France tells Scandinavians to share in EU defence

27th September 2004, Comments 0 comments

STOCKHOLM, Sept 27 (AFP) - French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie on Monday said Nordic countries should play a bigger role in a common European defence, while safeguarding their neutrality and independence.

STOCKHOLM, Sept 27 (AFP) - French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie on Monday said Nordic countries should play a bigger role in a common European defence, while safeguarding their neutrality and independence.  

"The aim is not to create a European army, but we have common values, common interests and we are pooling our means of defence," Alliot-Marie said at a news conference in Stockholm.  

Sweden, which is not a NATO member, regularly participates in international peacekeeping operations and wants more say in the organization of such operations.  

But, like neighbouring Finland, the government in Stockholm has said it wants to remain a free agent in military matters and prefers the term "capacity to manage crises" to "European defence", with its political and institutional implications.  

"Every country must decide for itself in which operations it wishes to participate, and must remain free in its choices," Swedish Defence Minister Leni Bjoerklund said at the news conference in response to Alliot-Marie.  

Sweden has agreed to the creation of a "European battle group" with Finnish participation, but wants to keep the option open of integrating Norway, which is not a EU member.  

Operations like "Artemis" in the Congo during 2003, to which Sweden contributed around 100 special forces, were based on the idea that "every country decides on its level of contribution", Alliot-Marie said.  

"European Union decisions are taken jointly and every country decides on its level of contribution," she said, adding that this was not necessarily linked to a country's size.   Alliot-Marie was to continue on to the Finnish capital Helsinki late on Monday.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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