Ursula von der Leyen.jpg
German Minister of defence Ursula von der Leyen presents the new White Paper of the German armed forces on security politics in Berlin, Germany, 13 July 2016.

Germany plans to take on a more assertive global defence role, with Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen seeing Britain's move to exit the European Union as helping to drive a common EU security stance.

"The role of Germany in the world has changed," von der Leyen said Wednesday in releasing the government's white paper on defence, which laid out the transformation in global security since the last paper 10 years ago.

Von der Leyen believes that a British exit from the EU, or Brexit, following last month's referendum, has given new momentum to a more integrated defence and security policy for the bloc, saying that Britain "consistently blocked everything when it came to Europe."

The new German defence plans set out in the white paper, and which include taking on more responsibility in NATO and increasing military missions in the fight against terrorism, were agreed to on Wednesday by Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet.

"We are not making ourselves bigger than we are, but we are not making ourselves smaller either," von der Leyen said at a press conference marking the release of the white paper, which sets out Germany's aim "to actively help shape the world order."

The strategy included in the 83-page document marks a further shift away from Germany's post-World War II reluctance to pursue a high profile on the global defence stage.

Germany had announced plans to expand its army for the first time in 25 years - even before a majority of British voters decided to leave the EU.

Berlin also quietly expanded its role in internationally backed military missions.

These included joining efforts to contain a more aggressive Russia and to stem the international expansion of extremist militia Islamic State by delivering weapons to Kurds in north Iraq.

"Germany's security policy needs to have a global horizon," said the paper.

Berlin has also been under pressure from the United States to carve out more of a leadership role in NATO.

The white paper says Germany is ready to "assume responsibility" and help meet current and future security as well as humanitarian challenges along with promoting a common European security and defence union.

Germany is to head one of the about 1,000-strong NATO battalions that are to be deployed in Poland and in each of the three Baltic states, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.

This comes in the wake of concerns about Russian aggression in the region following Moscow's backing of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Berlin is also planning to allow anyone from an EU member state to apply to join its defence forces, which have traditionally only been open to German citizens.

The German Armed Forces Association, the largest group representing the interests of soldiers, says it opposes that move.

But von der Leyen said the German armed forces needed to reflect the diversity of the country's population by increasing the numbers of soldiers with migrant backgrounds, physical disabilities as well as with differing sexual orientations.

Latest news

Messi's last minute penalty saves Barcelona from shock draw

Barcelona beat Leganes 2-1 with a last minute penalty from Lionel Messi in the Spanish first division on Sunday.

At least 30 injured after explosion in Bogota

A explosion in the Macarena area of Bogota injured at least 30 people on Sunday, many of them police officers who were guarding a bull running through the streets of the Colombian capital.

Vojvodina institutions hold conference on Bunjevci's non-Croat ethnic background

There are around 16,000 members of the Bunjevci community in Vojvodina who deny their Croat ethnic background. They are represented by the Bunjevci National Council which enjoys the support of state authorities, and, since the change of government in Vojvodina, of the provincial authorities as well.

SpaceX rocket blasts off from historic launch pad en route to ISS

A commercial rocket built by SpaceX is on its way to the International Space Station (ISS) with a load of research equipment, cargo and supplies, NASA said Sunday.

Defence deals worth 1.2 billion dollars announced at key UAE show

Deals worth nearly 4.4 billion dirhams (1.2 billion dollars) were reached at a major defence show that opened Sunday in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), an official said.

Thousands protest in Malta against controversial press law reforms

Thousands of people attended a demonstration in Malta on Sunday, answering a call by the main opposition party to protest against what it described as a threat to democracy and freedom of expression.

London's mayor calls for Trump's state visit to be cancelled

US President Donald Trump should be denied a state visit to Britain due to his "cruel and shameful" immigration policies, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said Sunday.

'Now more than ever': US scientists gird for confrontation with Trump

Normally any annual gathering of American scientists is relatively non-political. But, with Donald Trump in the White House, things are different at this year's meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Many researchers are worried about their future and are urging colleagues to protest - and remain vigilant.

Int'l conference on post-war monuments in post-communist Europe held in Zagreb

The event was organised by the Zagreb-based association SF:ius in cooperation with the Croatian chapter of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS).

Serbians wouldn't go to war for Kosovo - poll

A majority of citizens in Serbia wouldn't go to war to claim back Kosovo, shows a survey conducted by the Serbian nongovernmental organisation "Belgrade Centre for Security Policy".

Grabar-Kitarovic, Lavrov find solution to air pollution caused by Bosanski Brod oil refinery

Croatia and Russia have found a solution for the problem of air pollution caused by a Russian-owned oil refinery in Bosanski Brod, northern Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has been poisoning residents of Slavonski Brod, a town across the Sava River in Croatia, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said in Munich on Sunday.

Istria border police discover 20 migrants in van

During routine border control, police in the northern Croatian Adriatic region of Istria on Saturday discovered 20 migrants in a van driven by a Croatian national, the Ministry of the Interior said.