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Africa

European ministers discuss migrants, Airbus crash in west France

media A boat carrying migrants leaves Libya Reuters/Ismail Zitouny

Defence ministers from five European countries discussed a military campaign to stop people-smuggling in the Mediterranean in the French western port of Lorient on Sunday. Also on their agenda, a common European defence policy and the crash of an Airbus military plane in Spain.

Ministers from France, Germany, Poland, Italy and Spain were in Lorient for events commemorating the 70th anniversary of its liberation from German occupation but they took advantage of the occasion to meet and discuss key questions facing Europe at present.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Their top priority was the effort to prevent boats packed with migrantscrossing the Mediterranean, following the deaths of more than 5,000 people when overcrowded craft have sunk over the past 18 months.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini was to present a plan that would involve the UN leading military operations against people-smugglers to the UN Security Council on Monday.

One proposal would mean destroying traffickers' boats, most of which set out from wartorn Libya, before they are loaded with migrants, although that has proved controversial.

The EU is currently concentrating on stopping unflagged boats and sharing intelligence from radar, aerial surveillance and wiretaps.

Describing European defence policy as less effective than a "bunch of chickens", European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker has called for centralisation.

France and Germany are planning to jointly build a military observation satellite and hope to develop a European drone with Italy.

Following Saturday's crash of a military Airbus A400M in Spain, which left four dead, Britain, Germany and Turkey have grounded their planes.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced Sunday that only "extreme priority" flights would be allowed for the French air force.

 

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