EU leaders to stress defence and competitiveness as strategic goals

FILE PHOTO: European Union flags fly outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union leaders will urge policymakers at summit in two weeks' time to increase defence spending, boost economic competitiveness and prepare for the bloc's enlargement, based on a draft document presented to EU members this week.

EU leaders are due to give guidance at the Brussels summit on June 27-28 on policy objectives over the coming five-year legislative period after elections to the European Parliament.

The European Council, representing the 27 EU governments, distributed a draft of the strategic agenda to EU members on Wednesday, a copy of which Reuters has seen.

The draft urges parliament, the European Commission and groupings of national ministers to uphold democratic values and make the bloc more secure and more competitive.

It says the EU will promote and safeguard respect for the rule of law, but does not mention the fact that the European Commission has frozen EU funds for Hungary over concerns that it has damaged democratic checks and balances.

The document urges EU members to increase defence spending, and asks policymakers to help scale up the European defence industry through joint procurement and flagship projects.

It says EU enlargement is an investment in peace and security and that the EU should undertake the internal reforms required to allow it to expand.

The draft also says the EU must close gaps to its main competitors in growth, productivity and innovation, through public and private funds and a fully functioning single market.

Leaders are likely to discuss future EU policy when they meet on Monday, although they will not adopt the strategic agenda itself until the end of the month.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Kevin Liffey)