Italian general chosen to lead EU military committee

Italian General Claudio Graziano, seen here at a NATO seminar in Florence, Italy on November 27, 2015, has been tipped to be the next chairman of the European Union Military Committee | EPA/Maurizio Degl’innocenti

Italian general chosen to lead EU military committee

Claudio Graziano elected as bloc gears up for greater defense cooperation.

The top general in Italy’s armed forces was elected Tuesday to lead the EU’s highest military body as the bloc gears up for greater integration of defense and security initiatives.

The general, Claudio Graziano, has served as chief of the Italian Defense General Staff since March 2015. He was selected by the EU’s chiefs of defense to be the next chairman of the European Union Military Committee, the current chairman, Greek General Mikhail Kostarakos, told a news conference.

The committee advises EU leaders on all military and defense matters within the EU, and its role is likely to broaden as a result of the current push for enhanced defense cooperation, particularly on spending. Such intensified coordination is viewed as an important test of provisions in the EU treaties allowing a so-called “multi-speed” Europe, in which some initiatives may be pursued even if they are not supported unanimously by all member countries.

About 20 EU countries are expected on Monday to formally signal their intention to take part in closer military cooperation.

In his new post, which he will occupy from November 2018, Graziano will take part in the annual review of EU national commitments to the cooperative effort. One of the requirements is for countries to raise their annual national military expenditures to 2 percent of GDP — an aspiration already adopted by NATO countries, but not EU states like Austria or Sweden, which are not members of the Atlantic alliance.

Graziano began his military career as an Alpine infantryman and is an expert in mountain warfare. He served as commander of a multinational brigade in NATO’s security force in Afghanistan and also commanded the U.N. force in Lebanon.

Graziano was a candidate to lead NATO’s Military Committee, the top military body at alliance headquarters in Brussels. He lost out on that post to Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, the chief of the United Kingdom’s Armed Forces.

In his new post, Graziano will work closely with another Italian — Federica Mogherini, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy. Mogherini is both the EU’s top diplomat and effectively its senior civilian defense official. One official noted that Graziano’s candidacy was boosted by the fact that he comes from Italy, rather than a country like France or Germany, which have large military industries and stand to gain financially from the expected big increases in spending.

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