Page last updated at 13:31 GMT, Thursday, 10 July 2008 14:31 UK

Europe's armies chided in report

French soldier on EU mission in Chad
France is heading an EU mission to beef up security in Chad

Europe's armed forces are underperforming and require Franco-British co-operation to meet future challenges, a think-tank has said.

An investigation by the International Institute For Strategic Studies found that only 2.7% of military personnel were ready for overseas operations.

In 2007 Europe had some 71,000 military personnel deployed overseas, out of nearly two million service personnel.

Europe needs a Franco-British impetus to deal with security crises, it says.

Alexander Nicoll, one of the co-authors of the report, said "most European armed forces are unable to live up to their own targets for availability".

"The Nato goal - that 40% of land forces should be deployable - seems much too low. We don't see why it should it be acceptable that any part of a nation's armed forces cannot be put to use... targets for deployability should be much higher," he said.

Among other deficiencies in European military capability the report highlighted the shortage of "niche" skills, the waste of money through military procurement delays and insufficient investment in new defence technology.

The international security operation in Afghanistan has highlighted tensions between Nato allies, with Germany especially drawing criticism over its reluctance to commit troops to high-intensity combat.

The 27 EU countries spent 204bn euros (162bn) on defence in 2006, according to the report, European Military Capabilities, which took three years to compile.

"Much more could be done to modernise Europe's armed forces, to have a higher proportion of them available, to be better equipped, better able to inter-operate with other nations' troops - and all at better value to the taxpayer," Mr Nicoll said.

He said the military policies of France and the UK "will, above all else, determine Europe's ability to have strong and coherent capabilities in the future". He said the two countries stood out as "strategic powers, capable of significant individual action".

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