The bloc must ensure its skies are protected, the prime ministers of the two nations have said FILE PHOTO: A US-made Patriot surface-to-air missile launcher in Buchel, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, October 14, 2020. © Getty Images / picture alliance

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his Polish counterpart, Donald Tusk, have called on the EU to speed up the development of a bloc-wide air defense system.

In a letter addressed to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen dated Thursday, which was shared by Politico, the two leaders stressed that Europe’s “current fragmented landscape is simply not up to today’s needs and requirements.”

They suggested the EU needs a new “flagship” air defense program, a “European air defense shield,” which would be able to protect the region from any airborne threat, including aircraft, missiles and drones.

“Europe will be safe as long as the skies over it are safe… The geopolitical and technological developments in Europe’s periphery and beyond, the wars on our continent and in the world, teach us lessons that we can no longer ignore,” the two leaders said in the letter. A common air defense system would be able to “act as a credible deterrent against all possible aggressors,” they added.

Mitsotakis and Tusk argued that the new system should be financed at the European level, and asked for the issue to be raised at the next European Council summit in June.

While the letter does not detail the specifics of the proposed air shield, earlier this week Tusk said it could be similar to Israel’s ‘Iron Dome’ missile defense network and include satellite and reconnaissance systems.

Speaking at the European Broadcasting Union’s election debate on Thursday, von der Leyen signaled she would back “an air defense shield for all of Europe, like it was proposed by Mitsotakis and Tusk,” were she to secure a second term as head of the EU executive body in the upcoming elections.

The idea of creating a pan-EU air defense shield was raised in 2022 by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, when he presented the European Sky Shield Initiative (ESSI), a system which would consist of both short-range and long-range anti-ballistic missiles. His proposal has since been signed by more than 20 EU members, including Greece.

Tusk earlier said he intended for Poland to join Scholz’s project, but critics have argued that ESSI would be much more expensive and less advanced than Poland’s existing air defense system. It is unclear from Mitsotakis and Tusk’s letter whether their proposed air defense system would be a new initiative or based on ESSI. (RT)