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Europe

Former German Minister Calls for Flexible EU Defense Policy

Former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has called for a group of EU states to develop a military force capable of reacting to crises around the world. He said the bloc needs a flexible defense policy.

Bundeswehr troops standing next to barbed wire

Europe can't afford to let national policies hold back a shared defense policy, Fischer says

A group EU nations should form a "pioneering group" to deal with issues of European security and defense, Fischer said Tuesday, July 28, at the presentation of a European Council on Foreign Relations study.

"We must recognize the reality of a 'multi-speed Europe' on defense," said Fischer, one of the council's co-chairs. "The reluctant should not be bullied, but neither must they hold the others back."

Fischer added that the bloc needed to take a "flexible approach" to cooperation between states on key issues in order to move forward after the Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, which foresees creating a new post to steer European foreign and security policy.

Fischer swayed Green pacifists

Fischer, after being hit with a red paint ballon

Not everyone in the Greens supported Fischer's call for military action in Kosovo

A former leader of the German Greens party, Fischer was instrumental in convincing his fellow party members to turn away from the party's pacifist roots and to support NATO efforts in the Balkans in the late 1990s. It represented the first time German soldiers conducted military operations since World War II.

Though he opposed sending troops to Iraq, Fischer lent his support to the Bundeswehr's mission in Afghanistan.

If such a European reaction force were created it would be able to react to violence around the globe such as in Chad and Congo, more effectively than allowed by current policies, according to the council's report.

European security in peril

"Europe's security is being jeopardized by the reluctance of defense ministries to change and to work together," said Lord George Robertson, former NATO Secretary General, and one of council's members. "Stronger European defense cooperation will only strengthen NATO."

"A large part of the 200 billion euros that Europe spends on defense every year is simply wasted," the study says.

The report reprimanded EU nations for a haphazard system of inefficient military spending that is hindering the bloc from making better contributions to global security, according to the study's author, Nick Witney. He added that the EU will only be a worthwhile security partner with the United States if members pool their resources.

"For defense ministries, change and cooperation are deeply counter-cultural," Witney wrote. "It is down to heads of government to demand progress -- and to do more to explain to their publics and parliaments how vital this is for the security of every European."

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