Italian minister calls for EU to have "Schengen for defence"

Italy's foreign minister called Thursday for European countries to set up a common defence zone, as the bloc has begun reassessing some core policies in the wake of Britain's vote to leave the European Union.

Britain was traditionally averse to the idea of greater European military coordination, but the Brexit vote meant that "the debate over the future of European defence has regained momentum," Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said.

Writing for the Politico website one day ahead of the EU's first summit without Britain since the June 23 vote, Gentiloni said "the EU must find effective answers to our citizens' security concerns."

"This will require ... increased cooperation on intelligence, police and justice, preventive diplomacy, crisis management and — crucially — a leap forward in a common European defence strategy."

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker made a similar call on Wednesday, backing a single EU headquarters for civilian and military missions.

Germany and France have also recently come out in favour of more military integration within the EU.

Gentiloni said in his article that the EU should have its own "European Multinational Force" and advocated a policy he called "Schengen for Defence."

"Under this approach, a group of like-minded countries would begin sharing military capabilities and resources on the basis of an ad hoc agreement. The initiative would then be opened to all interested member states, under procedures similar to those adopted in the original Schengen Agreement."

The passport-free Schengen area, in existence since 1985, covers 26 countries across Europe, including four non-EU states.

All EU leaders except for British Prime Minister Theresa May are to meet in Bratislava on Friday to chart the post-Brexit course of their bloc.

Last update: Thu, 15/09/2016 - 15:11

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