Tallinn – Defence ministers from European Union member states expressed confidence on Thursday that a permanent European cooperation in defence can be launched by the end of this year.
A quantum leap
“The spirit around the table was very positive and inclusive,” Estonian Defence Minister Jueri Luik said, following a meeting with his counterparts.
Estonia currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU.
Under the ambitious defence plan, EU countries are expected to launch a multi-billion-euro defence fund and share financing for battlegroups.
German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen described the progress made since the initiative was launched one year ago as “a quantum leap.”
Earlier the ministers participated in an exercise simulating “a situation in which a cyber-attack was underway against the European Union’s military structures,” according to a statement.
Increasing the bloc’s presence in the Sahel and in the Horn of Africa
During the two-hour exercise, defence ministers were sent information about various attacks that shut down part of the EU’s military structure, and were given a limited amount of time to make decisions on how to react.
According to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, the ministers also agreed to increase the bloc’s presence in the Sahel and in the Horn of Africa to counter terrorist networks and trafficking groups there.
An end to accession talks with Turkey?
While defence ministers concluded their meeting, EU foreign ministers were gathered for two days of discussions set to end Friday.
One of the topics on the agenda is whether the bloc should toughen its sanctions against North Korea in response to developments in the rogue state’s nuclear programme.
Meanwhile, German calls for an end to accession talks with Turkey drew a muted response. Tensions have risen dramatically between Germany and the prospective member state in recent months.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her main election rival Martin Schulz both called for an end to Turkey’s EU membership negotiations during a televised debate on Sunday evening.
“I do not expect the EU to make any dramatic decisions in that regard during this year,” Sven Mikser, the foreign minister of Estonia, told reporters.