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EU leaders approve updated military plan

EU leaders on Friday endorsed a significantly revised and more muscular military strategy during a summit meeting, according to European Council President Charles Michel.

The so-called Strategic Compass represents a notable shift in the EU’s collective military ambitions, which have historically been minuscule, with efforts channeled instead toward individual militaries and NATO capabilities. Still, the new plan’s ultimate ambitions are limited, envisioning — among other things — the creation of an EU rapid deployment force of up to 5,000 soldiers but not the establishment of a full EU army.

“We endorsed the Strategic Compass which will be our guide for a stronger defence policy and bolster our European defence capabilities,” Michel tweeted Friday morning.

While work on the Strategic Compass started almost two years ago, officials have had to repeatedly rewrite the language as threats evolved. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last month then gave a new sense of urgency to the document. Now, the bloc will start working on its implementation — no easy task given the EU’s limited track record on military endeavors.

When walking into the summit on Friday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell stressed once again that the EU’s defense plans are aimed at making the bloc a “stronger partner” with both NATO and “partners around the world,” meaning the EU is not intending to duplicate NATO capabilities, a concern Baltic and Eastern European countries often express.

France led the charge on updating the EU’s military ambitions and prioritized the Strategic Compass during the country’s rotating EU presidency, which runs through June. EU foreign and defense ministers approved the new plans earlier this week.

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