EU announces defense summit, more aid after collapse of Afghanistan – Channels Television


File photo: Olivier HOSLET / PISCINE / AFP

Europe will seek to strengthen its own military capacity after the collapse of the US-backed government in Afghanistan, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday, announcing a defense summit.

“It is time for Europe to take it to the next level,” von der Leyen told the European Parliament in his annual State of the European Union address.

French President Emmanuel Macron will convene the “European defense summit” during the bloc’s six-month French presidency, starting on the New Year, she said.

Paris has led the campaign for the Union of 27 countries to develop more autonomous military capabilities alongside the Western Alliance, which is traditionally led by the United States.

And the rapid collapse of the Afghan government at the end of the US-led mission in Afghanistan 20 years ago has intensified the debate in Brussels about the role of the EU.

But most of the EU countries are also members of the NATO alliance and some, especially the eastern states more exposed to threats from Russia, do not want to undermine ties with the United States. .

“Witnessing the events unfolding in Afghanistan has been deeply painful for the families and friends of fallen servicemen and women servicemen,” said von der Leyen.

“We need to think about how this mission could end so abruptly. There are deeply troubling issues that allies will need to grapple with within NATO.

“But there is simply no security and defense problem for which less cooperation is the answer.”

Aid to Afghanistan

Von der Leyen has pledged to work with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on a new EU-NATO joint statement to be presented before the end of the year.

The EU video stream of von der Leyen’s address showed an image of standing side-by-side and smiling with the NATO chief, but Stoltenberg expressed skepticism about an autonomous EU strategy .

“Any attempt to establish parallel structures, to duplicate the command structure, will weaken our common ability to work together,” Stoltenberg told British daily The Telegraph last week.

In the short term, the EU chief has pledged an additional € 100m ($ 118m) in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan as the bloc grapples with the immediate fallout from the Taliban takeover .

“We must do everything to avoid the real risk of a major famine and a humanitarian catastrophe”, she declared, insisting that Europe “stands by the side of the Afghan people”.

The new pledge comes after the European Commission – the EU executive – has already quadrupled its humanitarian aid to Afghanistan for this year to € 200m as the country struggles to avoid post-take collapse Taliban control.

Brussels said no aid will go to the new Afghan leadership and called on the Taliban to ensure access for aid workers to the country.

Von der Leyen said the EU would present its “new, broader Afghan support package” in its entirety in the coming weeks.

Covid recovery

In a high-profile speech, von der Leyen focused on restoring the bloc from the coronavirus pandemic and on efforts to boost vaccinations around the world.

She said the EU would donate an additional 200 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to low-income countries, more than doubling its current commitment.

“With less than one percent of global doses administered in low-income countries, the extent of the injustice and the level of urgency are evident,” she said.

On the economic front, von der Leyen insisted that the bloc would not repeat the mistake of the 2007-2008 financial crisis by imposing sudden budgetary austerity upon exiting the Covid-19 pandemic.

Noting that the last time it took eight years for the EU to return to pre-crisis levels, Ursula von der Leyen told the European Parliament in her annual State of the European Union address: “ We will not repeat this mistake.

She called the financial crisis a “uplifting story” in which “Europe declared victory too soon and we paid the price”.

AFP


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