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Europe

Europe's Military Woes

Hitches in a plan by eight European countries to buy 18 billion euros worth of military transport planes could prove disastrous and be another blow to European military intergration

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Looking for the key to a European military

He was not the first US official to insult a Europe’s military capabilities, but the public remarks made by US Ambassador to Germany Dan Coats last September stung nonetheless.

Speaking on Europe’s plans to develop a common military force, Coats said there was a great danger "the force will be a hollow force."

"It won't have the necessary infrastructure with training and equipment to be an effective fighting force unless it is supported by a sufficient budget," he told US senators during his confirmation hearing.

Airbus part of the European military dream

The remarks were met with indignation in Germany, but government officials provided no counter-argument. Germany and fellow European Union members are well aware of their shortcomings when it comes to military integration.

Recent attempts at the last EU Summit in Laeken, Belgium, to put forth a common document on military integration faced protest from Greece. Now Germany could be the culprit.

The government has had a difficult time coming up with the necessary money to buy their share of an 18 billion euro project to purchase Airbus military transport planes. The project, undertaken by seven EU countries and Turkey, is considered an important step towards Europe’s desired military integration.

Britain and France irked

Germany’s difficulties have drawn the ire of deal partners like France and Great Britain. Great Britain has said Germany should come up with the necessary millions without parliamentary approval, the biggest roadblock right now.

France has appeared more sympathetic, arguing that the deal can still go through even if Germany doesn’t have all of the money on hand up front.

"We believe that they will stick to their commitment," a spokesman for France’s foreign ministry said. France’s Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and President Jacques Chirac are coming to Berlin on Monday to discuss, among other things, the Airbus project.

Concerns abound

There is still a good possibility that the project, which includes Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg and Turkey, will go through. But the difficulties in coordination are a perfect example of just how difficult European military integration has become.

A document on a 60,000 strong European "rapid reaction force", drawn up at Laeken, faced opposition from Greece. Athens expressed concern that the EU’s force would be too similar to NATO and therefore complicate perpetually strained relations with Turkey, which is a member of NATO but not of the EU.

The US has expressed similar concern in potential conflicts between the EU and NATO, which is looking at possibly expanding in the coming years. The Americans have also been rather wary of Europe’s military dreams. While encouraging such an endeavor, Washington also doesn’t want NATO, in which it has heavy influence, to lose out.

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