December 13, 2016 / 3:35 PM / 2 years ago

Preparing for Trump, EU to back defence spending review: draft

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union is set to call for a defence review process on Thursday that could name and shame governments not spending enough at a time of renewed U.S. criticism that Europe does not pay enough for its security.

U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump appears at a campaign roundtable event in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S., October 28, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

EU leaders at a summit in Brussels on Thursday will say that they want plans for a Coordinated Annual Review on Defence next year, according to a draft of the final summit statement.

That could mark the start of a review process based on peer pressure to screen and better align national defence budgets and programs, although the subject remains sensitive for governments that say military spending is a sovereign matter.

The ideas are not new but have been given impetus by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, who alarmed Europe by questioning whether Washington should protect allies not spending enough on their own defence during his election campaign.

The European Union, which has relied on the United States to guarantee its security for the past 70 years, is eager to show Trump it is willing to bear more of the costs of managing the conflicts on its borders.

Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, robbing the bloc of one of its biggest military powers, has also spurred EU military planning to maximize assets through cooperation.

“Europeans must take greater responsibility for their security,” EU leaders will say, according to the draft statement that stresses “the need to do more, including by committing sufficient additional resources.”

EU leaders will also call for an overhaul of the way the bloc pays for its military operations abroad by reforming its so-called common-funded, Athena mechanism, as well setting up a separate fund for EU governments to club together to develop and buy helicopters, weapons systems and other assets.

Iniatives also include lifting a ban on the European Union budget being used to finance train and equip programs in fragile states outside the bloc and reforming EU rapid-reaction forces, or battlegroups, which have never been deployed.

A lack of money remains the biggest impediment to EU defence after a decade of military budget cuts and years of overlapping defence programs, while the number of threats has morphed to include Russia cyber hackers and Islamic militants.

EU defence spending is about a quarter of U.S. levels and half of that goes on personnel costs, compared to a third in the United States, according to EU data.

Editing by Angus MacSwan

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