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France and Germany called for unified EU military at Nato summit

FRENCH and German war ministers Florence Parly and Ursula von der Leyen called for the European Union to “speak with one voice” militarily at the Munich Security Conference at the weekend.

Ms von der Leyen said a unified European “defence pact” would not undermine the US-led alliance but would “harmonise the troops and increase our interoperability within Nato.

“It is about a Europe that can add more weight militarily so that it can carry more responsibility — also within Nato,” she insisted.

“When we are threatened in our own neighbourhood, particularly to the south, we have to be able to respond, even when the United States or the alliance would like to be less implicated,” Ms Parly added.

The EU announced a permanent structured military co-operation agreement, Pesco, in December last year.

Foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told member state foreign ministers assembled in Sofia at the weekend that she had reassured US Defence Secretary James Mattis that Nato would retain sole responsibility for its members’ “collective defence,” saying the EU-Nato relationship “was clearly stated in black and white in the EU treaties.”

Not all EU states are part of Nato, but the blocs are intertwined through a series of agreements and treaties dating back to 2002’s Nato-EU Declaration on a European Security and Defence Policy.

France promised at the summit to raise defence spending to 2 per cent of GDP in line with Nato requirements, despite President Emmanuel Macron forcing through €15 billion (£13.3bn) in public spending cuts and €10bn (£8.8bn) in tax cuts for top earners in his first budget late last year.

And Germany is set to host a new Nato “planning and control centre” as part of an “upgrade” to the alliance’s capabilities, supposedly in response to a more “assertive” Russia.

German foreign relations council member Christian Moelling said the base would address the “fundamental problem” that Nato was unable to deploy troops to the Baltic region bordering Russia “fast enough.”

But Left Party MP Alexander Neu said it would put Germany “at the head of the sabre-rattlers” and Berlin could do more good if it sought to mediate between Washington and Moscow.

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