EU summit draft backs closer defence ties, Paris climate accord

Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, and Donald Trump, president of the United States of America, at the EU-US summit, 25 May. [European Union]

European Union leaders meeting next week will agree to boost cooperation on security and defence and express support for global trade and the Paris Agreement, according to a draft joint statement.

The EU leaders will convene in Brussels on 22-23 June, in the same week that long-awaited talks on Britain’s exit from the bloc are due to begin in the biggest setback for European integration in six decades.

Determined to show that an EU of 27 – minus the UK – can still thrive, the bloc is pushing for closer defence ties, something London has long opposed.

“The joint development of capability projects commonly agreed by Member States to fill the existing major shortfalls and develop the technologies of the future is key to fulfilling the EU level of ambition,” the document reads.

It gives top EU backing to the already-proposed joint financing for research and development in Europe’s fractured defence industry, and pushes for working out financing details for the bloc’s joint battle groups, which have never been used.

Commission pushes for stronger defence, trade and border powers after Brexit

The European Commission has said it could accept reduced responsibility for some policy areas, but only in return for greatly strengthened powers over defence, border control, migration, counter-terrorism and trade.

France and Germany revived talk of the EU’s long-stalled efforts at expanding military cooperation following the Brexit referendum a year ago.

“It must be our goal to develop common, pan-European capabilities,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told fellow conservatives on Tuesday (13 June), adding that she and French President Emmanuel Macron had agreed to work together more closely to strengthen defence and security.

Merkel said transatlantic ties would remain critically important, but the EU needed to expand its ability to deal with regional conflicts and protect its external borders.

“We simply have to take on more responsibility,” she said.

US President Donald Trump’s uneasy relationship with Europe and lukewarm stance on NATO have given the tentative push for more defence cooperation greater momentum.

Mogherini sees EU military HQ 'within days'

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said Thursday (18 May) remaining differences over a planned military headquarters had been resolved and it could be formally launched in a few days.

“Fair” trade

The draft conclusions mirrored much of the language favouring open markets previously seen from EU leaders, though with a greater emphasis now on “fair” as well as “free” trade. The document said the EU saw merit in seeking further steps to create stronger trade defences and screen foreign investments.

France, Germany and Italy have mooted the idea of allowing the EU to block Chinese investment in Europe, partly because European companies are denied similar access in China and because of risks that Beijing may acquire prized European technology.

An EU-China summit earlier this month was overshadowed by divisions on trade.

EU, China turn from trade to climate action to cement relations

The EU and China confirmed today (2 June) their decision to step up their cooperation against climate change. But disagreements over trade soured the end of the summit, as Beijing refused to sign the joint declaration.

The leaders will encourage progress in free trade talks with Mexico and the Mercosur bloc of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay and say recent progress in negotiations with Japan “paves the way for an early political agreement”.

Despite Trump’s announcement that he was pulling the United States out of the global accord on climate change, EU leaders are due to express their full backing for the accord.

“The European Council strongly reaffirms the EU commitment to swiftly and fully implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change,” they will say.

“The Agreement remains a cornerstone for global efforts to effectively tackle climate change, and cannot be renegotiated.”

Fighting climate change needs green investment to go mainstream

Ad hoc measures won’t be enough to fight climate change. The EU needs to step up and the ECB should start pumping some of its €60 billion monthly investments into green projects, insists MEP Neena Gill.

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