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Monday, September 27, 2021

EU should speed up military efforts, leading MEP Weber says

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The EU should accelerate efforts to build up its own military capacity and rely less on America, according to Manfred Weber, the head of the center-right group in the European Parliament.

Although EU member countries have hundreds of thousands of troops, they were not in a position to secure Kabul airport, Weber noted in an interview with Germany’s Funke media group published Sunday.

​​“The national armies, of course, remain the main pillars of defense. But, step by step, we need to build European capacities, such as a European reaction force with a few thousand men. And we also need a cyber-defense brigade,” said Weber, leader of the European People’s Party group — the largest faction in the European Parliament.

The EU has already made some strides toward a joint military approach. In 2017, it launched a pact to get EU countries working together on a range of military projects, including maritime surveillance, drone defense and military disaster relief. Earlier this year, 14 EU countries joined forces to propose a 5,000-person strong rapid response unit. 

But dependence on the U.S. for the evacuation mission in Afghanistan has increased calls for greater European military cooperation.

European Council President Charles Michel said last week that developing the EU’s military capabilities is “of the utmost importance for the future of Europe.”

However, EU member countries are divided on the issue. Many, particularly Baltic and eastern nations, worry that EU efforts could duplicate and dilute NATO’s capabilities. Some governments are also concerned such moves could further damage delicate relations with the U.S.

In recent weeks, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has repeatedly warned the EU against initiatives that might weaken the alliance.

Weber said that closed European military cooperation would save billions of euros and make the bloc more independent.

“Belarus, Ukraine, North Africa, the Middle East — the Americans will not solve these problems for us,” he said.

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Mari Eccles

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