From Sebastian Moffett and David Brunnstrom. Reuters:  EU defence ministers agreed on Wednesday to pool resources in 11 defence fields ranging from mid-air refuelling to field hospitals, hoping to shore up European capabilities despite severe budget pressure.

The projects are designed to make EU nations – which traditionally have nurtured separate military forces and industries – more efficient in defence spending, though Wednesday’s talks did not include any possible joint procurement of military equipment. . . .

"The question is no longer whether we should cooperate or not," said Claude-France Arnould, chief executive of the European Defence Agency, a unit of the EU that promotes cooperation in defence. "It’s whether we want certain capabilities or not," she told a news conference.

The projects endorsed by EU defence ministers meeting in Brussels cover pooling of the purchase of bandwidth in civilian satellites, joint development of smart munitions, joint naval logistics and training and common programmes to train pilots.

One area targeted was smart munitions, where Europe had insufficient capabilities during the Libya operation and had to buy from the United States. Arnould said it might be impossible for legal reasons to use non-guided munitions in future. . . .

The EU’s thinking is similar to that of a NATO project, which calls for "smart defence" – more efficient use of military budgets and a more open market for defence equipment. The theme will be the focus of NATO’s next summit, in Chicago in May 2012.

Arnould said that the EU and NATO initiatives would not overlap, but would be mutually reinforcing. "We cannot afford having duplication between NATO and the EU," she said.  (graphic: European Union)