The really important item below is the final piece from the Telegraph which explains why Sarkozy is desperate to pull back troop numbers in order to get at least some of his equipment working. He wants to get control of British forces too, who are now by far the most operationally experienced troops in Europe.
Britain has about 100,000 operational troops and is desperate to build their numbers for the tasks they have to do. France has 70,000 and wants to cut them to 30,000.
Do they take us for idiots? [Don’t answer that please!]
OPEN EUROPE PRESS BULLETIN 5/6/08
MEPs to vote on bigger EU role in defence
The Express reports that MEPs are today due to vote on EU defence proposals including setting up European forces under EU command. The policy also calls for "gender mainstreaming" of key operational appointments which could mean requiring more women in senior posts, [Politically correct appointments to lead the troops -eh? Women do not have the same physical abilities or temperament to be shoe-horned into unsuitable posts -cs] and proposes the European Commission play an increasing role in procuring defence equipment.
Geoffrey van Orden, Conservative Spokesman on Defence in the European Parliament, said his colleagues would vote against the report, saying "This report is a manifesto for an EU takeover of our Armed Forces." Shadow Defence Secretary Liam Fox is quoted saying "This is another example of the EU getting involved in an area in which it has no business. Nato must maintain its primacy in European defence. Anything less, including a Euro Army, is simply unacceptable." Derek Marshall from the Society of British Aerospace Companies said giving the Commission a greater role in defence procurement could help open up markets currently more or less closed to Britain, but warned, "The problem with these developments in Europe is that the outcome is a bit of a lottery."
EP press briefing
DAILY MAIL 7.6.08
France is plotting to create a Euro Army
By Matthew Hickley
Moves to create a European Army controlled from Brussels have been revealed.
France is pushing for a new dedicated military headquarters and more fighting formations.
The French take over the EU presidency next month and will use their six-month term to drive forward ambitious plans to develop Europe's own military structures - a move which critics claim will undermine Nato by excluding the U.S.
Gordon Brown was forced to make a hurried denial, playing down the prospects of a Euro Army, as the fiercely divisive issue returned to the political agenda.
Critics in the UK are deeply suspicious of strengthening the EU's military identity - fearing that the French see it as a way to challenge Washington's world dominance. [WRONG! they see it as a way of France toseparate the US and Europe and since the only power with any muscle IS the US that would leave us defenceless. See the utter uselessness of France and Germany and Italy in Afghanistan -cs]
Federalists, however, see a Euro Army as a key building-block of a future super-state.
As MEPs debated EU military policy yesterday, the chairman of the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee called for the Union to develop more 'hard power' military capability and spend more money on a European Army.
Jacek Saryusz-Wolski called for 'a common foreign and security policy, including a European army'.
He said MEPs should in future have the final say on military missions under the EU flag - a move which would strip member states of a fundamental responsibility.
France, which along with Germany and Poland has spearheaded support for greater EU defence capability, has already indicated that the issue will feature heavily in its presidency, starting next month.
The Eurocorps badge
The French are expected to call on member countries to boost defence spending and commit more helicopters and aircraft.
The proposals, to be unveiled by President Nicolas Sarkozy, will urge the creation of more of the rapid reaction formations - each consisting of 1,500 troops from member countries - which take turns to be on stand-by for EU peacekeeping or humanitarian missions abroad, wearing the Eurocorps badge.
Enthusiasts for these 'EU Battle Groups' see them as the most likely basis for a future European Army. There are currently 15, including one all-British formation, but the French are expected to push for a dramatic increase.
Opponents in Brussels responded by attacking current joint EU military efforts as 'impoverished and amateurish'.
Andrew Duff, a Liberal Democrat MEP and member of the European Council on Foreign relations, said many member states' armies were archaic and hamstrung by 'miserly' military budgets, so talk of ' burden-sharing' was often meaningless. He said recent research showed only a fifth of the two million troops across EU countries were in a fit state to be deployed abroad.
Critics believe an EU Army would be crippled by deep divisions among allies and the failure of member states to match U.S. levels of defence spending.
The U.S. spends around 4 per cent of its GDP on defence, compared with under 3 per cent in Britain and France and even less in some EU states. There are also fears that moves towards an EU army would undermine Nato and weaken Washington's links with Europe on defence and security.
Tory defence spokesman Liam Fox said: 'The idea of a standing European military force under EU command or the creation of an EU defence budget is wishful but dangerous thinking.'
He added: 'This is another example of the EU getting involved in an area in which it has no business'.
Downing Street sought to defuse the row. Mr Brown's spokesman said: 'The Prime Minister's view is that there will not be a European Army. It is important to remember that the European Parliament has no role in policy in this area.'
French army falling apart, documents show
By Henry Samuel in Paris
Most of France's tanks, helicopters and jet fighters are unusable and its defence apparatus is on the verge of "falling apart", it has emerged.
France's military has been given a bleak prognosis
[The above was the caption to a photograph of some French tanks coming down the Champs d’Elysée. To anyone who has ever had anything to do with tanks these were both prehistoric and death traps too, having an enormous profile and no opportunity easily to get “hull down - cs]
According to confidential defence documents leaked to the French press, less than half of France's Leclerc tanks – 142 out of 346 – are operational and even these regularly break down.
Less than half of its Puma helicopters, 37 per cent of its Lynx choppers and 33 per cent of its Super Frelon models – built 40 years ago – are in a fit state to fly, according to documents seen by Le Parisien newspaper.
Two thirds of France's Mirage F1 reconnaissance jets are unusable at present.
According to army officials, the precarious state of France's defence equipment almost led to catastrophe in April, when French special forces rescued the passengers and crew of a luxury yacht held by pirates off the Somali coast.
Although ultimately a success, the rescue operation nearly foundered at an early stage, when two of the frigates carrying troops suffered engine failure, and a launch laden with special forces' equipment sunk under its weight.
Later, an Atlantic 2 jet tracking the pirates above Somali territory suffered engine failure and had to make an emergency landing in Yemen.
"External operations, in the Ivory Coast and Lebanon are a fig leaf: we are able to keep up the pretence but in ten years our defence apparatus will fall apart," one high-ranking official said.
The disclosure comes just ten days before President Nicolas Sarkozy announces a major reform of the armed forces, with a defence white paper outlining France's military priorities for the next 15 years.
He is expected to argue that the situation can only improve by reducing the number of France's operational troops from 50,000 to 30,000, and its fighter aircraft, as well as closing military bases.
He will also use the occasion to push for greater military integration in Europe, an issue that France will highlight when it takes over the EU's six-month rotating presidency in July.
French proposals circulating in Brussels show that France wants a new EU military headquarters based in the Belgian capital and run by Europe's new foreign policy chief. It is also calling for a bigger rapid reaction force and for countries to spend more on defence.
France has played down its European defence ambitions for fear of boosting the No vote in Ireland's referendum on the Lisbon treaty on June 12.
In parallel to beefing up the EU's defence capability, Mr Sarkozy is keen on France becoming a full member of Nato's integrated military command structure, which Charles de Gaulle left in 1966. But he is unlikely to make a decision on this until next year