EU Ministers Sign Landmark Defense Agreement

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Defense ministers of 23 European Union member states Monday signed a pact to on joint defense cooperation and handed it over to European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said it was important for Europe to stand on its own feet when it comes to security and defense - "especially after the election of the US President", referring to President Donald Trump's dismissive attitude towards North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

She added: "It is essential to avoid importing into Lebanon regional conflicts, regional dynamics, regional tensions, that have to stay out of the country".

Mrs Mogherini said the move would not only complement Nato's security aims but fill in gaps in the Atlantic alliance.

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The news comes as Veterans for Britain spokesman David Banks warns that Britain is not only on the hook for European Union spending on defence integration, but actually being entangled in various plans for ad hoc joint headquarters, procurement, research schemes itself.

All EU countries except Britain, Ireland, Denmark, Malta and Portugal said Monday they would sign up to the pact, which will be officially launched at a summit next month. "The real problem is not how much we spend, it is the fact that we spend in a fragmented manner". Member states who choose to sit out now can join later - subject to approval by the early adopters.

Paris and Berlin offered competing visions for the pact, with France pushing for a smaller group of nations to commit to ambitious projects including possible foreign interventions such as in Libya or Mali.

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First proposed in the 1950s and long resisted by Britain, European defense planning, operations and weapons development now stands its best chance in years as London steps aside and the United States pushes Europe to pay more for its security.

"The Germans say respect unity and proceed modestly at the start with all these little projects - they won't help the EU's independent capacity", Mr Mauro said.

Participants have signed up to a list of commitments which "include increasing the share of expenditure allocated to defense research and technology with a view to nearing the 2 percent of total defense spending" and to "regularly increasing defense budgets in real terms". At launch the focus will be project-driven such as the development new military equipment such as tanks or drones.

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