PositionDefence policy of defense ministers in european union.

European Union Defence Ministers are about to hold a stocktaking session in Brussels on the EU's defence policy. And in concert with Foreign Affairs Ministers, they will doubtless issue a self-congratulatory evaluation. Some underlying challenges may, however, receive less attention and less attention than they deserve.

Progress has of course been made since the defence policy was born in 1999. But much has been in areas of secondary importance. By creating lists of attainable targets, the EU has generated an illusion of real progress.

Meanwhile, central issues remain unaddressed. The persistent cruel shortage of much of the needed hardware and software means the EU still cannot fly its soldiers to where they ought to be; it cannot provide the advanced weaponry and communications technology they need for sophisticated operations; and its command and control capabilities remain limited.

The recent decision to set a new deadline of 2010 for many of the assets that were initially planned for the earliest years of the century reflects how serious some of the shortfalls are.

And above all, the EU is still living in an uncomfortable halfway house in terms of the key planning functions that any military operation depends on.

A modus...

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