MOVES were made in Brussels today to form an EU-controlled military powerbase that would act as a rival to Nato on strategic defence issues.
The European Parliament’s majority group of MEPs called for a new headquarters that would direct major civilian and military crisis operations.
The European People’s Party said governments “have to start building stand-by forces under Union command”, a move branded as the latest drift to federalism by the UK Independence Party.
The proposal came in a new report from the EPP which wants Europe to redefine its security interests and to begin achieving these by actual operational deployments.
A new command centre would allow Europe to act more quickly in response to international crises such as in Syria or Libya.
It would also help reduce defence spending by centralising the procurment of defence equipment and weapons.
The MEPs tabled their proposal as a first shot in the run-up to a major EU summit in December when the question of military co-operation will be discussed by the leaders of national governments.
France and many of the newer member states, such as the eastern European countries, are understood to be in favour of the move.
However, Britain, a leading light in Nato and of transatlantic co-operation, is unlikely to sign up to any EU military integration.
And Ukip today warned against any such drift.
The party’s defence spokesman Godfrey Bloom said: “Members of the UK Armed Forces take an oath to The Queen and this country.
“Under no circumstances must we be tied into an EU defence force or security strategy which places conditions on our troops and our military obligations.”
He added: “We can see with the Syrian situation that just because countries are geographically close does not mean they have the same foreign policy aims.
“Our Parliament ruled out military intervention in Syria whilst the French – who were not involved in Nato for four decades – are all for attack.”
The EPP paper was launched by Michael Gahler of Germany, Arnaud Danjean of France and Poland’s Krzysztof Lisek – all members of the Brussels parliament’s security and defence sub-committee.
They argued “deepening the EU’s security and defence co-operation will help slash procurement costs and allow the EU to react faster to international crises”.
They said it was illogical to have so many different types of military machinery among member states.
“[It is an] unacceptable situation to have 10 different versions of one European attack helicopter or to have six different versions of one European military transport aircraft,” they said.
The EPP is a centre-right grouping in the European Parliament, but it does not include the Conservative party.
Its leaders believe that in the absence of full agreement at the December summit, EU should press on with a two-tier defence policy in which those countries in favour of integration could press ahead at a faster pace.