Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Another lurch towards defence integration

While the formation of EU "battle groups" has rightly caught the headlines, indicating quite how far down the line defence integration is proceeding, behind the headlines, the developments are equally sinister.

At the same 22 November council that agreed to the "battle groups", defence ministers also agreed to further expansion of the European Defence Agency, which is the motor behind the scenes which is driving defence integration.

The EDA's first annual budget has been agreed at €20 million, allow it to expand its staff to an expected 77 personnel, and the ministers have also agreed the EDA work programme. This will cover the EU commission's initiatives on defence procurement, space policy and security research.

In its first year, the EDA intends to work on strengthening command, control and communications interoperability (between the forces of EU member states), and it wants to enhance research and technology efforts on so-called "unmanned aerial vehicles". Crucially, it has also set itself the target of further exploring ideas on defence procurement presented in the commission's green paper.

It is especially in the latter area where, as we warned in a previous Blog, that the damage is really being done and, perversely, where there is the least media and political attention.

However, the plans to develop "interoperability" at an EU level are also worrying, as the right forum for this kind of work is NATO, to ensure harmonisation with US systems and equipment.

Worst of all, though, is that our own government is willingly contributing funds to an Agency which will, in time, bring about the complete loss of independence of our own armed forces, without so much as a word being said in the mainstream media.

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