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Europe

Report Recommends Next Steps in EU Security Strategy

Europe has to do a better job of cooperation if it hopes to realize its dream of shaping a common defense and armament policy, according to a report acquired exclusively by DW-WORLD.

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The EU has suffered by lagging on defense cooperation.

The 24-page document, put together by an international team of 12 defense experts, said steps taken by European Union countries to cooperate on defense projects and pool resources "don't go far enough." The panel proposed the creation of a European Defense Agency that would coordinate weapons programs, research and development, and the efforts of defense companies.

"The goal of the Agency will be to define and implement the capabilities needed for a European security and defense policy in a comprehensive and systematic way," according to the report, which was commissioned in November 2003 by EU foreign and defense ministers.

The EDA could take up work as soon as this year with a budget of €2.4 million and a team of 26 people, the report suggests. By 2005, the personnel should be stocked up to no more than 80 people and the budget increased.

Eurofighter Internationale Luftfahrausstellung Berlin

Not all European nations have ordered the Eurofighter, an EU project years in the making

Defense ministers from each of the Union's 25 members would meet with Agency heads at least twice a year to ensure proposed weapons purchases or armament programs are put in motion, the report proposed.

"Those involved will expect the Agency to deliver real results as soon as possible," the report read.

Defense policy far from "common" right now

So far, defense cooperation has been a difficult assignment for the EU. Though the Union has written a number of papers offering practical methods of forging common policies, only some progress has been made.

EU defense ministers recently agreed to set up "battle groups" composed of 1,500 troops each that could be deployed quickly for peacekeeping missions in any kind of environment. The plan, spearheaded by Great Britain, France and Germany, foresaw the creation of three of those groups by next year.

ISAF Soldaten in Afghanistan

ISAF soldiers in Afghanistan

Europe's "big three" have come closer on defense issues after Great Britain, in addition to the U.S., chafed at German and French plans last fall to set up EU military headquarters separate of the NATO in Brussels. The three have since compromised on a smaller planning cell that would coordinate EU military missions, but not undermine NATO.

Europe lags behind U.S. in defense research

Coordinating defense industry programs, however, hasn't been as smooth. After years of delay, seven European countries finally approved the order of new Airbus military transport planes in 2002. But those countries will have to rely on U.S. and NATO planes until the first transport planes are delivered in 2008.

As it stands now, defense experts say, the EU is already far behind the United States in acquiring the necessary equipment and developing high-tech weapons programs to fight future threats. In response, European defense companies are starting to work closer together, former inter-European and transatlantic alliances.

The new Agency is designed to steer defense company research into actual projects, and eventually, orders, from EU countries. According to the report, the EDA could also eventually take over the administrative role in coordinating cross-nation R&D projects, currently held by the Western European Armaments Organization and Research Cell.

In a nod to the United States, the expert panel said the EDA would not be an exclusive European club. "Friendly, non-EU, nations who can make useful contributions should be considered as participants in Agency projects and initiatives," according to the report.

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