EU mulls defense in age of austerity

July 24, 2013 at 12:56 PM

BRUSSELS, July 24 (UPI) -- The more influential the European Union becomes, the stronger its defense capabilities need to be, the president of the European Commission said Wednesday.

European leaders debated their defense options in Brussels. The European Union said it needs a robust and efficient defense sector to protect its strategic interests across the globe.

"We will not have the weight we need in the world without a common defense policy," President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso said in a statement Wednesday. "To support it, we need to strengthen our defense and security sector."

Economic setbacks in the eurozone are spilling over into the defense sector. The EU said a series of cuts in national defense spending is jeopardizing Europe's ability to address emerging security challenges.

The commission presented a proposal Wednesday calling for a stronger defense industry that puts cooperation at the center of security agendas. The EU said cooperation is key in the era of scarce financial resources.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Europe needs a sound industrial military foundation to succeed.

"The EU has the ambition to act as a security provider, in its neighborhood and globally, both to protect its own interests and contribute to international peace and security," she said. "To be able to do so, we need capabilities."

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