France and Germany prepare creation of an EU army after Brexit

11:18   19 May 2017    919

EU member states will pay for joint military 'projects' in a move previously opposed by Britain, a senior EU official has revealed.

The cash would form part of Franco-German efforts to develop a more integrated European defence to respond to threats on Europe's borders.

Nineteen countries including France, Germany, Italy and Spain will start talks next month on the so-called Cooperative Financial Mechanism, or CFM, which could be running sometime next year, said the Brussels official in a briefing to EU defence ministers.

Britain, which has voted to leave the bloc, had long opposed such defence integration, fearing the development of an EU army.

The fund, whose monies would be owned by national governments, would be the third part of a financing plan involving a proposed research facility led by the European Commission, the EU executive, and money from the EU's common budget for defence.

The amount of money in the fund has yet to be set and contributions would be voluntary, the official said, but it would allow countries to borrow from it as long as they repaid at a later date. The Commission could also pay into the fund.

'This is about liquidity. Too often, projects cannot get off the ground or are delayed because countries don't have the money available,' the official said. 'This would ring-fence funds especially for defence.'

The steps, if agreed, would mark the biggest EU defence funding and research plan in more than a decade to reverse billions in cuts and send a message to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump that Europe wants to pay for its own security.

EU defence ministers on Thursday discussed the wider defence plan that EU leaders will discuss in June to deploy Europe's troops to crisis areas or as peace-keepers abroad.

Proponents of the plan hope that new French President Emmanuel Macron's strong European support will end the isolated way in which EU militaries work and avoid any duplication with the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Defence research spending by EU governments has fallen by a third since 2006, leaving the EU reliant on the United States for advanced fighting equipment.

Trump, who will meet EU leaders next week at a NATO summit in Brussels, unnerved European allies during his election campaign by questioning whether the United States should protect those who spend too little on their defence.

Separately, the European Commission will propose in early June up to 400 million euros (£340 million) from the bloc's joint budget until 2020 to develop new European military equipment and weapons, a second senior EU official said.

A pilot plan is set to get under way this year and the Commission could potentially allocate 3.5 billion euros from the budget between 2021 and 2027.

The official said at least three EU states would have to propose a project together to apply for money from the EU budget, with one potential candidate being a European drone.

'This is the first time in the 60 years of EU history we are allocating common funds to defence,' the official said.

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