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EU needs to create European Defense Fund: Bienkowska

EU needs to create European Defense Fund: BienkowskaThe European Union's industry Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska wants 27 EU states to issue joint defense bonds to boost the European defense industry market after Brexit, Reuters reported on Friday.

Developing closer security and defense ties in the bloc has emerged as one answer to Britons' shock vote in June to leave the EU, with plans including creating a joint and permanent EU command headquarters for its civilian and military missions.

Ideas for more defense cooperation have been around for many years but never materialized as EU countries jealously guard their national defense industries and have different capability requirements. Britain has long opposed such proposals.

"Britain never expressed support, there was always resistance. But with Brexit we found interest, we have the momentum. The mood is quite different," Bienkowska told Reuters on Friday, adding national differences were "diminishing".

Bienkowska, who is in charge of the industrial part of the EU's new defense and security strategy, wants to create a European Defense Fund that could finance development of technology that the 27 states would agree they all need.

"Our defense budgets are shrinking… If you look at Russia increasing its defense budget by 97 percent and China by 160 percent, while the EU's has fallen 9 percent, it is really frightening," she said in an interview.

"We are considering pooling national budgets to fund common defense projects and issuing joint EU bonds," she added.

Bienkowska said she would present her package to 27 EU defense ministers on September 27 in Bratislava.

Bienkowska said she had the backing of Italy, among others, but Germany - the bloc's largest economy - has in past opposed issuing common EU debt, including when Rome called for such step to cover for handling immigrants to Europe.
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