Europe's long road in search of common defense

(Reuters) - With Britain set to leave the European Union, hopes have risen in Paris and Berlin for the realization of a nearly 70-year-old ambition to coordinate European defense policy.

Britain blocked such plans in recent years, fearing an EU army, but France and Germany have come forward with new proposals.

Here is a chronology of Europe’s search for common defense.

1949 - The United States, Canada and European countries set up the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a U.S.-led military alliance.

1950 - The European Defense Community is proposed as a European alternative to NATO to incorporate West Germany and create a European army, a joint budget and shared arms.

1954 - The French parliament rejects the European Army plan. Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Britain form the Western European Union, a common defense group with a shared air force and joint command.

1993 - The EU’s Maastricht Treaty redefines European integration and introduces a Common Foreign and Security Policy as one of its goals, allowing European governments to take joint action in foreign policy.

1998 - Britain and France agree to common defense in the Saint-Malo Declaration, and London pledges to play a central role in the security and defense policy of the European Union.

2003 - The European Union launches its first independent military mission outside of Europe, Operation Artemis, with United Nations backing, to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

2004 - The European Defense Agency is formed to help EU governments develop their military capabilities.

2007 - Rapid-reaction forces of about 1,500 soldiers, called EU Battlegroups, are formed under control of the Council of the European Union.

2009 - The EU’s Lisbon Treaty strengthens the Common Foreign and Security Policy, creating an EU foreign policy chief.

2016 - France and Germany make fresh proposals to integrate European defense policy. EU leaders are set to meet to consider the new policies in December.

Reporting by Marilyn Haigh; editing by Mark Heinrich