WARSAW (Reuters) - Germany, France and Poland have called for closer military cooperation within the European Union and stronger security ties between the 27-nation bloc and NATO, according to a letter obtained by Reuters Monday.
The foreign and defence ministers of France and Germany — major net contributors to the EU budget — and of Poland made their appeal in a letter to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is responsible for the European Defence Agency.
“We see a specific need to improve our capacities to plan and to conduct operations and missions, to strengthen cooperation among our militaries and to create synergies in times of scarce resources, taking due care for complementarily with national and NATO planning capacities,” the letter said.
The initiative coincides with difficult negotiations on the EU’s 2011 budget in which Britain is leading efforts to curb the bloc’s spending plans.
EU states agreed earlier in December on the need to increase defence collaboration to lessen the impact of the financial crisis, but Britain blocked a proposed budget increase for the EU agency designated to coordinate the move.
In their letter, Berlin, Paris and Warsaw — members of a grouping called the ‘Weimar Triangle’ — go further, calling for further development of trans-national battlegroups and the setting up of permanent civil and military structures.
“Germany, Poland and France will enhance their cooperation within the Battlegroup which they are to provide in the first half of 2013,” the letter read.
In November, Britain and France — Europe’s biggest defence spenders — agreed a landmark deal to set up a joint military force and share equipment and nuclear missile research centres in a drive to save money, but outside EU structures.
Analysts say the Anglo-French deal could lead to a new axis of collaboration that would deal a blow to those wanting more defence issues handled on a pan-EU basis from Brussels.
Poland, the EU’s largest eastern member, has said it is supportive of the bilateral agreement between Paris and London but says it should not exclude other potential participants.
Located on the eastern border of the 27-nation bloc and with a long history of conflicts with its powerful neighbour Russia, Poland wants to make European security a priority when it takes over the EU’s rotating presidency in the second half of 2011.
Poland is seeking to use the Weimar Triangle forum to increase its influence within the EU.
Editing by Mark Trevelyan