EU Seeks to Expand Defense Projects That Prompted U.S. Warning

(Bloomberg) -- The European Union may almost double the number of defense-cooperation programs developed to bolster the 28-nation bloc’s military strength.

The EU is weighing 33 new projects under its so-called PESCO program and could decide in November whether to move forward, foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Thursday at a briefing in Vienna. European governments are currently running 17 projects to enhance security and defense cooperation among member countries.

“All members feel comfortable with ongoing work,” Mogherini said following a meeting of defense ministers in the Austrian capital. The bloc is taking a “phased approach” to deepening cooperation and may consider inviting non-members to participate in the future.

The U.S. has warned the EU about discriminating against American companies as the bloc’s national governments press ahead with plans for more defense cooperation, highlighting potential friction in trans-Atlantic relations. The EU says it needs to develop its own defense capabilities outside of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in order to stabilize migration flows and protect its borders.

Mogherini said that the EU’s Operation Sophia in the Mediterranean has cut the inflows of undocumented migrants by four-fifths and reduced the number of drownings at sea. Defense ministers were “unanimous” in their support for the program, she said.

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