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Afghanistan crisis 'eye-opener' for EU defense policy

European Council president advocates for stronger cooperation on defense to strengthen EU’s geopolitical capacity

Agnes Szucs   | 16.09.2021
Afghanistan crisis 'eye-opener' for EU defense policy

BRUSSELS

The crisis in Afghanistan should lead EU states towards closer cooperation on defense, the president of the European Council said on Thursday.

“What happened in Afghanistan must be an eye-opener. It should lead us to strengthen our geopolitical capacity, our geostrategic capacity and to cooperate closer in the field of defense,” Charles Michel told reporters following his talks with Prime Minister of Luxembourg Xavier Bettel.

Michel, who presides over the meeting of EU heads of states and governments, also explained that he had decided to propose EU leaders to hold a summit devoted to defense and security next March.

Discussions about strengthening the bloc’s military capacity started in August when EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell suggested setting up a rapidly deployable 5,000-strong EU army as one of the main lessons learned from the crisis in Afghanistan.

EU ministers will discuss in the detail the plans on the EU rapid reaction force during their next meeting in November.

In her yearly State of the Union speech on Wednesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also expressed support for a European Defense Union and made some policy recommendations, such as setting up a Joint Situation Awareness Centre or waiving VAT (value-added tax) for EU-produced military equipment.

She also promised that the European Commission would propose soon its policy recommendations on cyber defense, including a new European Cyber Resilience Act.

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