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Nine countries meet to kickstart European force

AFP  |  Paris 

Defence ministers from nine European countries will meet in on Wednesday to set out plans for a joint force that could rapidly be deployed in response to a conflict or natural disaster.

Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, and have joined the French-led project -- along with Britain, just as Brexit looms.

A source close to the talks said is also set to join the European Intervention Initiative, known as EI2, which would be independent of both the and NATO.

The meeting comes a day after French Emmanuel Macron, who has pushed for a more muscular European defence policy since his arrival in power last year, called for a "real European army".

can ensure its own protection against and even, under an unpredictable Donald Trump, the United States, only through united defence, he said.

"We need a which defends itself better alone, without just depending on the United States," he said.

But the idea of an "EU army" is highly sensitive in member states that jealously defence as a matter of national sovereignty.

A source later played down Macron's comments, saying that he was not talking about a truly supranational spanning the continent.

The idea behind EI2 is to be able to rapidly mount a joint operation, evacuate civilians, or provide aid after a disaster.

Wednesday's meeting is intended to lay out a "roadmap" identifying the nine countries' priorities -- including geographical zones of particular interest -- which senior officials will develop from Thursday.

"It's about reinforcing Europeans' capacity to act independently to guarantee their security whenever that's necessary," said an to French

Plans for EI2 come as Trump has repeatedly distanced himself from the NATO military alliance, which has underpinned European security since World War II.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, November 07 2018. 16:40 IST