EU lawmakers disagree on controversial U.S. missile plan

By Mark John BRUSSELS, Reuters

U.S. plans to site a missile shield in the Czech Republic and Poland sparked disagreement among lawmakers in a fierce European Parliament debate on Thursday, highlighting the risk of an EU rift over the project.

The controversy dominated a hearing with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, with tough criticism from west European left-wingers countered by staunch defenses of the plan by lawmakers from former communist countries of the east.

Solana said it was ultimately up to EU capitals to decide whether they joined the United States in the project but they were obliged to ensure that any such participation did not undermine overall security policy in the 27-member bloc.

“On security matters, treaties in force allocate sovereignty to member states. But that member-state sovereignty has to be made compatible with the Union’s general interest in security,” he told the parliament.

He stressed the EU was, unlike NATO, not a defense alliance and so did not have the final say in the matter. But he advocated talks in both organizations to clear the air.

U.S. overtures to Poland the Czech Republic to site parts of a missile shield aimed at pre-empting threats from North Korea and Iran have revived dormant European unease at such projects, first launched by President Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has branded the move an aggressive act aimed at Moscow, with which Germany as current EU President is seeking to launch delicate negotiations on a major partnership pact covering energy and trade relations.

“This missile defense system will solve nothing and get us into a new arms race,” said Martin Schulz, German floor leader of the EU assembly socialist grouping.

British Liberal Graham Watson suggested the shield could become a “Maginot Line in the sky”, a reference to the French system of fortifications which failed to halt the advances of Nazi Germany in World War Two.