Boris Johnson plays down spat over EU military unit | politico.eu

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Monday May 15, 2017 - 16:39:54 in News In English
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    Boris Johnson plays down spat over EU military unit | politico.eu

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Lithuanian Foreign minister Linas Linkevicius and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson | John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

The UK foreign minister says Britain understands the ‘vital importance’ of EU countries working together on defense.

The U.K. will not block anEU plan to create a joint military unit responsible for training missions in Somalia, Mali and Central African Republic, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Monday.

Britain has been holding up work on creating the unit, to the frustration of other EU member countries, but Johnson played down the delay.

"We’re just working on some of the language to make sure we get it totally right,” he told journalists ahead of a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels.

"We understand the vital importance of … European countries working to strengthen our defences,” he said."If they want to come together…. with other arrangements, then we are not going to stand in their way.”

A political agreement to set up the new Military Planning and Conduct Capabilities (MPCC) unit was reached in March and officials are now drafting legal documents ahead of its creation.

The MPCC would plan and conduct EU security missions — but not all of them. Instead, it wouldtake charge of what are known in EU jargon as "non executive” missions, which means theyhave only an advisory role and notamandate to conduct actions instead of the host nation.

For some countries, including Germany, France and Italy, the MPCC is a small step toward the creation of an EU military HQ. The U.K. and Poland have made it clear that they do not want an EU operational headquarters (although Poland is not publicly backing the U.K. over the current disagreement).

According to EU diplomats involved in the discussions over the drafting, London originally objected to the phrase "operational HQ”in the text.

On Friday the text was revised, the line on the"operationalHQ” wasdroppedin order to accommodate the British request, two diplomats say. ButLondon rejected the new wording, meaning thatthe legal decision to set up the MPCC, that was meant to be ready in time for the meeting of ministers, had to be postponed — to the frustration of other member countries, says one of the diplomats.

Overthe weekend Johnson gave an interview to the Telegraph in whichhe said that Brussels could end up having to pay Britain a Brexit divorce bill because the U.K. has contributed to many EU assets.

Asked about this on Monday he said:"There is a kind of unity in these negotiations, you would expect all of this to be done… as a package,” and so"you’re going to look at the money, the whole thing, the free trade arrangements, you are going to look at that as a package.”





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