The European Union should boost its defense capabilities and learn to pool the resources of its individual states, the French defense minister said at an EU defense meeting Thursday.
French Defence Minister Herve Morin says a Europe defensively divided will be ineffective
European states' defense industries must specialize their production capabilities to streamline the bloc's security capacity and eliminate overlap, French Defense Minister Herve Morin said at the informal two-day meeting of EU defence ministers in Deauville, France.
"If we are talking about a European defence industry, we must accept the idea that not everybody is doing the same thing as everybody else," Morin said. "For example, we could do some work in France and other work elsewhere, and then pool together."
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said Wednesday that Europe lacked the "appropriate measures to enact its defense policies."
He said indirectly that Europe risked losing political power if it was unable to defend itself.
At the heart of Sarkozy's military agenda is a desire to see Europe able to stand alone if need be.
In line with this goal, the defense ministers committed at the meeting to filling key military shortfalls such as a lack of transport aircraft and helicopters, better troop protection and the ability to gather intelligence, including by satellite.
The key decisions made at the Deauville meeting are to be finalized in Brussels on Nov. 10.
Integrated European defense manufacturing
Production of the Airbus A400M has been delayed by up to two years
But there was growing evidence in Deauville that EU leaders were warming to the idea that more could be done together, particularly at a time of economic slowdown.
One such example of cooperation is that concerning the A400M military transport aircraft, the components of which are being built by Airbus in six countries: Belgium -- flaps -- Britain -- flaps and outer wing box -- France -- nose fuselage and rudder -- Germany -- fuselage -- Spain -- tail -- and Turkey -- ailerons and spoilers.
Production has fallen behind, however, and delivery of the A400M's may take two years longer than originally scheduled, according to reports.
A majority of EU countries also backed French plans for an exchange program involving young military officers.
Inspired by the Erasmus student exchange program, it would see officers from one member state spend some time training in another European country.
The project aims to increase cooperation between military colleges in order to improve interoperability and mould a common European defence culture, Morin said.
However, some ministers expressed concern that such a program could turn into a one-way travelling system, whereby officers from poorer member states would want to spend time in some of Europe's best colleges, and fewer officers from richer states would be willing to train in countries such as Romania or Bulgaria.