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EU needs to step up on defence, says von der Leyen EU must step up and build defence - von der Leyen
(about 1 hour later)
Ursula von der Leyen said the EU had to develop the political will to actUrsula von der Leyen said the EU had to develop the political will to act
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said the EU should seek to beef up its military capabilities to confront security threats and global crises.European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said the EU should seek to beef up its military capabilities to confront security threats and global crises.
She told the European Parliament she believed EU military forces would be "part of the solution".She told the European Parliament she believed EU military forces would be "part of the solution".
After the Afghan pull-out the EU needed the "political will" to intervene militarily without US-led Nato.After the Afghan pull-out the EU needed the "political will" to intervene militarily without US-led Nato.
France will host an EU defence summit next year, she added.France will host an EU defence summit next year, she added.
"It is time for Europe to step up to the next level," Mrs von der Leyen said in her annual State of the Union address."It is time for Europe to step up to the next level," Mrs von der Leyen said in her annual State of the Union address.
The EU has historically relied on the Nato alliance for military action.The EU has historically relied on the Nato alliance for military action.
The rapid collapse of Afghanistan's government at the end of the US-led mission in the country last month has raised questions about the EU's ability to drive its own defence policy. The rapid collapse of the Kabul government has raised questions about the EU's ability to drive its own defence policy.
Earlier this month German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer called for intense talks on making the EU "a strategic player to be reckoned with". German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said earlier this month the EU should become "a strategic player to be reckoned with".
Her comments echo those of other EU leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, who has backed the idea of a European army. French President Emmanuel Macron has in the past backed the idea of a European army. That was given added impetus by the UK's departure from the EU as it feared duplication with Nato.
The UK's departure from the EU has also brought security into sharp focus, partly because it was opposed to building a new European intervention force. 'Lack of political will'
A 'lack of political will' The Commission president said the EU had to provide greater stability in its own neighbourhood and elsewhere, taking part in missions that did not include Nato and the UN. It also had to share intelligence and become a leader in cyber-security.
Proposals for an EU rapid-response force first emerged in the 1990s. What had held the EU back until now was "not just a shortfall of capacity - it is the lack of political will", she explained.
In 1999, member states pledged to develop a military force of up to 60,000 soldiers. In 2007, so-called battlegroups of 1,500 troops drawn from each member state were created. "You can have the most advanced forces in the world - but if you are never prepared to use them, of what use are they?" she told the Strasbourg parliament.
The battlegroups were declared ready for operations but have never been used because of disputes over funding and a reluctance to deploy. Proposals for an EU rapid-response force first emerged in the 1990s. In 2007, so-called battlegroups of 1,500 troops drawn from each member state were created.
"You can have the most advanced forces in the world - but if you are never prepared to use them, of what use are they?" the Commission president told the Strasbourg parliament. The battlegroups were declared ready for operations but never used because of disputes over funding and a reluctance to deploy.
"What has held us back until now is not just a shortfall of capacity - it is the lack of political will."
Most EU nations are also members of Nato and some, particularly states neighbouring Russia, do not want to undermine ties with the US.Most EU nations are also members of Nato and some, particularly states neighbouring Russia, do not want to undermine ties with the US.
Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said this month he supported EU plans to build a common defence policy, but warned against the creation of a new military force.Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said this month he supported EU plans to build a common defence policy, but warned against the creation of a new military force.
Mrs von der Leyen explained that the EU had to provide greater stability in its own neighbourhood and elsewhere, taking part in missions that did not include Nato and the UN. It also had to tackle cyber-threats by becoming a leader in cyber-security. A joint declaration would be made with Nato by the end of the year, Mrs von der Leyen added.
A joint declaration would be made with Nato by the end of the year, she added.
The Commission president also said:The Commission president also said:
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