French minister urges EU defence budget


MILITARY SPENDING:FRENCH EUROPEAN Affairs minister Pierre Lellouche has proposed setting up an EU defence budget similar to the Common Agricultural Policy.

He has also questioned why just three EU member states currently contribute almost two-thirds of all military spending within the union.

“In order to progress with ‘defence Europe’, it should not be that spending linked to security is completely separate from the EU’s financial perspectives,” said Mr Lellouche, in a session with deputies sitting on the European affairs committee at the French National Assembly last week.

He suggested defence spending should be dealt with like spending on other EU priorities such as agriculture, technology or the environment. There was little point in creating the external action force envisaged in the Lisbon Treaty if Europe wasn’t prepared to pay for its own defence.

“Why do three member states contribute up to two-thirds of military expenditures of the 27 member EU?” asked Mr Lellouche.

Britain, France and Germany currently spend about $170 billion of the estimated total of $285 billion on defence activities. Paris has set the goal of building EU common defence as one of its strategic priorities for the union.

There is no legal base in existing treaties or in the Lisbon Treaty for the EU budget to be used for defence or military spending. However, a mid-term review of the EU budget will begin in the coming months, providing an opportunity for EU states to propose changes to how the EU spends money.

Any proposal to use the EU budget, which is financed by all 27 states, for defence spending would require all member states to agree. This is unlikely given that neutral EU states such as Ireland and Austria would probably oppose any such move.

Mr Lellouche also reiterated that France would block future EU enlargement if Ireland votes against the Lisbon Treaty in the referendum on October 2nd.

The Peace and Neutrality Alliance (Pana) said militarisation of the EU would be “substantially accelerated” by the Lisbon Treaty. The group has also called for the immediate withdrawal of Irish soldiers serving in Afghanistan.

“It is no accident that the Irish supporters of the treaty refuse to confirm that Ireland will not join the military structured co-operation group being established for the more ‘demanding’ wars the EU is planning in the future,” said Roger Cole, chairman of Pana, in a statement.