Sarkozy asks Britain and Germany for help with European navy

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called on Germany and the UK to volunteer ships for an EU naval defence force

Berlin  -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy has asked Britain to provide an aircraft carrier and Germany to lend frigates and supply ships to establish a European naval fleet, the news magazine Der Spiegel reported Saturday.

Sarkozy, who takes over the European Union presidency on July 1, had briefed German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a meeting Monday at Straubing, Germany about the fleet plan, the magazine said in its issue to hit the streets Monday.

Previous efforts to establish European Union defence units have mainly involved land forces.

Carrier groups are the most potent forces on the seas, since they can bombard distant land targets whereas a protected flagship is difficult or impossible to destroy using planes or submarines.

The flagship would be a British aircraft carrier, because France's carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, must dock frequently for repairs. Budget limits mean that Sarkozy cannot decide till 2012 on building a second French aircraft carrier or more nuclear submarines.

Spiegel said he also briefed Merkel on cost-cutting plans to reduce the French armed forces by about 35,000 to 220,000 men and to take the gendarmerie paramilitary police off the defence budget and onto the interior budget. DPA

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