Friday 10. April 2020
#185 - September 2015

A Common Security and Defence Policy relaunch ?

The European Council held on 25-26 June 2015, invited Federica Mogherini to submit a draft EU global strategy on foreign and security policy within the next twelve months.

The Mogherini proposal is designed to replace the 2003 European Security Strategy, long past its sell-by date.. Heads of State and Government also mooted a vaguer idea of creating a future defence research and technology programme at the horizon of 2020. That was the extent of their creative thinking on this issue of vital importance.


The European Council obfuscation is regrettable as across Europe for more than 20 years a consensus has emerged in favour of a common security and defence policy. The latest Eurobarometer on this issue in autumn 2014 showed 76% of EU citizens in favour of it. Political support has also been on the rise recently. In March, President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, called for the creation of a European Army; and the European Parliament voted several supportive resolutions in May.


The intellectual groundwork for a better integrated and more effective Common Security and Defence policy has been laid by numerous academic works and think tank reports. Of the latter, two were particularly important and direct: “More Union in European Defence”, a report by a task force of the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) and “In Defence of Europe“, a strategic note from the European Political Strategy Centre.


“More Union in European Defence”

More Union in European Defence”, the report published in February by a task force headed by former EU High Representative Javier Solana and former NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is the first which merits attention. It argues that an arc of instability surrounding the EU, diminished defence budgets and a shift of the world’s economic centre of gravity to Asia would require “bold steps in European defence integration” with the goal of creating a European Defence Union (EDU). In order to complement NATO in the case of an attack on EU territory and to execute the so-called ‘Petersberg tasks’, including peace enforcement and post-conflict stabilization, in its strategic neighbourhood, the EU should target “capacity in deterring and countering conventional and hybrid warfare…[and] political and military autonomy to conduct intervention operations in order to respond to or deter crisis.”


Instead of waiting for twenty eight member states advancing together the report recommends making use of Article 46 of the Treaty of the European Union (TEU). This article allows a group of member states to ask for the creation of a permanent structured cooperation (PESCO). A decision on setting up PESCO will be taken by qualified majority in the Council. Other recommendations of the report include a biennial thematic session on Common Security and Defence Policy in the European Council, an upgrading of the European Parliament subcommittee for Security and Defence, the creation of permanent EU military headquarters in Brussels and the introduction of a ’European semester’ for defence planning and expenditure of member states in order to increase mutual transparency.


”In Defence of Europe”

The second publication is the EPSC Strategic note, “In Defence of Europe”, and it was conceived in cooperation with Michel Barnier, the special adviser on Common Security and Defence Policy to President Jean–Claude Juncker, and published on 15 June. The report makes a special case in respect of waste and shortfalls in European defence budgets. Thus, the combined military spending of EU countries over the past ten years has decreased by 9% to 210 bn € whilst China’s military budget has grown by 167% over the same period to reach its current level of 163bn €. Because of its lack of integration in defence, EU-28 uses one hundred and fifty four different types of weapon, where the US uses nine types.


In order to operate a change of paradigm “in line with exponential increase in global threats and the volatility of our neighbourhood”, the Note also recommends making full use of the Lisbon Treaty’s potential with the possibility of using PESCO under Article 46 TEU. It should be stressed that a permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) is created on a strictly voluntary basis and that other member states can join the initial group at any time.


Despite the convincing arguments of the above mentioned high level reports and the political support of leading EU figures, the June European Council failed in providing Europe with the collective leadership needed to strengthen the Common Security and Defence Policy. The proposal for creating a European Defence Union and to focus especially on setting up a permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) under Article 46 TEU is an idea coherent with the understanding of these issues at the heart of Justice & Peace Europe and deserves support.


Stefan Lunte

 Justice & Peace Europe

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