Outgoing EU military chief dismisses drive for single HQ

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The outgoing British head of the European Union's military staff on Thursday said a French-led drive for a single EU military command centre was unworkable.

"There is not a one-sized feasible solution, neither from the point of view of politics nor from the pratical, military one," Lieutenant-General David Leakey told reporters as he handed over the post to Dutchman Ton van Osch.

Leakey's set-up plans but does not command EU military missions, which are run by individual countries, and while financial pressures on European governments have led analysts to speculate that the day is drawing closer, Leakey was adamant that a permanent EU military HQ would struggle to command authority.

Sticking with the structure of a lead nation hosting the HQ, as in Britain with the bloc's anti-piracy naval mission EU-Navfor, "means the operation is guaranteed to be a success," said Leakey, drawing on a near 40-year career.

"The lead nation has a moral responsibility and puts its political weight behind (efforts) to make sure it's a success," he insisted.

"If you have a permanent HQ mandated on a multinational basis, then you would lose an ownership of those operations."

Those who favour a single HQ argue that it would avoid the need to start planning from scratch each time missions are launched.

Van Osch for his part expressed the view that the financial crisis "might force us to cooperate" better on logistics and "use more efficiently our limited budgets."

Germany, Greece and Italy are each expected to take leadership of future EU military missions.

Integrationists have long sought to strengthen wider EU military cooperation, under its European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), while balancing the defence obligations and interests of EU states who are also members of NATO.

The bloc currently has around a dozen civilian and military missions abroad, ranging from police training in Afghanistan to conflict monitoring in Georgia and border management in the Palestinian territories.

The Lisbon treaty, which came into force on December 1 last year, ultimately provides scope for the development of a dedicated EU defence arm.

© 2010 AFP

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