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Europe must strengthen ability to defend itself

Europe must strengthen its ability to defend itself to deter would-be aggressors regardless of who wins the upcoming US elections or how the war in Ukraine turns out, the German Chancellor has said.

Olaf Scholz was speaking at the Munich Security Conference, dubbed the “Davos of Defence”.

“We Europeans must take much more care of our own security, now and in the future,” Mr Scholz said.

Germany, Europe’s largest economy, has hiked its spending on defence to 2% of output and will continue to hit that target of the NATO western defence alliance, Mr Scholz said.

Germany is also discussing with allies France and Britain the development of distance-capable precision weapons in order to ensure its deterrence strategy remained cutting edge, he said.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will participate in a panel debate on neutrality at the conference.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Mr Varadkar said Ireland’s neutrality was evolving, but its security policy would be guided as much by overseas development aid than by defence spending.

The Munich Security Conference, which is celebrating 60 years this year, is still reeling from the death of Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition campaigner, who died in an Arctic penal colony yesterday.

His death, and the approach of the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, are likely to dominate today’s exchanges with contributions from Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, the Taoiseach said the EU may have to take on more of its own defence responsibilities in light of US presidential candidate Donald Trump’s threat to reduce America’s security commitment to Europe.

However, he said security should also be measured in overseas development aid and helping to deal with the causes of conflict, as well as in counterterrorism and fighting cyber crime.

At today’s meeting, he will join a discussion on neutrality with Malta’s foreign minister, and the former interior minister of Austria.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin, who is also in Munich, will take part in a debate on reforming the UN Security Council.

Additional reporting Tony Connelly

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