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The BBC's David Shukman
"As the EU is armed, NATO will be undermined"
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Monday, 20 November, 2000, 17:24 GMT
EU ministers approve army plan
Nato peacekeepers in former Yugoslavia
Threats to European security as a whole will remain Nato's preserve
European Union defence ministers have agreed to commit personnel and equipment to a military reaction force which is designed allow EU countries to act together on matters of common interest.

The ministers had agreed to provide a pool of 100,000 personnel, 400 combat planes and 100 warships to make up the force - which would be a maximum of 60,000-strong at any one time.

Those who talk about some single European Army... are simply turning the truth on its head

Nato Secretary-General George Robertson
No new forces are being created, however, and many of the troops included in the tally are also committed to Nato.

Governments intend that the force be ready for deployment by 2003.

According to present plans, the force will be capable of being mobilised within 60 days and remaining on the ground for up to a year.

Crisis role

"The EU is determined that it should play a more complete role in tackling crises," said Javier Solana, the EU's head of foreign and security policy.

Lord Robertson
Robertson: "Nato remains a cornerstone"
The UK, France and Germany are each expected to offer about 12,000 troops to the pool.

The UK is also to commit 72 combat aircraft and up to 18 warships.

Its planners have identified a range of possible military operations in which European governments might wish to become involved, independently from Nato.

They range from small-scale rescue missions, through conflict prevention, to the full-scale separation of warring parties that might involve the entire force.

'No rivalry with Nato'

Nato Secretary-General George Robertson has meanwhile played down criticism that the new European military force will undermine the traditional role of Nato.

Lord Robertson told the BBC that the two bodies would have completely different roles.

"Nato remains a cornerstone of European security and our only mechanism for collective defence," he said.

"The Europeans are not seeking to rival or to duplicate that, but they are saying that the Europeans should do more in their own backyard."

"Those who talk about some single European army with a European Union cap badge and some common European uniform are simply turning the truth on its head.

"Frankly, if it were to undermine or endanger the North Atlantic alliance, I as the secretary-general of Nato would have nothing to do it," he said.

Some UK opposition politicians have said the recent moves are the first step on the road to creating a European army, while President Clinton's administration has cautioned the EU not to duplicate Nato functions or discriminate against Nato countries which are not in the EU.

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See also:

20 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Row rages over EU military force
06 Dec 99 | Europe
EU defence force outlined
18 Oct 99 | Europewide Debate
Is a common European defence policy possible?
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