Nine European countries formalize EU defense force plan

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Nine EU nations formalized a plan to create a European military intervention force on Monday, with Britain backing the measure as a way to maintain strong defense ties with the bloc after Brexit.

Ministers from France, Germany, Belgium, Britain, Denmark, the Netherlands, Estonia, Spain and Portugal signed a letter of intent in Luxembourg on Monday, French Defense Minister Florence Parly said.

The European Intervention Initiative is championed by French President Emmanuel Macron and is intended to allow members to coordinate and react rapidly to deal with crises.

The initiative involves joint planning on crisis scenarios, such as natural disasters, crisis intervention or evacuation of nationals, that could potentially threaten European security.

There will be no obstacle for Britain to participate after it leaves the EU because the initiative will be separate from other EU defense cooperation.

Britain’s involvement is important, a French government source said, adding that the two military powers shared similar cultures and analytical approaches on how to tackle a crisis.

Rules for military projects within the EU’s so-called Permanent Structured Cooperation on security and defense were also signed off at a separate meeting of ministers in Luxembourg, while it is not clear whether the UK will be allowed to take part or not.

Paris hopes that the new initiative will be able to act more decisively by focusing on a smaller group of countries.

President Macron had outlined his vision of strategic autonomy for European defense in a keynote Sorbonne speech last September, which caused some anxiety within NATO. Officials from NATO are concerned about the duplication of roles and distancing from the US.

But NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, “I welcome this initiative as I believe it can strengthen the readiness of forces. We need high readiness. That is exactly what NATO is now focusing on.” Stoltenberg was in Luxembourg for discussions on European security and defense.

Italy showed interest in the proposal at first, Parly said, but its new government is still considering and has not made a final decision.

(Cover Photo: Dutch Defense Minister Ank Bijleved, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, French Defense Minister Florence Parly (Left to right) attend the ceremony on the European Intervention Initiative during a foreign affairs and defense ministers meeting in Luxembourg on June 25, 2018. /VCG Photo)