Dec 19 2013
Prime Minister David Cameron will warn Europe's leaders today against any moves to shift national defence powers to Brussels - including putting Eurocrats in charge of military drones.
The first EU summit in years to discuss security is considering deeper defence co-operation between member states and long-term funding and development of European "Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS)" - drones - with a European Commission role in their regulation.
At Mr Cameron's request, Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen is sitting in on the talks - a move intended by Britain to reinforce the Alliance as the continuing backbone of European defence.
"The Prime Minister will be making clear the primacy of Nato" said a Downing Street source ahead of today's meeting in Brussels.
"We see Nato as the bedrock of our collective defence. Any EU action should be complementary to that, but not duplicating it.
"We should be very clear that defence is a member state power and we don't want to see an extension of EU action in this area. What the EU does do should be focused on practical action, facilitating what member states may want or choose to do together.
"Take drones as an example: there can be no question of the commission owning dual use military capabilities such as drones. Defence kit must be nationally owned and controlled and that should be clear to everyone."
Before the summit began UK government officials successfully argued for the removal from early draft summit conclusions of the phrase "Europe's armed forces", insisting any wording implying a possible transfer of defence sovereignty was unacceptable.
Mr Cameron is seeking further changes at the summit to stress Nato's distinct role in European defence and to make clear that the role of the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy, set up four years ago, should be in support of member state action.
The summit is not discussing setting up EU drones, but the draft conclusions call for "preparations for a programme of a next-generation European Medium Altitude Long Endurance RPAS(drones)" and "close synergies with the European Commission on regulation (for an initial RPAS integration into the European Aviation System by 2016)".
Mr Cameron will also use the summit to repeat his warnings about the risk of opening borders from the start of next year to immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria and the need to revise the rules about workers from any other new EU member states in future.
"You can expect the Prime Minister to use it as an opportunity to reiterate his concerns" said the Downing Street source.
"He's got 24 hours or so with European leaders and he will be talking about some of the issues on his mind and his priorities. This is about getting the debate going. It's not an issue that is going to be discussed in detail (at the summit table), but if they do discuss countries joining the EU in the future, then you can expect the PM to make clear his view and to put markers down."