The proposal by Brussels for a 5.5-billion-euro a year fund follows a Franco-German-led bid to focus on security and defense to provide a new sense of purpose after the Brexit vote last year shook Europe, AFP reported.
But the incentive has grown stronger since the election of Trump, who berated his European partners on military spending at a raucous NATO summit in Brussels last month even as he pursues his “America First” policy.
EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said the bloc would continue to “encourage our American friends to stay engaged in the global scene – I know it sounds surreal to hear this from Brussels to Washington, but that is the reality of facts”.
She said that there was a “growing need, desire to partner with the European Union; part of this might be linked to a certain unpredictability of positions on some issues our partners have seen in Washington”.
Her comments echo those by German Chancellor Angela Merkel who said last week that the US was no longer a reliable partner and that Europe had to take its destiny into its own hands.
The EU military plan would be a key part of this, Mogherini said, although insisting that it would not overlap the NATO military alliance.
“It’s not about substituting neither the alliance nor the United States, but it’s a matter of focusing on what we can do more for our own purposes, our own interests,” she said.
The EU’s proposal for a common defense fund comes as US President Donald Trump presses NATO members to meet their spending commitments to the alliance.
The new EU fund will consist of two parts.
The first will help member states finance defense research into fields such as electronics, encrypted software, robotics and drones.
A draft unveiled at the end of 2016 envisaged a research program with an annual budget of around 500 million euros after 2020.
The fund’s second portion will pool resources for big-ticket hardware purchases such as tanks, helicopters and drones.
This part would reach a budget of five billion euros a year once fully operational, with the commission arguing that member states waste 25 to 100 billion euros EU-wide when going alone.