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Britain fears more integrated European defence policy

Posted by seumasach on January 25, 2012

Wake up call to EU on NATO

Daily Express

23rd January, 2012

BRITAIN can no longer rely on the US for its “military salvation”, according to defence  minister Gerald Howarth.

 

His declaration comes as experts warned France would move towards a more integrated European defence policy if President Nicolas Sarkozy loses power in April’s elections. That may hasten the creation of a central European military HQ, with the authority to command British troops.

Addressing a House of Lord’s committee, Mr Howarth said: “The tectonic plates are shifting all over the world. We believe that the US is committed to Nato but European nations need to wake up and recognise that they have to shoulder more of the burden for the defence of Europe. We need to recognise that we cannot continue to look to the US as our salvation on its own.”

While admitting the EU was more effective on Russia’s border in Georgia than Nato could ever be, he gave a scathing account of the lack of willingness by most European nations – with the exception of France with which Britain holds a military accord – to contribute to military affairs.

Of Europe’s main current operations, Bosnia is 1,000 troops short of its 2,200 requirement and the EU’s counter piracy Operation Atalanta is a ship short, said Mr Howarth.

“The EU training mission in Somalia is worthwhile, it is training Somalia soldiers in Uganda using EU trainers, but they could not deliver even one medical officer across the entire EU to look after the needs of trainers.”

Referring to a meeting of European defence ministers last September, he added: “I raised this deliberately contemptuously. If you can’t deliver on three pretty undemanding operations, what are you for?”

His views follow a recent realignment of US defence policy, in which President Obama indicated that the priority of a smaller, leaner American armed forces would lie in Asia and the Pacific rim.

“It is quite clear that a new socialist government in France – and it looks like Sarkozy will not win the general election – will concentrate much more on centralised European defence,” said Dr Alexis Crow, of the think-tank Chatham House.

France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland remain committed to the building of a central military HQ with ultimate power over EU operations. Both Britain and the US oppose the idea, on the grounds that better unity does not require the building of a new power base which could compete with Nato.

“It is inappropriate to use EU mechanisms to advance the political agendas of only a few member states,” said a government spokesman.

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