EU ready to fund some projects to speed military deployments

BRUSSELS — The European Union could make billions of euros available to upgrade bridges and roads so its member countries and NATO are able to rapidly deploy troops in times of crisis, an EU official said Monday.

The EU's European Commission has proposed a budget of 6.5 billion euros ($7.7 billion) for certain infrastructure projects, Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc told NATO ambassadors. The money can be used for "dual use" projects, such as increasing the weight capacity of a bridge to accommodate heavy military equipment if civilian freight trucks also would benefit from the work, Bulc said.

The funds are part of broader aims to upgrade infrastructure, including ports and airports, and to cut customs and administrative red tape, which cause delays, increase costs and leave Europe more vulnerable to attack.

NATO commanders are calling for the lifting of military transport barriers. Officers say it can take up to 30 days to get administrative clearance to move through Europe.

Bulc said it will take about 18 months to identify infrastructure gaps and decide which projects could be useful for civilians. The money would be available from 2021 and only for EU countries, not for non-EU NATO members like the United States, Canada, Albania, Iceland, Montenegro and Turkey.

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