From Andrew Rettman, EUobserver: Five leading EU countries, but not the UK, have said the Union needs a new military "structure" to manage overseas operations.
The foreign and defence ministers of France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain issued the call in a joint communique after a meeting in Paris on Thursday (15 November).
The paper says: "We are convinced that the EU must set up, within a framework yet to-be-defined, true civilian-military structures to plan and conduct missions and operations. . . ."
It lists a number of EU military priorities for the coming years: helping Somalia to fight Islamists and pirates; "a possible training mission to support the Malian armed forces" in reconquering north Mali; "assistance to support the new Libyan authorities" against Islamist militias; "normalisation" of the Western Balkans; "conflict resolution" in Georgia; and police training in Afghanistan. . . .
The reference to new "civilian-military structures" comes after the UK last year blocked the creation of a new operational headquarters (OHQ) in Brussels for EU military missions.
Britain’s Telegraph newspaper earlier this week cited a "senior French source" as saying that EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton supports the idea of an OHQ, which will become a "ripe fruit" in the "long-term" as EU military operations multiply.
Ashton officials denied the report. . . .
French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the communique is designed to "create a movement" ahead of an EU summit on defence in 2013.
For his part, Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski said: "If the EU wants to become a superpower, and Poland supports this, then we must have the capability to exert influence in our neighbourhood … Sometimes we must use force to back our diplomacy."