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Handing of Euro Hawk 'correct,' says defense minister

German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere has again defended his handling of a failed drone development project as the Bundestag prepares to debate a report drafted by a parliamentary committee of inquiry.

Germany's defense minister told the country's armed forces' publication Bundeswehr Aktuell on Monday that his decision earlier this year to halt the so-called Euro Hawk surveillance drone project was "correct."

The interview emerged just before the German parliament was due to debate the aborted project in plenary session.

During the inquiry committee phase, opposition parties accused de Maiziere of delaying the halt, thereby causing a price overrun at more than 600 million euros ($860 million).

The scandal which emerged in May exposed doubts about whether the drone, which reached prototype-testing stage, would get an airworthiness certificate in European airspace. De Maiziere instead blamed his subordinates.

Joint licensing of civil and military aircraft?

De Maiziere told the magazine that the Bundeswehr was setting up a central authority for the licensing of military aircraft which would begin its work next year.

"I have also at the EU and NATO levels taken the initiative to ensure that joint international certification rules apply for civil and military-used aircraft," he said.

That topic has been tabled for the next meetings of the European Defense Agency and the European (EU) Council in December, de Maiziere told the magazine.

The European Defense Agency (EDA), based in Brussels, was set up by the European Union in 2004 to develop defense capacities for crisis management and enhance cooperation between EU nations when developing equipment.

The Euro Hawk was developed by the US aerospace group Northrop Grumman in conjunction with the European aerospace company EADS.

Although it made its maiden flight in 2010, officials later realized that it lacked modifications and documentation required for Europe's crowded airspace.

ipj/dr (dpa, AFP)