The European Union's top foreign policy official said Thursday that any possible decision by EU nations to participate in the proposed U.S. anti-missile shield must not threaten the EU's security.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said that placing components of a U.S. missile defense system on EU soil could "affect our relations with third countries, namely Russia."
"On security matters, the treaties in force allocate sovereignty to EU member states, but that sovereignty must be compatible with the Union's general interest in security," Solana told the European Parliament, where he was presenting his policy goals for the year.
Solana's cautious stance on the U.S. request to site a radar base in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptor missiles in Poland, as part of the system, corresponds with concerns of other EU leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, that the issue is producing divisions in Europe.
The Czech government on Wednesday agreed to start negotiations with the United States on building a radar base in a military area southwest of Prague as part of plans for a defense shield that Washington says would protect against a potential threat from Iran or North Korea. Poland's National Security Council has also started considering the U.S. proposal. The two former Soviet satellites are now NATO members.
Moscow is strongly opposed to the plan and has said that the two countries risk being targeted by Russian missiles if they agree to host the U.S. bases. Russia also warned it could lead to a new arms race.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told U.S. President George W. Bush on Wednesday he was concerned about the planned U.S. defense system. According to the Kremlin, Bush expressed a willingness to discuss the project with Russia in detail in the interest of mutual security.
NATO officials have suggested that talks among the allies could focus on combining the short-range NATO system with the separate U.S. strategic shield to provide missile defense for all 26 allies.
Solana urged a broad debate in the EU on the issue.
"It would be a mistake not to talk about these things amongst ourselves in the clearest and most open way possible," Solana said.