EU Urges US to Back Off on Arms Firms Sanctions Threat (excerpt)
(Source: EU Observer; posted May 15, 2019)
By Andrew Rettman
BRUSSELS --- Joint EU military projects will not hurt US arms firms, Europe's top diplomat has said, following yet another American sanctions threat.
"The European Union is and remains open to US companies and equipment," EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini told press in Brussels on Tuesday (14 May) after a meeting of European defence ministers.
"At the moment, the EU is actually much more open than the US procurement market is for the European Union companies and equipment," she said.
"In the EU there is no 'Buy European Act' - and around 81 percent of international contracts go to US firms in Europe today. I do not see real reasons for concern," she added.
Mogherini spoke after two senior US defence officials, Ellen Lord and Andrea Thompson, sent her a letter on 1 May which threatened to impose sanctions on European arms firms if new EU schemes for joint military procurement ended up locking out US ones.
"It is clear that similar reciprocally imposed US restrictions would not be welcomed by our European partners and allies, and we would not relish having to consider them in the future," the letter, leaked to European media in recent days, said. (end of excerpt)
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US Warns EU Over €13-Billion Defense Spending
(Source: Deutsche Welle German Radio; issued May 15, 2019)
The US has warned the European Union that plans to boost defense cooperation within the EU could undo decades of trans-Atlantic cooperation and damage NATO. The EU's foreign policy chief said US concerns were unfounded.
The United States has decried "poison pills" embedded in proposed rules which could shut third country allies such as the United States out of European defense projects.
US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland emphasized the point in a letter and warned of possible US sanctions: "I hope we can avoid contemplating similar courses of action," he said. The EU has been asked to respond to the letter by June 10.
Speaking after EU defense ministers met in Brussels on Tuesday, Mogherini said the US concerns were unfounded.
"The EU is actually at the moment much more open than the US procurement market is for the European Union companies and equipment," Mogherini said in Brussels. "In the EU there is no 'buy European' act and around 81% of international contracts go to the US firms in Europe today."
Self-reliance in the EU
The US concerns are focused on the seven-year, €13-billion ($14.6 billion) European Defense Fund (EDF) approved by the European Parliament in April, and the EU defense pact Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). The plans would see EU states cooperate on projects to develop new military equipment such as fighter planes and drones, and on support systems such as military hospitals and training centers.
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Europeans were doing what the Americans had been demanding for many years: building up their defense capabilities. She said it was necessary to trust that NATO would benefit from their collective efforts.
However, the US had written of its suspicions: "The draft EDF regulation and PESCO general conditions represent a dramatic reversal of the last three decades of increased integration of the trans-Atlantic defense sector," US Undersecretary of Defense Ellen Lord and US arms control negotiator Andrea Thompson, wrote in their May 1 letter to Mogherini.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has publicly backed the pact, as long as it does not lead to duplication.
Mogherini met with EU defense ministers on Tuesday to discuss how to involve non-EU states, including the UK and the US, in the bloc's defense projects.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute think tank, the US is the world's largest arms exporter with a 36% share, followed by Russia, France and Germany. In terms of imports it sits at 16th on the list, with Germany, the Netherlands and France being the three top sources.
France and Germany are planning to develop a European fighter jet as part of a project to achieve improved strategic autonomy and end the historic reliance on the US to guarantee regional security.
In 2011, a Franco-British mission in Libya ran out of munitions and equipment and was obliged to turn to the US. The French response has been guided by that experience.
EU governments claim surveys indicate a majority of citizens want the bloc to provide security.