The United States has called a special meeting of the ambassadors of all 19 members of Nato to discuss the European Union’s plans for a new defence policy. Defence is one of several contentious areas of EU policy The meeting was called in an attempt to clarify the confusing fog of words at last week’s summit about the EU’s plans for an independent military role.
Europe’s leading military powers – Britain France and Germany – informally agree the EU must be able to plan and conduct limited military operations when needed, without having always to call on Nato assets.
But the US suspects a kind of plot by anti-American forces in Europe to damage its interests.
Senior US officials say an independent EU planning and command headquarters is unacceptable.
That is the nub of the argument.
As France, Belgium and others made clear at the two-day EU summit in Brussels, they will definitely create such a headquarters.
Britain is caught uneasily in the middle.
A solution is urgently needed, as defence is one of several contentious areas of EU policy that are supposed to be defined in the forthcoming EU constitution.
Time is fast running out for European leaders to meet their goal of agreeing on a text by December.
After two negotiating sessions among EU heads of government and two more among foreign ministers, there is still discord on many key points.
Several governments strongly oppose a part of the draft text that would allow future transfers of power from member-states to EU institutions to be done without needing the consent of national parliaments.
It now looks as if the larger states may be forced to make one big concession to the smaller states – to agree that every EU member will continue to have a representative on the powerful European Commission, even when the EU expands to 25 countries and more.
In return, the big states demand more voting power for themselves.
Italy, which is in the chair for these delicate talks till the end of the year, has promised to submit proposals for compromise on the main sticking points to the other members in November.