Originally posted at Express
BRUSSELS looks set to approve a £5BILLION raft of measures which bring a European defence force a step closer.
European Union officials insist the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) proposals fall well short of creating a European army.
But the 15 defence-related projects to be signed off next Monday include proposals for armoured vehicles, amphibious assault vehicles and light tactical vehicles as well as submarine drones.
There are also plans for enhanced joint training programmes, a European medical command and projects relating to logistics such as the streamlining of cross-border military transport procedures.
A cyber security upgrade and introduction of cyber rapid reaction units also stand out on the list of items to be approved.
So far, 23 EU nations have signed up to the PESCO pact, which also includes commitments to integrate armed forces, boost defence spending and establish a new headquarters building.
Key EU member states including France and Germany have long-campaigned for greater defence and security integration.
And plans for an EU army were fleshed out further by EU President Jean-Claude Juncker when he unveiled his grand vision for the future of the bloc earlier this year.
Speaking in September, Mr Juncker said: “In the field of defence more effort is required. The setting up of a European defence fund is on our agenda.”
Officials said the measures are intended to strengthen the capacity of European countries to give a co-ordinated response either within the EU or in co-operation with NATO or other countries.
EU chiefs have earmarked £4.9billion for the projects but some critics warn the new PESCO pact will only complicate the already convoluted links between Brussels and NATO
And it comes as EU foreign ministers meet US officials including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Brussels to examine how European forces can co-operate more closely with NATO.
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said: “In a constantly evolving security landscape, NATO’s partnership with the European Union is more important than ever.
“So we will begin with a meeting on NATO-EU relations and European defence.
“I expect we will agree to take NATO-EU cooperation to a new level.
“Our forces must be able to move more quickly and easily.
“So NATO and the EU will aim to make military mobility a flagship and a priority for our co-operation.”