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EU’s Mogherini to propose “military Schengen” plan by March

EU High Representative and Vice President Federica Mogherini along with the European Commission will propose a plan on military mobility in Europe by March 2018, a Friday Commission press release said.

The move comes as a broader joint defence pact will reportedly be signed by more than 20 EU members on Monday.

The Action Plan on Military Mobility – dubbed the “military Schengen” – has long been sought by NATO and by some EU member states. It will suggest recommended actions and “timelines on how to address identified barriers hampering military mobility in European territory” for endorsement by member states, the release said.

The Commission published a Joint Communication that outlines steps to address the obstacles to the “movement of military equipment and personnel across the EU with the aim of facilitating and expediting their mobility to react in a fast and effective way to internal and external crises.”

Military mobility within the EU is legally bound by both national decisions and EU rules, but “there is room for a more coordinated and harmonised approach,” the release said, explaining that the Joint Communication sets out how the Commission and Mogherini “will work to facilitate and to help expedite military mobility, ranging from routine needs to strategic pre-deployment of military forces and resources.”

“There is a growing demand for our Member States to coordinate and work together on defence,” Mogherini said. “So while we are moving forward with the Permanent Structured Cooperation to make our defence more effective, we have also decided to further strengthen military mobility among EU Member States and in cooperation with NATO.”

The EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation on defense, or PESCO, aims to strengthen defence cooperation between EU members and improve coordination in the development of new military technology. One such possibility is Airbus’ New Fighter, a potential replacement for Germany’s Eurofighter Typhoon fleet and the Rafale in France.

The Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said that barriers to rapid military movement create spending inefficiencies, disruption and greater vulnerability.

“The swift movement of military personnel and equipment is hindered by physical, legal and regulatory barriers,” Bulc said. “It is high time we maximise civil and military synergies also through our transport network in an efficient and sustainable manner.”

EU states to sign PESCO pact

More than 20 EU members are set to sign the landmark PESCO joint defence pact on Monday, AFP reported on Friday.

The agreement comes from efforts by Germany and France for closer defence ties and follows the announcement in June of a European Defence Fund that will receive €5.5 billion per year.

The notice of intent seen by AFP includes a pledge to “regularly increasing defence budgets in real terms” as well as commitments to devote 20 percent of defence spending on procurement and two percent on research and technology.

PESCO also includes a pledge that countries will provide “substantial support … with personnel, materiel, training, exercise support, infrastructure” for EU military missions.

According to Reuters, who reported the deal on Wednesday, France, Germany, Italy and Spain have pledged to join the pact, while Denmark, Portugal, Malta and Ireland, have not yet to committed to the deal.

The agreement also includes provisions for non-EU members – including the U.K. – to participate in specific projects. The U.K. has long been opposed to any action that could lead to the creation of an EU Army, a stance that contributed to the Brexit debate.

In September, French President Emmanuel Macron laid out plans for what he dubbed a European common defense force that would be operational within the next decade.

The PESCO push has revealed some strains between Paris and Berlin, with France pushing for a smaller group of nations committed to ambitious projects while Germany advocated a more-inclusive deal to include with as many of the EU’s 27 members as possible.

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