Our Priorities

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Towards a European Defence Union

02.10.2015
Belgian soldiers

Security for all, or not at all

The security environment which surrounds the EU is volatile, complex and uncertain. To the south and east, Europe is facing an arch of instability. The expected ring of friends has become a ring of fire. In the south, ISIS and other terrorist organisations are proliferating in the Middle East & North Africa, with instability in the Middle East, Libya and the security challenges posed by the Sahel in general. In the east, the hybrid warfare waged by Russia against Ukraine, the illegal annexation of Crimea and hybrid tactics, including cyber-terrorism and information warfare, deployed to destabilise Eastern Partnership countries are the most pressing security threats the EU is facing. The migration crisis at the southern and eastern borders poses dramatic challenges to the EU and its Member States, including security concerns, and must be addressed collectively. The external and internal security threats are now intertwined. The US administration also expects us to take the lead in stabilising our broader neighbourhood.

Against this backdrop, security and defence should remain at the very centre of the European agenda. The key problem lies in the lack of political will to fully use all existing military capabilities and instruments in order to achieve EU foreign policy goals and equally address security concerns of all Member States in line with Article 42(7) TEU. This article should become the EU's equivalent of NATO's Article 5 and should be operationalised without prejudice to the commitment for collective defence resulting, for the majority of EU Member States, from the Washington Treaty. Europe must be stronger, quicker and more responsive in situations of real threat. It must take its share of responsibility and match ambitions with deeds. In this regard, we regret that the European Council of June 2015 did not live up to the expectations of the defence Council of December 2013.

According to latest data provided by the European Defence Agency (EDA) for 2013, Member States spent €186 billion on defence, and the armed forces account for 1,435,000 soldiers, more than in the US. The overall sum Europeans spend on defence is below half of what the Americans spend, but the effectiveness of this expenditure is estimated at between 10-15% of that of the Americans. Due to the lack of cooperation, coordination and synergies, this spending produces disastrous operational results, is a waste of taxpayers' money and weakens our security.

A new European security strategy needed

A new European security strategy is long overdue. We need a fresh approach taking into consideration the radically changed security environment and to define EU political ambitions as well as make it a stronger player in the security arena. The EPP Group expects an ambitious new strategy, leading to an EU White Book on Security and Defence and defining a roadmap with realistic and practical steps. It should draw conclusions on the organisation, equipment, capabilities and procedures to use them in case of need. It should also define common threat perceptions and common security interests to stimulate the emergence of a common strategic culture. The June 2015 EU Defence Summit was a missed opportunity as it failed to address the defence-related issues in a comprehensive way.

The EPP Group strongly supports using the Treaties in the realm of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) to the full. We need to operationalise the provisions foreseen in the Lisbon Treaty (Article 41 start-up fund, Article 44 TEU entrusting of CSDP missions to a group of Member States, Article 46 TEU Permanent Structured Cooperation, Article 222 TFEU the solidarity clause and Article 42 TEU the mutual defence clause). In order to end the uncoordinated and isolated islands of military cooperation, high priority has to be given to the launch of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).

The EPP Group supports the idea of creating a permanent Defence Ministers Council. The introduction of a bi-annual thematic dialogue on CSDP in the European Council meetings would keep security and defence at the top of the agenda. The European Council should be more specific and more demanding in its requirements.

EU rapid response capabilities have to grow

The strength of the EU lies in its potential to mobilise resources across the full range of civilian and military instruments. Using them in a Comprehensive Approach gives the unique potential flexibility to effectively address the most challenging international issues. We recall that the CSDP instruments should remain an essential tool within the Comprehensive Approach. In order to promote its values and protect its interests, the EU must be more than an aid provider or a post conflict actor. It should anticipate and prevent threats from materialising and deliver security in our immediate and wider neighbourhood. The EU should be ready to deploy CSDP military operations with full capacity to act when its security is at stake.

The European External Action Service (EEAS) needs to strengthen its capacity to detect and anticipate crises, plan and conduct CSDP missions and operations. Enhanced cooperation and coordination between different EU-level monitoring and crisis response capabilities is strongly required as well as the rationalisation of existing structures and the reduction of unnecessary duplications. Member States should overcome lengthy and inflexible decision-making procedures for the relevant civilian and military assets to be deployed rapidly. Root causes of force generation shortfalls must be addressed by Member States and through the support of the EU. We call on the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission (HR/VP) and the Head of the EDA to assume leadership in bringing together the external and internal dimensions of CSDP.

The EU Battlegroups are the major military rapid reaction instrument at the EU's disposal. Regrettably, they have never been used and operationally tested. It is important to overcome the political deadlock which has made it impossible to take advantage of this tool.

The lack of flexibility within the EU's financial rules leads to delays in the operational disbursement of EU funds and potentially compromises the EU's ability to respond in good time to evolving crises. The Athena mechanism of financing CSDP military operations requires a substantial overhaul. The catalogue of common costs, currently covering 10-15%, needs to be significantly increased. This should lead to full burden sharing of important CSDP tasks between Member States. Effective financing mechanisms for civilian CSDP missions should also be established.

The EPP Group calls for the development of the existing EEAS Operations Centre into a fully-fledged civil-military strategic HQ covering planning and conduct capability. An EU Operational Headquarters, ensuring rapid and effective planning, command and control, with the aim of conducting high intensity CSDP military and civilian operations and territorial defence, should be established.

The intensity of hybrid threats which we are faced with is unprecedented. The upcoming joint policy framework should focus on actionable proposals to help counter hybrid threats and foster the resilience of the EU and Member States, as well as those of EU partners, notably in the EU neighbourhood. It should be developed in thorough coordination and regular consultation with NATO, which will develop its own response to hybrid warfare within the same timelines. A unique opportunity to harmonise EU and NATO responses should not be missed. Areas such as strategic communication, addressing audiences in the east, south and in the EU, countering propaganda, energy, cyber security, early warning mechanisms, strategic infrastructure, low intensity warfare, and border violations need to be duly coordinated between the EEAS, the EDA and European Commission bodies and relevant EU Agencies (e.g. FRONTEX) and must be reflected in future strategies.

Hybrid conflicts require a hybrid answer. The EPP Group considers it necessary to expand instruments that serve to build security. The protection of personal data is of crucial importance, but on the other hand an efficient mechanism to counter terrorist threats is also necessary. Therefore, the use of civil satellite systems under construction in Europe should be considered for the purpose of collecting and transmitting information vital to the continent's security.

The boundaries between internal and external security are becoming more and more blurred. This is most evident in the pressing issue of uncontrollable migration flows from the eastern and southern neighbourhood. We need to address the root causes of this phenomenon by strengthening cooperation with countries of transit and origins of migration flows using all available policies and instruments.

More money for security and defence

Continued and unfortunate cuts in defence spending undermine the EU’s operational capacity and its role as a credible security provider within the Euro-Atlantic Community. Now it is about more and better spending. It is of existential importance for EU Member States to meet agreed spending targets of 2% of GDP for defence. We commend all Member States which have reached it or have made the strong commitment to do so. In parallel, we recall the urgent need for better spending in defence through more common planning and procurement in order to avoid duplication, fragmentation and lack of interoperability.

Cooperation key to developing European defence capabilities

European defence cooperation has made some progress but we need to do more and at a faster pace to make sure that the EU achieves its strategic autonomy. We must stop the capability gap from further widening and vigorously reverse this trend. It is vital to put an end to the fragmentation of Europe's defence efforts by working towards a greater strategic convergence. Cooperative projects (common development and use) can provide for significant economies of scale, enhance military interoperability and effectiveness. To make these projects economically viable, more Member States need to participate. Positive examples such as the European Air Transport Command (ETAC) need to be replicated. Given their added value, pooling and sharing need to be given priority. Progress needs to be achieved in the four capability flagship projects identified by the December 2013 European Council and they should be open to all Member States willing to contribute to them.

The EDA needs to be brought to the very centre of capability development cooperation. More financial resources should be allocated so that the EDA can better fulfil its tasks. Member States should use this platform to share more information on capacity development and procurement plans in order to allow greater convergence of needs and should play a stronger role in coordinating and implementing such projects.

The European Commission has to make concrete proposals on how the EU can finance projects aimed at better common resilience and defence against external threats.

We need to incentivise cooperation between Member States in capacity development. This can be achieved via fiscal and financial measures.

European Defence Technological and Industrial Base (EDTIB)

The EDTIB is a key element of Europe's capacity to ensure the security of its own citizens, protect its values, in particular human rights and democracy, and promote its interests. Being at the heart of the EDTIB, the defence industry is a key element of European security architecture. Nowadays, no Member State can conduct large-scale research and technology projects alone. Therefore a strengthened EDTIB should be based on coordination of defence budgets, harmonising requirements, reducing inefficiencies and better synergies. Strong and competitive European companies should act within an efficient defence market delivering the necessary capabilities for European defence and autonomous EU operations. The European Commission, together with a commitment from Member States, should establish a European-wide security-of-supply regime, critical for developing, sustaining and transferring defence technologies as well as enhancing solidarity and trust in the EU. The objective is to develop a competitive and innovative EDTIB.

The launch of a Preparatory Action for 2017 will be the first step towards setting up a CSDP-related research programme at EU level and financed by the EU budget. It will be a qualitative step for future European collaborative programmes. In this regard, we highlight the importance of the Pilot Project proposed by the EP.

In the meantime, Member States and stakeholders should make full use of the possibilities already provided within the Security Research Programme of Horizon 2020. Member States should further support the research mission supporting the Union's external policies including technological development in the area of bridging (or dual-use) technologies to enhance interoperability between civil protection and military forces (as stated in the Specific Programme establishing Horizon 2020).

A European commitment to commonly develop and finance military capabilities should be coupled with a symmetrical co-ownership of the results of these investments. Sales of the results of joint projects should be subject to consent given by all involved and a common exports licencing system, following the guidelines of the 2008 Common Position on Arms Export Control and in particular respect for human rights and international law, preservation of regional peace, and security and stability.

Security through partnerships

The EU-NATO cooperation is existential to European security and defence. Ensuring transatlantic coherence and solidarity is key. Europe must match its share of responsibilities and act as a strong defence pillar within the trans-Atlantic security community with the ability to conduct CSDP missions and operations with own resources. Thus the CSDP must continue to develop in full complementarity with NATO in three principal areas: building resilience together (combination of using military and non-military means), building resilience with our neighbours (collective security), and defence investment.

The EU must further develop its cooperation with partner countries in the EU neighbourhood and international and regional organisations such as the United Nations, the Arab League, the African Union and the OSCE. The EPP Group supports the EU initiative on 'train and equip' and demands that EU financing is guaranteed to equip third countries, especially those trained in the framework of CSDP missions.

The way forward

Free riding in defence and security has to come to an end. The CSDP can no longer be the weakest link in the EU integration process. The security environment necessitates that European defence stops being a 'paper tiger' and becomes a fully-fledged policy providing equal security and equal concern for vital security preoccupations for all Member States. This will require strong leadership to overcome the political deadlock. We do not need to invent new heavy or complex structures, mechanisms or tools. Those that already exist need to become operational reality.

In view of the increasing and overwhelming security challenges, the Union and its Member States should undertake serious and concrete steps in line with Article 24 (1) TEU to develop a fully-fledged common defence policy providing equal security for all Member States.

In the current complex security environment, the EU cannot afford to be a bystander. The peace dividend is over. Our values and interests are being challenged and it is time to agree on a higher level of ambition. The EU is uniquely positioned to take an active role due to its diverse foreign policy instruments, both civilian and military. Yet to secure peace, we need to be ready to act swiftly, decisively and with determination.

 

Appendix:

The EPP Group calls on the EU to implement the following actions immediately:

  • the HR/VP of the EU has to develop a new and ambitious European foreign and security strategy that clearly defines EU interests, areas of operations, and means to confront current and future threats;
  • the HR/VP has to further develop the future foreign and security strategy into a White Book on Security and Defence in order to link our strategic thinking with the development of military capabilities;
  • the European Commission has to make tangible proposals on how the EU can finance projects aimed at better common resilience and defence towards external threats and at supporting our partners;
  • further develop the EU as a regional security provider and also as a strong European pillar of NATO;
  • the European Commission has to assume its role as the guardian of the Treaties and overcome self-restraints in establishing an efficient defence market, a European-wide security-of-supply regime and Member States have to stop counterproductive past practices;
  • in order to increase our resilience, the EU should (co-)finance civil-military as well as defence research and technology projects facilitating future European collaborative programmes within the EDA. Member States should spend more on defence budgets, common procurement projects and research, technology and development projects and should aim at meeting the targets they have set themselves in the frameworks of NATO and the EU;
  • the European Council should establish a common defence with the European Defence Union on the basis of permanent structured cooperation and a relevant collective self-defence clause (Article 42 TEU) and should operationalise other relevant articles (Article 41 start-up fund, Article 44 TEU entrusting of CSDP missions to a group of Member States, Article 222 TFEU the solidarity clause);
  • permanent structured cooperation might be the way to coordinate the isolated islands of military cooperation within Europe;
  • in addition to the existing civilian EU institution (CPCC), this Union should possess an operational military headquarters for the planning and conduct of future military operations.

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