Council to announce progress on ‘EU army’

The defence ministers of the EU are expected to announce the operational capability of the 60,000-strong European Rapid Reaction Force at the 19-20 May session of the General Affairs and External Relations Council.

The force will be available by the end of 2003 for a full
range of peace-keeping and humanitarian operations, and will serve
as evidence that cooperation on defence is working in Europe. NATO
remains responsible for Europe's territorial defence.

According to EU officials, military expenditure
across the Union is about half of that of the US, but the
capabilities amount to only 10 per cent of what the US has. The
ministers will consider proposals at the meeting to create a common
EU arms industry, and will investigate potential shortfalls in
military cooperation against the backdrop of deep-seated
differences that emerged from the Iraq war.

The Council will adopt a set of general
conclusions on issues pertinent to European Security and Defence
Policy, and will hear a presentation by External Relations
Commissioner Chris Patten on the recent Commission Communication
entitled "Towards an EU Defence Equipment Policy".


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