Tuesday 28 March 2017

'No proposals for a European army' as US threatens to pull out of Nato

Minister for European Affairs, Dara Murphy, said the step-up in European defence co-operation did not amount to creating a EU army. Photo: Tom Burke
Minister for European Affairs, Dara Murphy, said the step-up in European defence co-operation did not amount to creating a EU army. Photo: Tom Burke

Sarah Collins Brussels

EU countries have vowed to step up defence co-operation after coming to blows over Donald Trump's election.

The US president-elect's threat to pull out of Nato has propelled EU countries to an agreement on joint rapid response forces and a central military headquarters.

The Minister for European Affairs, Dara Murphy, said the moves did not amount to creating an EU army.

"There are no proposals for a European army," Mr Murphy said after a meeting of EU foreign and defence ministers in Brussels yesterday.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said in Berlin last week that the US "will not ensure our security in the long term" and called for the creation of a European army.

"This is not the time for that proposal, it's not something that would be supported by Ireland but, indeed, not supported by the majority of member states," Mr Murphy said.

EU ministers also agreed to consider setting up "permanent structured co-operation" in defence matters, a possibility under the Lisbon Treaty.

UK defence secretary Michael Fallon criticised the EU's proposals, saying the bloc should concentrate on increasing defence spending.

"Instead of an expensive new headquarters, which is unnecessary and simply duplicates Nato, instead of dreaming of a European army, the easiest and simplest reaction to a Trump presidency is for other European countries - some of them quite wealthy - to step up their own defence spending," he said.

His comments come after UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson criticised EU countries' reactions to Donald Trump's election.

Mr Murphy said that the comments from London were "unfortunate".

"It's been clear now that since the summer the UK is going in a different direction," said Mr Murphy.

On Mr Trump, he said it was too early to tell what the election would mean for the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate accord, relations with Russia and Nato.

"There is obviously a strong degree of hope that the very strong relationship between Europe and the United States will continue," Mr Murphy said.

"The role of the Unites States with respect to peace and global security is vital, as is the role of the European Union."

Irish Independent

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