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STAFF REPORTER

THE European Union and NATO have agreed to set up a stable cooperation framework for joint and coordinated action, optimisation of resources and increasing operational safety and efficiency when they coincide in the same operational theatre.

EU-NATO cooperation will initially be centred on the joint use of transport helicopters and coordination of programmes to counter improvised explosives of the type that are found along roads in conflict zones.

This was one of the main decisions reached at the Informal Meeting of Defence Ministers, which concluded here in Majorca yesterday.
The EU-27 have decided to formally propose this initiative at the Council of Defence Ministers in Luxembourg at the end of April as part of the process of reinforcing its role under the terms of the Treaty of Lisbon.

In the press conference held following the meeting, the Spanish Defence Minister, Carme Chacón, explained that everyone had “the feeling that we are on the right path towards a better combination of our capabilities” which would enable enhanced and more efficient use of resources.

Rasmussen said he considers that “it is a little absurd to work in the same operational theatres, such as Afghanistan and Kosovo, without setting up some kind of coordination.” The institutional reinforcement of the Defence ministers and the possibility of having greater decision making powers is another of the objectives that Ms Chacón will propose to the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, as a means “of being more efficient and streamlined as well as achieving a better and stronger Common Security Policy.” During the meeting, the heads of Defence also decided to present a formal proposal to “improve the use” of the Tactical Battle Groups so that they can be rapidly deployed in emergency or natural disaster situations such as that of Haiti.

Another proposal agreed by the EU-27 was to strengthen the role of the European Defence Agency for it to carry out the necessary programmes, such as the heavy transport helicopters programme, the information and communication programmes and the use of new technologies in the detection of improvised explosives.

As regards the expansion of the Atalanta operation against piracy in the Indian Ocean and along the Somali coastline, Minister Chacón explained that ministers will be attending a conference on the generation of forces today “ready to provide more resources that are better adapted to the new needs,“ once an agreement has been reached to expand the operation to include ports control and the possibility of “neutralising” mother ships.