This publication is part of the “Global Challenges” series, a registered trademark of DvH Medien. The Institute wants to advance the discussion of geopolitical issues through publications by recognized experts. Writing today, David McAllister, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament. Regular authors are: Prof. Dr. Ann-Kristin Achleitner, Sigmar Gabriel, Prof. Veronika Grimm, Dr. Werner Hoyer, Günther H. Oettinger, Prof. Jörg Rocholl PhD, Prof. Dr. Bert Rürup and Prof. Dr. Rene Schubert.
The brutal war of aggression against Ukraine marks a turning point for security and defense policy in Europe. Our role in the world will have to change. The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, rightly spoke before the European Parliament of the “birth of a geopolitical Europe”.
As Europeans, we must learn anew to fight for our values, to be armed against military threats and to assert our interests in the world.
At the end of this week, the European Council will confirm the new “Strategic Compass”. This initiative, launched during the German Presidency of the Council in June 2020, aims to provide a clear direction for the EU’s security and defense policy in the coming years. For the first time, there is a complete inventory of risks and threats affecting all 27 Member States.
Unlike the respective EU countries, the culture of the European Union’s foreign and security policy must be based on the consensus of the 27 members. The aim is to develop a common strategic vision for the EU as an international security actor.
readiness for more responsibility
At Versailles, the Heads of State and Government recently expressed their desire for the European Union to assume more responsibility for its own security and for defense spending to be significantly increased. Finally!
The Strategic Compass serves to put these commitments into practice. We need a concrete roadmap with clear priorities on how existing instruments can be further developed by 2030 and what additional capabilities need to be developed. Progress in implementation must be concretely measurable.
Our activities must be closely coordinated with the NATO strategic concept, which will be decided in Madrid in June. This would offer significant added value for cooperation between the EU and the transatlantic defense alliance.
In my opinion, strengthening European security and defense policy in the long term means becoming more capable of acting in foreign policy. The EU must take foreign policy decisions with greater flexibility. The unanimity principle significantly impedes our ability to act.
Majority decisions, fast!
Therefore, majority decisions on common foreign and security policy must be possible as soon as possible. The EU treaties provide the necessary margin for this. Certain foreign policy decisions that are not related to military or defense policy could already be made with qualified majorities today, for example when it comes to sanctions for human rights violations.
It is also important to use existing instruments more effectively. Currently, the European Security and Defense Union consists of three main initiatives: the Permanent Structured Cooperation, the European Defense Fund and the Annual Coordinated Review on Defense. The mutual assistance clause in Article 42(7) of the EU Treaty on the European Union is an expression of solidarity between Member States.
In the event of an armed attack on the territory of an EU country, the other EU members are called upon to provide all the help and support they can. However, the practical implications of this mutual assistance clause have never been clearly defined. Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine now makes it very clear that we need clear specifications and guidelines for the mutual assistance clause.
The current crisis has shown that the European Peace Fund can strategically support our partners. Without this newly created instrument, it would not have been possible to support Ukraine with military equipment, including self-defense weapons, amounting to €500 million so far. Another 500 million euros have been politically agreed.
In the future, the European Peace Fund will be a crucial instrument in the EU’s civil and military operations and missions. Although the EU has built strong security and defense policy instruments in recent years, there has been a lack of real political will to use the available funds effectively for a long time. Individual member states were often more concerned with their particular interests than with a pan-European response. That should eventually change with the strategic compass.
We must strengthen our European cooperation. Denmark’s decision to hold a referendum on joining the Common Defense and Security Policy in early June, Germany’s commitment to increase defense spending and discussions in Finland and Sweden on NATO membership show that the security and defense policy is gaining importance throughout Europe. .
Stronger integration needed
It is important that EU countries as a whole invest more and more efficiently in military capabilities and innovative technologies. Strategic capability gaps must be consistently identified and closed. This includes further integration of security-related activities, including cyber defense and countering hybrid threats, within the EU.
It is about developing joint projects of new generation weapons and jointly acquiring military equipment. These include the European main battle tank, a European fighter aircraft system, and the Euro drone, to name just three examples. Reducing technological and industrial dependence without falling into national vanity is the order of the day.
These developments must be accompanied by the development of new skills. This includes a readily available EU intervention force. The “EU Rapid Deployment Capability” envisaged in the Strategic Compass with 5,000 troops could be used abroad for rescue and evacuation missions, a lesson learned from the hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan.
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All our activities in the EU are not about duplicating NATO’s capabilities. Rather, it is about significantly complementing them and thus strengthening the European pillar within NATO. The transatlantic alliance is and will continue to be the basis for the collective defense of its members.
With a more effective security and defense policy based on our foreign policy strengths as a soft power, the European Union can come closer to its own claim to act globally as a strategic partner and actor for peace. An indispensable prerequisite for this is a strong European Defense Union.