European Union launches history's most ambitious defence plan

European Union launches history's most ambitious defence plan

European Union leaders launched their the most ambitious defense plan for decades on Thursday, agreeing a multi-billion-euro weapons fund, shared financing for battlegroups and allowing a coalition of the willing to conduct more missions abroad.

It comes as tensions with Moscow and an inward turn in Washington have pushed Europe's governments to confront years of division over military cooperation.

New French President Emmanuel Macron, who threw his weight behind a common European defense during his election campaign, called the steps "historic" and said leaders were meeting Europe's security challenges.

"The conclusions that were adopted a few moments ago in defense are up to the job. We must consider the historic nature of this," Macron told a news conference during an EU summit.

Modest by U.S. standards, the measures could nevertheless revitalize Europe's inefficient defense industry, allow the EU to send more peacekeepers to flashpoints and send a message to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump that the bloc wants to pay for its own security.

Although the leaders' statement did not detail the size of the defense fund, the European Commission has said it would put forward at least 1.5 billion euros ($1.69 billion) a year from the bloc's budget for the research and purchase of assets.