EU to convene defence summit in 2022

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers a press statement after a phone call with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in Brussels, Belgium, Dec. 5, 2020. (European Union/Handout via Xinhua)

Strasbourg, Sep 16 (IANS) The European Union (EU) will convene a defence summit next year during the French presidency of the Council of the EU, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced.

The situation in Afghanistan and the rapid collapse of the government there necessitates that the EU step up its defence, von der Leyen said on Wednesday during her second State of the Union speech before members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

“It is time for Europe to step up to the next level,” von der Leyen said.

“(French) President (Emmanuel) Macron and I will convene a summit on European defence,” she added.

Macron has been insisting on the 27-nation EU developing more autonomous military capacities.

“Witnessing events unfold in Afghanistan was profoundly painful for the families and friends of fallen servicemen and servicewomen… We have to reflect on how this (US-led) mission could end so abruptly,” she said.

“There are deeply troubling questions that allies will have to tackle within NATO… But there’s simply no security and defence issue where less cooperation is the answer. We need to invest in our joint partnership and to draw on each side’s unique strength,” von der Leyen said.

She said the EU was working with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on a new EU-NATO Joint Declaration to be presented before the end of the year.

However, this was “only one part of the equation,” she said.

“Europe can, and clearly should, be able and willing to do more on its own.”

The rapid collapse of Afghanistan’s US-backed government and the victory of the Taliban have prompted many European politicians to reflect on the EU’s role in international affairs and on its over-dependence on American military forces, and to call for strategic autonomy of the bloc in defence and security matters.

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