NATO to set up Schengen system for military, German minister says

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NATO wants to set up a system to ease military movements across Europe, akin to the Schengen border-free system for people travelling across the continent, said German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen.

"We want to establish something like a military Schengen within Europe, that can move [troops] quickly and straightforwardly, without great bureaucracy, with great speed," von der Leyen said ahead of a meeting with her NATO counterparts in a two-day meeting in Brussels, DPA reported yesterday.

Germany has offered to host the command center for this, she added, noting that the country is "not only geographically in the heart of Europe, but also has great experience in logistics and support."

Germany, Europe's biggest economy, plans a multi-billion euro increase in defense spending but this is not enough to take it up to the 2 percent target by 2024.

For the first time, NATO countries have submitted plans to show how they will reach a target to spend 2 percent of economic output on defense every year by 2024, after President Dona

ld Trump threatened to withdraw support for low-spending allies.

Fifteen of the 28 countries, excluding the United States, now have a strategy to meet a NATO benchmark first agreed in 2014 in response to Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region, following years of cuts to European defense budgets. It is unclear whether that will be enough to impress Trump when he attends a NATO summit in July.

"We cannot outsource Europe's security obligations to the United States," British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson told reporters at the NATO defense ministers' meeting, as reported by Reuters.

NATO data shows that Britain, Greece, Romania and the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania meet, or are close to, the 2 percent goal, while France and Turkey are among those countries set to reach it soon.

France plans to increase its defense spending by more than a third between 2017 and 2025, but Spain has said it will not meet the 2024 target. Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Italy, Portugal, Norway and Denmark are also lagging, while Hungary expects to meet the goal only by 2026.

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