Nice, France; 8 December 2000 (RFE/RL) - EU leaders plan to adopt a report on European defense policy today amid a disagreement over its relationship with NATO. The 60-page document outlines how Europe's 60,000-man rapid-reaction corps will be created and coordinated with NATO. U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen warned earlier this week that EU plans for an independent rapid-reaction force threatens to make NATO "a relic of the past."
British Prime Minister Tony Blair fended off criticism at home by saying the rapid-reaction force will not be a rival to NATO and is not a precursor to a European army.
But French President Jacques Chirac said yesterday that the EU force must have a degree of independence from NATO.
EU leaders are expected to turn their attention to EU reform today on the second day of their summit in Nice, France.
At a dinner last night, the 15 EU leaders discussed how to make institutions originally designed for a six-member community work efficiently when the bloc expands to up to 28 members.
The larger EU states -- Germany, France, Britain, and Italy -- are seeking greater voting weight relative to small states, which have a disproportionate share of votes.
There are also disagreements over which subjects should be decided by majority voting, abandoning national vetoes, and whether to limit the size of the executive European Commission.
Yesterday, EU leaders made a pledge to 13 candidate countries from East-Central Europe and the Mediterranean that they will complete the reforms and have them ratified by national parliaments in time to be ready to admit new members by 2003.
Yesterday's opening of the summit was marred by violent clashes between anti-globalization protesters and riot police.