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German-led Euro air defence plan faces pushback

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German-led Euro air defence plan faces pushback
A German Air Force Tornado fighter aircraft takes off during the international air force manoeuvre "Air Defender 2023" at Jagel Air Base in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

France will on Monday host a meeting of European defence ministers to try to smooth out differences over the continent's joint air defence, after bristling at a German-led project that snubbed its manufacturers.

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Held on the margins of the Paris Air Show, the gathering hosted by Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu will include around 20 of his counterparts and the European Commission's internal market chief Thierry Breton.

German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius has agreed to come after initial reluctance, a French government source told AFP.

"It has become imperative for Europe to build an independent strategy for defending its airspace," Lecornu wrote in daily Le Figaro, warning of "new threats".

The meeting is widely seen by observers as a response to the German-led European Sky Shield plan launched in October, under which 16 NATO countries and Sweden plan to use German, US and Israeli equipment. 

READ ALSO: Germany approves funds to buy nearly €4 billion air defence system

France and Poland are notable holdouts from Sky Shield, with Paris keen to promote its own medium-range anti-air missiles.

At stake are huge contracts, with Germany and France alone set to spend €10 billion on air defence by 2030.

European defence ministries sharply reduced spending on anti-aircraft equipment following the end of the Cold War, but have been spooked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year.

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After a €2 billion deal for Paris and Rome to buy missiles from European manufacturer MBDA, and a second €2.2 billion contract from Poland for its CAMM launchers and missiles, a further joint order is expected after Monday's conference.

France, Belgium, Cyprus, Hungary and Estonia could also sign a statement of intent to buy MBDA's Mistral short-range anti-aircraft missiles, Lecornu wrote in Le Figaro.

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