PM gives cautious response to Juncker defense plan

Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma on Tuesday gave a measured response to the idea floated by European Union President Jean-Claude Juncker Monday that the 28 member bloc could have its own army.

Speaking on LTV's Rita Panorama show, Straujuma played down any chance of rapid decision-making on the subject.

"There has not been any formal discussion – this was Mr Juncker's personal view. There is a possibility it could be discussed in July at the European Council, but it's important to check whether this might be duplicating NATO," Straujuma said. 

"Of course there are EU states that are not in NATO like Finland and Sweden but this is certainly not a question for the coming year year or the year after that.

"This is an idea Mr Juncker has put forward and requires discussion from all member states who each have their own ideas. For Latvia it's of primary importance that we are a NATO member and that we spend 2 percent of GDP on NATO purposes. But it's an idea that is designed to improve European security so it will be the subject of further discussion,” she said.

On March 8 Juncker suggested a European army could be formed to show that Europe was serious about defending its borders.

The idea was rapidly shot down by some EU member states and given a cautious welcome by others.

In fact the EU does already have an army of sorts in the form of so-called "EU Battlegroups" which consist of 18 battalions which went operational in 2007 but have never actually been deployed in any military capacity.

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