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News 18 Oct 17

Romania Backs EU Military Cooperation Fund

Romania’s Supreme Defence Council decided that the country will participate in the EU’s newly-established military research and cooperation fund, in the hope of reviving its defence industry.

Ana Maria Touma
BIRN
Bucharest
Romanian troops in Craiova during NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg's visit on October 9. Photo: NATO/Flikr

Romania is set to participate in a set of ten projects included in the European Union’s newly-created Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) defence fund, which was set up to enable closer military cooperation and integration between EU member states.

The announcement was made by Romania’s presidency, after the country’s Supreme Defence Council met on Tuesday to discuss the country’s approach and contribution to the EU military fund.

The presidency did not explain what kind of projects the Council approved, but said they were in line with the country’s military priorities.

The European Council agreed on June 23 to launch PESCO as a defence research and cooperation fund.

PESCO is intended to allow “a core group of countries to take systematic steps towards a more coherent security and defence policy without dividing the Union”, according to the EU’s website.

Romania’s president Klaus Iohannis was among the first to support the idea, saying that it wasn’t meant to compete with NATO, as it was only meant for research and coordination, not for acquiring more military equipment.

“Romania is very interested in it, because we want a close cooperation between all EU member states and we are going to contribute to it, of course on the same condition we’ve always had,” Johannis told journalists at the European Council in June.

“We don’t want to develop an organisation parallel to NATO, we want to develop a structure that, on the one hand, serves the EU, and, on the other hand, completes and doesn’t compete with NATO structures,” he added.

He also said he thought that the PESCO fund could also signal an opportunity for the revival of the Romanian defence industry, which has been struggling to survive since the fall of communism.

The country has increased its defence spending in 2017 to 2 per cent of GDP, to fall in line with NATO requirements, but also hopes that the financial infusion will help its defence industry.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told Iohannis on October 9 in Bucharest that he supports the idea of EU countriesstrengthening and investing more in their defence capabilities.

Increased threats to European security and the need to increase Europe's collective defence capabilities so that the continent will not rely so much on the US led the European Commission to advocate for the enhanced defence integration of member states, especially as Britain, which has Europe’s strongest army but is opposed to a European military, is leaving the bloc in 2019.

This is also happening amid chillier relationships between European capitals and Washington under Donald Trump’s leadership.

Before the European Council meeting in June, the Foreign Policy website reported that Germany is aiming to put together a European army under its command, with help from smaller allies like Romania and the Czech Republic.

In March, the EU inaugurated a joint military headquarters to command its training missions in Somalia, Mali and the Central African Republic.

 

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