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Page last updated at 23:14 GMT, Thursday, 5 June 2008 00:14 UK

Call for EU to build its own army

By Mark Mardell
Europe Editor, BBC News

Belgian soldiers in Kosovo
European soldiers already act under the UN banner in Kosovo

An influential Polish member of the European parliament has called for the EU to develop "hard power" and spend more money to build a European army.

Foreign affairs committee chairman Jacek Saryusz-Wolski also wants the European parliament to have the final say on deployments under the EU flag.

The French have said beefing up the EU's military capability will be a key part of their six-month presidency.

The BBC has been told their plans also include a new EU military headquarters.

Other items on the French list of proposals involve calling upon all EU countries to increase spending on defence to meet a new target of perhaps 6% of Gross Domestic Product.

More aircraft

France's leadership of the EU will also include a push for the creation of more rapid reaction forces to enable Europe to collectively undertake three simultaneous missions.

They also want more helicopters and aircraft to be made available for missions.

The big problem is finding countries that want to contribute... troops and helicopters to real missions

The EU will not officially comment until the proposals are unveiled by French President Sarkozy in two weeks' time.

The head of the German army, Gen Wolfgang Schneiderhan, told the BBC that Europe needs to be able to react to crises.

"Working together with Nato we can improve the ability of both organisations to tackle the threats that face our world," he said.

The plans are likely to prove controversial in many countries, including Britain, where there is reluctance towards any move to a European army.

In Ireland there are concerns about neutrality, while in Germany there are worries about any policy that could go beyond a peacekeeping role.




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