European Union Strengthens Defense, Plans 5 Billion Euro Fund

By Reina Ilagan

Dec 02, 2016 10:19 AM EST

With the aim of strengthening the joint defense capabilities of its member states, the European Union Commission proposed for a EUR 5 billion defense fund.

The proposed fund, which is the biggest funding in more than a decade, would let the governments develop assets together, letting governments buy new helicopters and planes to lower costs. The commission also revealed its plan to invest in military research.

"If Europe does not take care of its own security, nobody else will do it for us. A strong, competitive and innovative defense industrial base is what will give us strategic autonomy," said the Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen said that the proposal was not about spending on the military rather than on social security. "We face multiplying threats and we must act," the former Finnish premier said.

Countries that traditionally opposed to the plan were also expressing interest to cooperate.

"Some member states that have been traditionally quite critical to defense cooperation have to some extent changed their mind because they have seen that we are not changing treaties," Juncker said in a press conference.

Europe is just behind the United States as the world's largest military spending. However, defense budgets in Europe have been shrinking in recent years.

According to the commission's data, the U.S: spent more than twice as much as the total defense spending of the EU member states in 2015.

Katainen said that they had been working on the plan to enhance military cooperation for at least two years, and that this effort for security is not because of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's threat to withdraw support for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

According to Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, it will not undermine NATO if Europeans invest better on defense.

"There is no competition, no duplication. On the contrary, this is joint work we are doing. That's why we have 3 pillars of our package. One of these three pillars is strengthening our cooperation with NATO," she said.

She added that all member states unanimously support the plan. 

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