BRUSSELS, Dec 12: Europe must not remain a military ‘dwarf,’ French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Friday, as EU leaders vowed to boost military resources so the bloc could live up to its security ambitions.
“Europe cannot be a dwarf in terms of defence and a giant in economic matters, it’s just not possible,” he told reporters after chairing a two-day summit in Brussels.
Sarkozy said that the leaders had gone some way to changing things by making “extremely important” commitments to upgrade Europe’s military and civilian security capabilities.
France, which is wrapping up its turn at the rotating EU presidency, has made the strengthening of European defence capacities a condition for fully reintegrating into the Nato alliance.
But Nato, particularly heavyweight members the United States and Britain, has always been concerned that strengthening Europe’s defences could create double-up or competition for scarce military resources.
The EU and Nato have 21 member countries in common.
The United States spends more on defence than the 27 EU nations combined and has regularly pressured its European allies to increase defence spending to a minimum of two per cent of the gross domestic product.
Sarkozy did not say whether the progress made at the summit would be enough for him to announce France’s full return to Nato at the alliance’s 60th anniversary summit in Strasbourg, France and Kehl, Germany in April. In a statement, the EU leaders committed on Friday “to make good the inadequate resources available in Europe by gradually improving civilian and military capabilities.”
“This effort is also the prerequisite for allowing Europeans to assume in a credible and effective manner their responsibilities under a renewed transatlantic partnership.”
To give ‘fresh impetus’ to EU policy, the leaders set targets for the kinds of civilian and military operations they want to be able to conduct in coming years and commit “to develop robust, flexible and interoperable capabilities”.
The EU should be capable of deploying a total of 60,000 troops in 60 days for a major operation, while “planning and conducting simultaneously” 19 other missions, ranging from maritime surveillance to police training.
No target date is set but this should be possible “in the years ahead.” Military officers have said privately that the EU’s defence ambitions have long-been set too high. A set of almost identical targets published in 1999 was due to have been met by 2003 but that deadline slipped.—AFP