quarta-feira, 28 de setembro de 2016
The almost-an-EU-army plan
The almost-an-EU-army plan
Italy opens a new front in the debate over EU defense cooperation.
By JACOPO BARIGAZZI 9/27/16, 6:02 PM CET Updated 9/27/16, 8:19 PM CET
BRATISLAVA — Italy added a new twist Tuesday to Europe’s debate over how far EU countries should go on defense cooperation, calling for a coalition of member countries willing to establish a joint permanent military force.
The proposal from Italy’s defense and foreign affairs ministers, Roberta Pinotti and Paolo Gentiloni, stops just short of calling for an EU army — an idea other countries including the U.K. have argued strenuously against.
But by pushing for a “Union of European Defense” that would include a permanent European force, the Italian proposal still goes further than many other countries have shown an eagerness to do.
It was presented during an informal meeting of EU defense ministers in the Slovak capital, where countries tried to find sometimes elusive common ground on military cooperation. Britain’s defense minister, Michael Fallon, arrived at the meeting reiterating London’s opposition not only to an EU army, but also to plans for a common military headquarters for the bloc’s coordinated operations.
The Italian idea builds on a proposal the two ministers made in August in a joint letter calling for a “Schengen of defense,” a coded wording that means to start establishing cooperation outside the EU treaties. It also comes after France and Germany made their own joint call to enhance defense cooperation without going so far as creating an “EU army.”
Rome’s new push comes after Italy’s prime minister, Matteo Renzi, was critical of other EU leaders after a summit earlier this month in which European countries pledged to work together on defense and security. Renzi felt other leaders were not being bold enough.
The new Italian proposal, contained in a document obtained by POLITICO, says “available member states willing to share forces, command and control, maneuver and enabling capabilities, could establish a joint permanent European Multinational Force (EMF).”
The EMF would be “permanently offered” to the European headquarters for military and civilian operations — an idea currently being discussed among member countries — and “will represent the initial nucleus of a future European integrated force.”
But the Italian proposal also stresses that “these efforts should not detract resources from ongoing commitments within NATO” — a common complaint from critics of greater EU defense capabilities.
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, downplayed any divisions among countries over how far to go in coordinating military operations, saying they would focus on “concrete, operational, pragmatic steps that we can take within the existing treaties.”
She said after the meeting that, despite British concerns voiced in public about the EU defense cooperation plans, “all 28” member countries agreed to work together “to make sure it moves forward as much as we can, as long as we can at 28.”
The Italian proposal also addresses doubts about whether EU countries would be willing to spend more on defense, calling for “fiscal and financial incentives to European military cooperative projects aimed at achieving needed capabilities” including tax breaks and loans to help countries bear the cost of new military spending.
The proposal caught some EU diplomats off-guard Tuesday. Some said it ventured too close to an EU army idea that is opposed by London. Others said that by going it alone on this issue Italy risks showing how isolated it is on EU reform matters.
But Pinotti, the Italian defense minister, stressed that Rome’s proposal stopped short of calling for an EU army.
“Nobody has actually talked about an EU army,” Pinotti said. “If we aim at this it is the wrong objective.”
Pinotti also said her views were in line with those of her colleagues.
“This morning in a breakfast I have had with French and German colleagues we have agreed that their document has many points in common with the one I have written with minister Gentiloni,” she told POLITICO.
“Also in the meeting today many ministers have backed both the German-French document and the Italian one. There is no will to go ahead alone, it’s an Italian document that keeps together the vision of the [Italian] foreign and defense ministries.”
Pinotti added that the Italian ideas on funding of defense ambitions were similar to a proposal for a defense fund put forward by French President François Hollande.
Even though the specifics of how to boost funding were different, she said, the Italian proposal “goes in the same direction to strengthen also in terms of funding the setting up of a European defense… and there is a consensus.”