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With a looming Brexit and US pressure to boost defense spending, the EU has created a fund to bolster defense cooperation in the bloc. EU officials said it marks a new chapter in bringing member states closer together.
The European Commission on Wednesday launched a new defense fund aimed at helping EU member states to jointly develop and acquire better military capabilities.
The EU will provide 500 million euros ($560 million) in 2019 and 2020 for defense development and acquisition. That figure is expected to double to 1 billion euros by 2020.
An additional 90 million euros will be made available for research in 2018 and 2019. By next year, the European Commission said it will propose increasing research funding to 500 million euros per year to make the EU "one of the biggest defense research investors in Europe.
With the UK's imminent exit from the bloc and US President Donald Trump's push for increased defense spending across NATO, European leaders have called for more cooperation among member states in the areas of security and defense.
'Seize the moment'
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Wednesday that the EU defense fund marks a new chapter in defense cooperation within the bloc.
"For too long we have relied too much on the military power of others," he said. "We must now seize the moment to take charge of our own security. We owe this to our fellow Europeans."
Growing security concerns
Up to 100 billion euros is lost each year by EU member states due to duplication, according to Brussels.
EU analysis has shown that the bloc has 37 types of armored personnel carriers and 12 types of tanker aircraft, much higher than the nine and four, respectively, maintained by the United States.
With the rise of terrorist attacks claimed by the self-styled "Islamic State" militant group on European soil and Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, European nations have sought to tackle growing security concerns.
Trump's failure to reaffirm Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which reinforces collective defense, has effectively provided an additional momentum to the European Commission's bold plans for greater defense cooperation across the bloc.
"We are committed to strengthening security and defense work, enhancing our strategic role, our ability to act as a security provider worldwide and our capacity to act autonomously when and where necessary," Mogherini said.
ls/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)