European ministers to persist with the A400M programme

Le Castellet, France: Defence ministers from seven European nations backing the troubled A400M military transport plane programme agreed Friday to renegotiate the contract for the delayed project. The A400M programme is one of Europe's ambitious joint venture military programmes designed to reduce dependence on foreign equipment, primarily American.

A400MAccording to French defence minister, Herve Morin, who hosted a meeting in the French village of Le Castellet in the Provence region, project member countries will now wait to sign the new contract around December, when the first flight is expected to take place.

Britain's defence procurement minister, Quentin Davies, warned that reaching a deal "won't be easy" and "isn't a foregone conclusion." UK has been seen as the member most likely to exit from the delayed project, even as it struggles with issues of defence spending at home.

"It's very important ministers continue to keep closely focused on the program to make sure that we don't allow any further delays to arise," Davies said. "I hope we are able to reach contract signature about the same time as first flight, around the turn of the year."

According to Morin, member countries have now agreed to start new talks after the summer vacation as to the modalities of bearing the burden of the cost of delays, a new timetable and on each country's capacity needs. These talks will take place before a mid-October meet in Germany, he said.

"If the results are positive and if all the negotiations are conclusive" at the talks in Germany, a new contract will then be drawn up, he said. The new contract will then be signed in the city of Seville, where the A400M is being assembled and where it will make its first flight.