EU military helicopter and special forces exercise reflects push for closer cooperation
EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini has said Europe needs to be a "reliable and credible" security provider.
Federica Mogherini | Photo credit: European defence agency
Speaking at the "Black Blade" military helicopter and special forces exercise held last week in Belgium, EU foreign policy chief Frederica Mogherini said when it comes to defence ,"we can and have to do more."
For the Italian official, security and defence "is now an issue that is becoming more important for European citizens."
To achieve closer cooperation, Mogherini believes Europe's armed forces need more "interoperability", by taking part in more joint military training exercises.
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To send a strong signal of her support, she attended the European Defence Agency (EDA) organised training exercise, as hosted by the Belgium Armed Forces, where she and invited press saw various helicopter and special forces displays.
14 helicopters and planes from Belgium, Slovenia, Austria and the UK, along with 400 support personnel were involved over a three week period during November.
Also participating were 70 Belgium special forces soldiers, and helicopter instructors from Sweden and Germany.
Black Blade was part of a series of EDA organised helicopter exercises that had taken place across Europe, including in Spain and Finland.
However, despite the military 'pillar' of the EU being established in 2009 when the Lisbon Treaty was signed, member states have shown little political and military support compared to the backing given to the US-led Nato.
The Italian admitted that, "though the Lisbon Treaty gave us the instruments" to enhance European security "we have not used them all."
When asked if she was now confident member states will take European security cooperation more seriously, Morgherini responded, "I am very confident that they are fully behind what we are doing to strengthen European defence."
She highlighted that in mid-November, the Council backed her proposals for an 'implementation plan on security and defence'.
Mogherini added that she will be presenting a full EU defence package that also includes proposals on strengthening the EU-Nato partnership and supporting military R&D and industry, to a summit meeting on 15 December.
The Italian also dismissed any link between the EU's push for closer military cooperation, and the Brexit result and the Donald Trump victory in the US. Mogherini said, "This work on European defence started before the US elections and Brexit, almost one year ago.
"We recognised the need for Europe to be a reliable and credible security provider not only for Europeans, but also our neighbouring region and across the world. So it's not connected."
Nevertheless, she did admit both political events were a wake up call. "For sure Europeans realise more and more every day that we need to count on European defence and security capacities."
Mogherini was keen to stress that closer defence cooperation was not "in any form of competition or degradation, neither with our American friends, nor in the context of Nato, and with the UK."
In fact, she was confident that, "once the UK has left the EU defence will be one field of continued cooperation."
Despite the political impetus from the EU to build up Europe's military capability, Mogherini stressed this was not the beginning of the "militarisation" of the continent.
She added, "There is always a European way of dealing with defence and security, and we will obviously make sure that all that we do, is at the service of peace and conflict prevention."
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