EU launches new multibillion-euro defense fund amid Trump pressure, Brexit

EU launches new multibillion-euro defense fund amid Trump pressure, Brexit
The EU has launched a multibillion-euro defense fund amid growing pressure on NATO members to increase military spending and Britain’s preparations to part ways with the bloc in 2019.

The new fund, which was announced on Wednesday, is aimed at boosting defense cooperation within the EU and helping member states jointly acquire hardware and develop military capabilities.

“For too long we have relied too much on the military power of others,” said European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, as cited by Deutsche Welle.

“We must now seize the moment to take charge of our own security. We owe this to our fellow Europeans.”

The fund will see €500 million (US$563 million) in EU money provided to purchase and develop military hardware in 2019 and 2020, the European Commission said.

“A more substantial program” will be developed after 2020, which will see spending double to €1 billion annually.

“The program will leverage national financing with an expected multiplying effect of five. It could therefore generate a total investment in defense capability development of €5 billion per year after 2020,” the commission said in a statement.

The money from the EU fund will be used to finance the construction of prototypes in high-tech projects, including drones and robotics.

The participation of at least three companies from at least two EU states is mentioned as a condition for the grant to be handed out by the fund, according to the statement.

A total of €90 million will also be allocated for defense research in 2018 and 2019, before the implementation of the dedicated program.

The commission said it expects €500 million to be invested in defense research after 2020, which would make the EU “one of the biggest defense research investors in Europe.”

Brussels regards poor defense cooperation within the EU as a major problem, with member states losing up €100 billion every year due to what Juncker described last year as “wasteful duplication.”

The commission believes the bloc’s member states will be able to save around 30 percent of expenditure if they purchase their equipment together.

“Two percent of GDP spent separately provides less security than if part of the money is used jointly. As important as the amount of money, is how to use it,” Jyrki Katainen, commission vice-president, is cited as saying by AP.

READ MORE: NATO spending targets to be met by more countries, Estonian PM says 1 week after Trump demand

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that bloc was “committed to strengthening security and defense work, enhancing our strategic role, our ability to act as a security provider worldwide and our capacity to act autonomously when and where necessary.”

Iraqi Kurds to hold independence referendum in September

Iraqi Kurds to hold independence referendum in September
Iraq’s Kurdish region will hold an independence referendum in September, the autonomous region’s government announced in a statement. The move is likely to be opposed by Baghdad which has long voiced its opposition to Kurdish secession.

“September 25, 2017 was designated as the day for holding the referendum” on independence, the presidency of the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq said in a statement, as quoted by AFP.

The announcement followed a meeting of Kurdish political parties chaired by Massoud Barzani, who heads the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Rudaw reported.

READ MORE: ‘Not if, but when’: US intel chief says Kurdish secession from Iraq imminent

The meeting’s participants “unanimously agreed” on holding the referendum, according to a statement from the talks published by Rudaw.

A tweet from Barzani’s assistant, Hemin Hawrami, also confirmed the referendum date.

“Big news. Kurdistan Referendum for independence is on 25/9/2017,” the tweet states.

A later tweet posted by Hawrami showed a photo of those present at the meeting, referring to them as “founding fathers.”

Today’s historical moment. President Barzani along w/ all political parties who decided to have referendum on September 25.Founding fathers

Hawrami also tweeted that Kurdistani areas which are claimed by both Kurdistan and Iraq will also be included in the referendum. Among those, the key oil-rich province of Kirkuk.

Referendum on 25/9/2017 is for Iraqi Kurdistan including kirkuk, Khanqin, Sinjar & Makhmor. The ? Is: Do you want an independent Kurdistan?

Iraqi Kurdistan consists of three provinces that are run by an autonomous regional government and protected by its own security services. Iraqi Kurds have long sought to secede from Iraq, arguing that they have a right to self-determination and that they have their own ethnic identity.

Wednesday’s announcement comes just two months after Iraqi Kurdistan released a roadmap for a referendum, with Kurdish leaders stating at the time that a vote is a “natural right of the nation of Kurdistan to decide on its political and administrative path in a referendum and an entity of an independent state.”

READ MORE: Iraqi Kurdistan sets roadmap for independence referendum

Iraqi Kurdistan already has its own military, known as the Peshmerga, which prevented Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants from capturing Kirkuk in 2014.

Kurd militias are also essential to the US-led coalition’s campaign to fight IS in Iraq and are currently active in the battle for Mosul.

The autonomous region is determined to further build its military capabilities, with a Peshmerga official telling Kurdistan24 last month that Kurdish leaders are considering the purchase of combat aircraft to establish an air force.

Independence for Iraqi Kurds is not only opposed by Baghdad, but possibly Turkey, Syria, and Iran as well, all of which have significant Kurdish populations and may fear that such a move could inspire similar efforts back home.

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