BRUSSELS - Several EU nations including France and Germany agreed Tuesday to join forces to develop new-generation drones, in a bid to close a gaping deficiency in the bloc's defense industry.
EU defense ministers meeting in Brussels approved a series of projects to develop Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) pilotless aircraft from 2020.
Heads of state and government will formally greenlight the projects at an EU summit next month focusing on defense cooperation.
"If Europe hopes to maintain a strategic capability, countries must pool their capacities and actions in a pragmatic way," said French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian after the talks.
He welcomed the creation of a "club of drone-using countries" that will cooperate on training, certification, logistics, maintenance and future projects.
The grouping so far includes seven nations: France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain.
The European Defense Agency meanwhile will work on a combined investment program to develop the use of drones for both military and civil purposes, such as border surveillance, firefighting or disaster and environmental monitoring.
EU nations currently use Israeli or U.S. military drones but do not have certification to fly them in European airspace.
Ministers also called for cooperation in developing air-refueling capabilities after EU nations were obliged to rely on the United States during the NATO-led air campaign in Libya in 2011.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013