After the collapse of Afghanistan, the EU announces a defense summit and more aid.
Following the collapse of the US-backed government in Afghanistan, EU leader Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday that Europe would seek to strengthen its own military capabilities.
“It is time for Europe to take the next step,” von der Leyen said in her annual State of the European Union address to the European Parliament.
She stated that during France’s six-month presidency of the EU, which begins in the new year, President Emmanuel Macron will convene a “conference on European defense.”
Along with the Western alliance, which is usually led by the US, Paris has been pushing for the 27-nation union to acquire more autonomous military capabilities.
Furthermore, the fast collapse of Afghanistan’s government at the end of the US-led mission in Afghanistan, which lasted 20 years, has heightened debate in Brussels about the EU’s role.
However, most EU countries are also members of NATO, and some, notably those in the east that are more vulnerable to Russian threats, do not want to jeopardize US-EU relations.
“For the families and friends of dead servicemen and servicewomen, witnessing events develop in Afghanistan was terribly painful,” von der Leyen added.
“We need to think about how this mission came to an end so quickly. Within NATO, countries will have to confront some extremely problematic issues.
“However, there isn’t a single security or defense issue where less cooperation is the solution.”
Von der Leyen promised to work on a new EU-NATO joint declaration with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg by the end of the year.
The EU’s video feed of von der Leyen’s speech showed Stoltenberg standing next to the NATO head and smiling, but Stoltenberg has expressed reservations about an autonomous EU strategy.
“Any attempt to create parallel institutions, to replicate the command structure, will damage our combined competence to operate together,” Stoltenberg said last week in an interview with the UK newspaper The Telegraph.
In the short term, the EU president committed an additional $100 million in humanitarian help to Afghanistan as the bloc deals with the immediate aftermath of the Taliban’s takeover.
“We must do everything in our power to avert the genuine possibility of a massive famine and humanitarian disaster,” she said, adding that Europe “stands by the Afghan people.”
The latest pledge comes as the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, increased its humanitarian aid to Afghanistan to 200 million euros this year, as the country fights to avoid collapse following the Taliban’s takeover.
Brussels has done so. Brief News from Washington Newsday.