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Europe

Berlin, Paris Plan New Joint Defense Projects

Germany and France on Tuesday agreed to integrate their national military satellite systems as part of a new emphasis on European Union security and defense coordination.

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French President Jacques Chirac, (right) and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (left) agree to greater defense cooperation

Germany and France on Tuesday agreed to boost European Union security and defense coordination in an effort to increase Europe's independence from the United States.

At the Franco-German summit, held in the eastern German city of Schwerin, the two powerful European neighbors signed an agreement providing for the integration of the two national military satellite systems, Germany's SAR-Lupe and France's Helio II. They said other European states would be invited to join the collaboration."

"Common European solutions will contribute to the strengthening of the independent and capable industrial and technological defense foundation that Europe needs," the two governments said in the declaration that they issued at the close of what is the 79th of their twice-yearly summits.

The two countries' support for the development of a European satellite platform independent of the U.S. platform is founded in their experiences during the Balkan conflicts, when the supply of satellite pictures from the U.S. system proved unreliable.

Germany and France said they also plan to move towards common European defense planning and arms procurement. In this connection, both sides reaffirmed their support for the A400M military transport plane, to be built by European defense consortium EADS.

Armaments experts believe that the privatization plans of the French government will provide impetus in the country's defense collaboration with Germany. In the past, according to German defense-industry insiders, the state influence over the country's defense companies has worked against these companies' involvement in mergers. In consequence, German firms have had to look to other European Union countries or to the U.S. for a merger partner.

In Schwerin, a spokesman for President Jacques Chirac made it clear that the state plans to withdraw from the country's armaments concerns. So, for example, its 100% stake in aerospace engine maker Snecma SA will be put up for sale, as will its 15% stake in Thales, formerly known as Thomson-CSF, the Paris-based defense and civil electronics group.

One interest that the state won't put up for sale is its stake in Giat, the tanks maker. Giat produces Leclerc, the less profitable rival to Krauss-Maffei Wegmann's Leopard tanks.

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