EU creates military planning office, insists it is not a 'European army'

BRUSSELS • Foreign and defence ministers of the European Union have reached a deal to create a headquarters for military training operations - setting aside, for now, concerns that the step might lead to the establishment of a "European army" to rival Nato.

France and Germany support the proposal, and have pressed the EU to do more to ensure its own defence and counter the threat of terrorism.

The Military Planning and Conduct Capability office will be based in Brussels and have a core staff of about 30. Its first job will be to take over the direction of training missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and Somalia.

Britain has long opposed anything that resembled a European military command - but its vote to leave the EU has altered the dynamic of the debate.

With the United States appearing to take a step back in its role in the world, France and Germany are pushing the EU to take more responsibility for security.

The EU and Nato have overlapping memberships. Of the 28 nations in the EU, all but six - Austria, Cyprus, Finland, Ireland, Malta and Sweden - also belong to Nato.

Albania, Iceland, Norway and Turkey are in Nato - but are not part of the EU, as are Canada and the US.

To placate countries like Poland and the Baltic states that look to Nato as a counterweight to possible Russian aggression, the mandate of the EU's new office is expected to be relatively modest.

"The European Union always takes a soft approach to hard security but we also have some hard power that we are strengthening," Ms Federica Mogherini, EU foreign policy chief, said on Monday.

The new office is "not the European army - I know there is this label going around - but it's a more effective way of handling our military work", she added.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2017, with the headline 'EU creates military planning office, insists it is not a 'European army''. Print Edition | Subscribe