Co-operation on armaments issues with the participation of senior procurement officials should be part of the European Union's efforts to meet defence capability shortfalls, EU defence ministers agreed last week.

Javier Solana, the EU high representative for common foreign and security policy, says short-term solutions to fill the capability gaps should be sought "before the longer term procurement of new systems kicks in", adding that national armaments directors (NADs) should also be consulted. The NADs agreed last month that they should offer advice and participate "where appropriate" in the EU's 17 working groups addressing the 24 most critical of the EU's defence capabilities shortfalls.

Federico Trillo-Figueroa, Spanish defence minister and current chair of EU defence minister meetings, says the move towards integrated arms procurement would be taken one step at a time. "For the moment we will limit ourselves to filling the headline goals," he says.

Defence ministers also discussed the relationship between NATO and the EU, but were unable to resolve the stand-off between Greece and Turkey over use of NATO assets. The problem originally concerned Turkey, a member of NATO but not the EU, which wanted a say in how NATO assets are used by the EU. Spanish foreign minister Josep Pique says the difficulty "now lies with NATO and EU member Greece which disagrees with some of the solutions found to resolve the original problem with Turkey".

Trillo-Figueroa says: "If no global agreement with NATO is reached we will have enormous difficulties in putting Amber Fox into operation by September." Amber Fox, the peacekeeping operation in Macedonia, is currently a NATO mandate but is due to become an EU responsibility later this year.

Source: Flight International