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BARONESS Ann Taylor, British Minister for International Defence & Security attended the summit European Defence Ministers in Palma this month. Here she answers the Bulletin´s questions on the outcome of the summit.

1. How important is the Palma conference for Britain and do you feel that there is a possibility of useful accords? “The conference in Palma is one of the key opportunities for countries to get together, receive updates, discuss and make decisions on a range of defence-related issues affecting us all. These meetings rotate every six months with the EU Presidency and it was useful and informative to attend the meeting, and a bonus that it was held in the beautiful city of Palma.” 2. Is a joint European Defence strategy now a real possibility, especially as Britain has signalled that it would like to see greater co-operation between European states on defence issues. “The UK Ministry of Defence recently published a consultative document entitled ‘Adaptability and Partnership: Issues for the Strategic Defence Review'. This asks a number of important and difficult questions that will need to be answered as part of the Strategic Defence Review, which all political parties have agreed to undertake after the General Election. It sets out our perspective on a changing world and a range of threats that we and others face.. As the paper points out, we are unlikely to undertake future operations, other than small scale evacuations or defence of our overseas territories, without Allies and Partners. Through working with other European nations we can ensure the security on our own continent and build a Europe capable of helping deliver security world wide.” 3. The British government is under pressure to make major defence cuts. Are European projects such as the Eurofighter or the Joint Transport Aircraft under threat? Do you accept that some major British military projects need to be curtailed in the light of the present financial situation? “I disagree that we are required to make major defence cuts – the details of the Comprehensive Spending Review will not be known for some time. I do accept that we have financial difficulties brought about by a combination of the global financial crisis, operational commitments, rising complexity of defence equipment and costs incurred by ‘running-on' legacy equipment when procurement programmes are delayed. These factors are all recognised and there is significant and important ongoing work to align our capability requirements with a clearer understanding of what is affordable and what is consistent with future challenges and threats.” 4. Do you think that other European nations should commit more troops to Afghanistan? “It is not for the UK to tell other nations how many troops they should commit to any conflict. Burden sharing is an important part of the mission in Afghanistan and there are 44 nations contributing to the effort under a UN Resolution. We are pleased that many European partners are making a significant contribution. 25 nations of the EU are contributing to the NATO led mission in Afghanistan and we are working with our European partners in other conflicts and operations around the world. We continue to work with our partners to ensure that the international community can meet the challenges it faces. It is also important to recognise the contribution made by non-combat troops in Afghanistan, who perform a vital role providing governance and development, building on the security space cleared by combat troops, to help enable Afghanistan to become a sustainable and safe nation.”