© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The picture shows the room during a meeting of the defense ministers of the European Union in the EU Council in Brussels, Belgium, May 18, 2017. REUTERS / Eric Vidal / File Photo
By Gabriela Baczynska
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union will allow the United States, Norway and Canada to join a project to overcome delays in troop movement across Europe, diplomats said on Wednesday what NATO considers to be in the event of a conflict with Russia considered important.
While NATO has made efforts to reduce conflicting regulations on the transfer of US troops in 27 EU countries, the EU has a budget to help rebuild bridges too weak for tanks and has more Power to change block-wide rules.
The decision, to be officially taken by EU defense ministers on Thursday, means that NATO members Norway, Canada and the United States will also be the first foreign countries to work together in the EU’s PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation) pact aiming to deepen defense relationships.
The pact was agreed by EU leaders in December 2017 following the UK’s decision to leave the Union and Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
The bloc has since earmarked 1.7 billion euros ($ 2 billion) from its joint budget through 2028 to improve so-called military mobility in support of NATO. The project, led by the Netherlands, brings together 25 EU countries – all except Malta and Denmark. The NATO alliance has 30 allies, many of whom are also EU members.
Military mobility aims to improve the exchange of information between EU countries and reduce administrative burdens at borders, including harmonizing customs regulations in order to enable rapid deployment and easier transport of military equipment, diplomats said.
While there had been no concrete talks with Britain, which, along with France, was one of the EU’s largest military powers, more foreign countries could try to join, they added.
“It is also very important for transatlantic cooperation, good cooperation between EU members and NATO allies,” said one of the diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Plans for an EU defense pact took off when former US President Donald Trump accused European NATO allies of not spending enough on their own security. This prompted the bloc to demand “strategic autonomy”.
However, US and NATO security guarantees remain the cornerstone of national security for many EU countries, especially those on the bloc’s eastern flank who are concerned about Russia.
While the EU’s flagship defense pact aims to help the bloc jointly fund, develop and deploy armed forces, it would not constitute joint military force. ($ 1 = 0.8337 euros)
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