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Talking Europe

German defence minister backs common EU defence union

As the battle for Mosul entered its second week, representatives from NATO countries in the anti-IS group coalition met for talks in Paris. German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen told FRANCE 24 that the road ahead is long and that the threat of the Islamic State group goes beyond any borders.

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"We should not forget that this [Mosul] is a physical defeat, the ideological, the virtual Daesh is still there, still very active on the internet and in cyberspace so the fight will go on", she told FRANCE 24, using a different name for the Islamic State (IS) group.

National and regional elements in Iraq have come together in the fight to retake Mosul from the IS group. When the common enemy is gone, Ms von der Leyen said, the various factions - the Sunni, Shia and the Kurds - could break apart. The anti-IS group coalition is aware of this, she added, and is working on trying to keep the current unity.

Ms Von der Leyen added that IS group fighters fleeing Mosul could run towards Raqqa or indeed foreign fighters could return to their home countries, a threat that has to be prepared for. The best way of addressing this threat, she said, was to have more cooperation across the EU. "You can only beat a network with a network", she explained.

Since the UK voted to leave the EU, France and Germany have once again tabled the idea of increasing EU joint defences. "We are not talking about a European army. Not at all", Ms Von der Leyen explained. "It’s a European security and defence union". Current wars like the one in Syria show, she said, the need to have a common EU voice and a common EU position.

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