2018 - 18:46 GMT | by ​Agence France-Presse in Munich

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Europe must be able to stand on its own feet militarily, France and Germany said 16 January as they made the case for a new EU defence pact that has rattled Washington.

In opening remarks at the Munich Security Conference, French Defence Minister Florence Parly and her German counterpart Ursula von der Leyen said the EU plan posed no threat to NATO.

But they stressed that the European Union needed the 'autonomy' to respond to security threats, even while bolstering their commitments to the NATO alliance.

'When we are threatened in our own neighbourhood, particularly to the south, we have to be able to respond, even when the United States or the [NATO] alliance would like to be less implicated,' Parly said.

Von der Leyen also took a swipe at Washington for cutting its aid and diplomacy budgets, reminding 'our American friends' that they have 'precious commitments beyond military means'.

The EU announced in December a permanent structured cooperation on defence agreement, known as PESCO, aimed at developing new military equipment and improving cooperation and decision-making.

Senior US officials voiced doubts about the EU plan this week, fearing it could draw resources away from NATO or become a 'protectionist' umbrella for European defence manufacturers.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has cautiously welcomed the EU's efforts to step up its defence initiatives, but warned that these must not undermine the transatlantic alliance or duplicate its work.

Batting away those concerns, Parly said 'those who try to say it's either the EU or NATO: it's a false debate'.

But EU nations must be ready to act 'without asking the United States to come to our aid, without asking them to divert their ISR capabilities or their supply craft from other missions,' she added.

Von der Leyen agreed that building up Europe's military autonomy was compatible with shoring up the NATO alliance.

'It is about a Europe that can also add more weight militarily so that it can be more autonomous and carry more responsibility - also within NATO,' she said.

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