The European Union could have a military training mission in place in Mozambique within the next few months, the bloc’s foreign policy chief said on Friday. Sixty Portuguese soldiers were sent to the southern African country in May to fight against Islamist insurgents.
Speaking ahead of a summit of EU defence ministers in Lisbon, Portuguese defence minister Joao Cravinho said seven or eight member states had expressed willingness to join the military operation.
He added the expanded EU-wide mission could be approved next month and insisted Portugal was prepared to provide up to 50 percent of the manpower.
The joint operation is another step towards the creation of a European Army – something previously dismissed as a “dangerous fantasy” by the former leader of the Liberal Democrats.
With the prospect of an EU army moving closer to reality, reminders of the scaremongering used by Mr Clegg towards Brexiteers has triggered a backlash from a number of Express.co.uk readers who let their opinions known in the comments section of an early story.
One reader wrote: “Dangerous fantasy’? Aye Cleggy?”
A second added: “Little boy Clegg had no idea, if like me he had read the press in France he would have understood that many years ago Europe wanted its own army, single tax system & one government for Europe, not one per country as now.”
A third commented: “This would be the EU army that Cameron and Clegg said would never exist.
“Very likely to be an occupying army in any EU country that doesn’t tow the EU line, purely by the interests of either France or Germany.”
A fourth added: “Yes the ‘dangerous fantasy’ that was never going to happen Nick.”
Meanwhile, fifth said: “Why on earth does a trade club need its own military, scary times ahead for the EU.”
Journalist Iain Dale reminded former deputy Prime Minister of his previous dismissal of the idea.
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The Portuguese military is currently on a four-month programme training eleven Mozambican troops to counter the threat of insurgency, share intelligence and use drones to track militants’ movements.
The EU’s mission is set to expand Portugal’s work to carry out training on a larger scale, and members states unable to send troops, may provide other forms of aid such as satellite communication, Mr Cravinho said.
The EU chief previously said up to 300 personnel could be sent to Mozambique by the end of the year.