Towards a European Defence Union
Our citizens deserve the best protection possible. The EPP Group was the first major political family to strongly commit itself to progress in fostering cooperation in defence at European level, being aware that no country alone is able to face current threats. After years of being in limbo, the elements of the European Defence Union are now starting to be implemented. The EPP Group continuously stressed that when it comes to defence, Europe needs to stand as one. We have laid down a blueprint of what future common defence should look like and we are satisfied to see that EPP governments followed this blueprint while launching the Permanent Structured Cooperation or agreeing the EU funding for the collaborative projects in defence. The European Defence Union should be the final step in framing a common EU defence policy. All of the above-mentioned decisions and initiatives, which our family contributed to putting forward, bring the EU closer to that goal.
Securing funding for common defence
A fragmented defence market where every Member State overstretches its resources to try to acquire the entire spectrum of capabilities is not sustainable: it is a bad use of taxpayers’ money which doesn’t grant an appropriate level of security to Europeans. We don’t only need to spend more on defence, we must spend more wisely.
This is why we initiated the EU budget line in support of defence with the objective of facilitating joint procurement and research among Member States. We were at the heart of establishing the preparatory action on defence research which now has morphed into the European Defence Fund with a budget of €13 billion until 2027 which will be used to coordinate, complement and increase national investments in defence research in the development of prototypes and in the acquisition of defence equipment and technology.
Coalition of the willing to speed up joint defence projects
The EPP Group consistently called for the activation of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) allowing willing and able Member States to deepen their cooperation in defence and make more binding commitments in order to invest, plan, develop and operate defence capabilities more together. Developed in a coherent way, these capabilities will be available for Member States for national and multinational use within the EU, NATO, the UN or other international missions. Since the official launch of PESCO in March 2018, 25 Member States have joined it and 2 batches of 17 projects have been launched covering areas such as training, land, maritime, air, cyber, and joint enablers.
We also strongly advocated the implementation of a Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD), a process which provides for a better overview of national defence spending plans, providing greater coherence and run by the European Defence Agency. Council approved the progress catalogue for 2018 which provides a military assessment of the prioritised capability shortfalls and capability goals to be achieved.
Development funding for military if essential for stability
In countries where the security situation is precarious, the military is essential for stabilising areas by helping to restore security and reinstating public administration and basic services, thus also ensuring the protection of development actors working in the field. The EPP Group played a crucial role in establishing the CBSD (Capacity Building in support of Security and Development). This is an innovative tool which enables, under exceptional circumstances, the support of capacity building of military actors of partner countries. The project involves a budget of €100 million until 2020 for non-lethal equipment for the armed forces, their training, mentoring and advice, infrastructure improvements or other services with the aim of contributing to their efficiency and consequently to the efficiency of our development aid and stabilisation of countries where the EU can’t deploy. In reality, this means the EU will finance hospitals or communication systems in conflict or fragile zones mostly run by the military, which will primarily be useful for the local civilian population. Instability resulting from failed or fragile states can lead to ungoverned spaces that are a breeding ground for terrorist organisations and large swathes of displaced people forced to leave their countries, depleting them of human potential. It is in the EU’s interest to help restore stability in such areas as a contribution to its own security.
Facilitating military movement across Europe
The EPP Group supported the creation of the so-called Military Schengen. The aim of the project is to allow free movement of military equipment and personnel across Europe by removing bureaucratic barriers and improving infrastructure. We pushed for an estimated €6.5 billion to be made available in the Connecting Europe Facility (the EU programme for investment in infrastructure) for dual-use military mobility physical infrastructure projects, namely those with both military and civilian implications.
Overcoming loopholes in European defence systems
The EPP Group recognised on time the dangers that fragmented, overlapping and underfunded defence sectors represent. We consequently acted in favour of overcoming these weaknesses and loopholes in the European defence systems. Being aware that what Europe needs to increase its defence capability is enshrined in the Treaties, we were consistent and successful in calling on our governments to start delivering concrete results for the sake of Europeans. Thanks to our efforts in the European Parliament and in the EU Council, substantial progress has been achieved on the path towards the EU’s strategic autonomy which will enable Europe to set aside the soft power approach and be able to put in place credible strength to provide for its own security, within NATO and EU structures.