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EU defence ministers agree to boost military ahead of war games with US

EUROPEAN Union defence ministers agreed to boost “military mobility” and strengthen the bloc’s ability to deploy co-ordinated military force quickly from the Mediterranean to north Africa at today’s Zagreb summit.

The meeting, chaired by EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy Josep Borrell conducted a “strategic review” of the bloc’s Permanent Structured Co-operation (Pesco), an accord working towards a unified European military which former European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker called “the sleeping beauty of the Lisbon Treaty.”

It also assessed the deployment of naval forces to the Mediterranean aimed at enforcing an arms embargo on Libya and discussed the French-led military deployment to Mali, which is ostensibly directed at suppressing terrorism, though French forces based there have been accused of assisting Libyan rebel General Khalifa Haftar.

Estonian Defence Minister Juri Luik said that the US military’s Exercise Defender 2020 would “identify any bottlenecks in military mobility which Europe must help contribute to removing.”

The exercise will see 20,000 US troops deploy to Europe and fan out across different Nato member states, participating in a number of joint military drills.

British and EU troops will also be involved in the exercise, which is the biggest deployment of US troops to Europe in over 25 years.

Nato chiefs say Exercise Defender 2020 will assess European ports’ capacity to receive tens of thousands of US troops quickly and “open routes through Europe” to see how smoothly 20,000 soldiers and 13,000 pieces of equipment can be moved across the continent.

Manoeuvres will be conducted right up to the Russian border.

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