Italy calls for common European defence after Brussels attacks

Matteo Renzi (left) and François Hollande at the Milan summit on jobs and growth, 8 Oct. 2014 [Palazzo Chigi/Flickr]

Matteo Renzi (left) and François Hollande [Palazzo Chigi/Flickr]

Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi called Tuesday (22 March) for a “European pact for freedom and security” following the attacks in Brussels claimed by the Islamic State group that killed around 35 people.

“Today they hit Belgium, but they also hit the capital of the European Union,” Renzi said in a speech, vowing that “it will take months, perhaps years, but we will beat them”.

“This is not the time for jackals, but nor is it the time for doves. We need a European pact, a pact for freedom and security,” he said, referring to those who used the explosions as an opportunity to attack the EU or simply urge peace.

Juncker: NATO is not enough, EU needs an army

The European Union needs its own army to face up to Russia and other threats, as well as to restore the bloc’s standing around the world, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told a German newspaper yesterday (8 March).

“Europe must go all the way this time. We must invest in a common security and defence structure,” he said, adding that the debate over defence integration has been raging since 1954, when a plan to form a European Defence Community (EDC) with a pan-Europe military fell through.

Further attempts have been thwarted by traditional “NATO-first” reflexes, a lack of political will, conservative defence industry policies and fragmentation of military cooperation, according to the European Political Strategy Centre.

“The security services must work together, and better together, with constant, timely and continuous cooperation,” Renzi said, adding that “Italy unfortunately has experience to offer” — a reference to Mafia and Red Brigades violence.

The battle against “a threat that is global but killers which are local” should be fought “with security forces but also primary school teachers… if we are to save the next generation,” he said.

EPP leaders bang drum for European army

EXCLUSIVE / Centre-right leaders will greenlight a plan to move towards an EU defence union at the European People’s Party congress in Madrid next week, has learned.

Belgium locked down its capital, also home to the headquarters of the European Union and NATO, and imposed its highest level of security alert after the explosions.

The fact that extremists were able to hit high-profile targets in Brussels, Europe’s symbolic capital, just months after IS jihadists killed 130 people in Paris, raised fresh questions about the continent’s ability to cope with the terror threat.

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