* EU states downsize armed forces to cope with austerity
* Marketplace will be a “military eBay”
BRUSSELS, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Cash-strapped European Union countries, trying to get the most value out of shrinking defence budgets, will soon be able to sell or swap surplus tanks or fighter jets on a new eBay-style electronic marketplace.
Website eQuip will provide an online shop window for existing military hardware and in future perhaps for equipment from NATO-led operations in Afghanistan, said an official who briefed journalists on condition of anonymity.
“We expect that there will be some surplus equipment that will be brought back (from Afghanistan) and which might then be made available through eQuip,” the official said.
Up to 200,000 vehicles and military equipment containers are being withdrawn over the next few years.
The official said eQuip would be operational within months.
Western European governments have been forced already to sell military equipment due to defence cuts.
Britain agreed a $180 million deal in 2011 to sell 72 retired Harrier aircraft to the U.S. Marine Corps for use as spare parts while Romania was recently reported to be planning to buy second-hand F-16 fighter jets from Portugal.
EU defence ministers meet in Brussels on Monday to discuss other ways to drive forward multinational defence cooperation in an effort to cut costs.
They are expected to adopt a new code of conduct which will make sharing defence capabilities between various EU nations a central plank of European military planning.