Joost VAN IERSEL et Edouard SIMON
European Economic and Social Committee & PhD student, member of Confrontations Europe Board of Directors
Two months ago, Jean-Claude Juncker told German weekly Welt am Sonntag that “with its own army, Europe could react more credibly to the threat to peace in a member state or in a neighbouring state”. Obviously, the creation of a European army is an essential prerequisite to the international credibility of the European Union, as it is clear that well-equipped military forces will continue to play a key role in international relations going forward (especially with countries like Russia, China and the USA). The geopolitical situation offers no valid alternatives. However, while the creation of a European army is a legitimate and very welcome objective, it has to be said in all honesty that it is a long-term goal that can only be achieved through a challenging political process. All the same, time is of the essence. In this article, we will discuss the groundwork needed to make this goal possible.
First of all, it is important to point out that the creation of a European army is contingent upon in-depth changes to both European and national foreign policy. The European Security and Defence Policy is based on the principle that defence capability is only one aspect of foreign policy, and the Member States tend to adhere to this principle too. So it would be rather odd if the Union were to create an integrated defence force in clear contradiction to the foreign policies of its Member States. At present, the EU’s foreign policy is too often shackled by the unwieldy and prohibitive unanimous voting rule. But let’s be clear: it would be wrong to believe that national foreign policies can be integrated into a single framework without, at the same time, stepping up military and arms cooperation. Such cooperation would firmly establish the credibility of the Union’s foreign policy. In the absence of unanimity, we suggest that the first step should be to strengthen cooperation, with France and Germany leading the way.
Furthermore, the creation of a European army must be tied to a global project to increase European integration. It seems obvious to us that security and defence cooperation is closely linked with economic cooperation, and that they should be reinforced simultaneously. These two areas – which are both prerogatives of public power – will become mutually stronger if Europe’s Member States and citizens are given the means to engage actively in a global world. It should be pointed out that the Eurozone provides a natural basis for developing defence cooperation in the future. The same applies to energy cooperation and, ultimately, the creation of an energy union.
What is needed is a revival of political will driven (i) by the recognition that we are all united in a common destiny and (ii) by a geopolitical approach to the world. Therefore, a clear roadmap is needed to strengthen the bonds of trust between the Member States, which have been weakened by the Eurozone crisis and the resulting tensions. The purpose of this roadmap should be to enforce commitments and promote effective solidarity. A forward-looking roadmap reliable over the short and medium term is an absolute necessity in the areas of defence, security and foreign policy. In fact, it is a prerequisite to the reinforcement of all joint projects.
And finally, what better way to conclude than by appealing to all the Member States that want to see the European Union tackle strategic and defence issues to face their responsibilities and re-establish and reinforce the bond of trust and credibility that underlies the unity between Europeans and forms the foundation of their lives together.
Preparatory action for defence and security research (PADSR)
In December 2013, the European Council gave its backing to a preparatory action for defence and security research. The purpose of the PADSR is to determine, through a series of pilot projects, the extent to which future Framework Programmes for Research and Innovation (currently Horizon 20) will be able to finance research in these areas.
The initiative is of vital importance. Indeed, the figures collected by the European Defence Agency are shocking. From 2006 to 2013, the combined defence and security budgets of the Member States (excluding Denmark) dropped by almost 25%, and investment in R&T (Research and Technology) fell by over 20%. Over the same period, the same Member States cut back their investments in joint R&T projects by virtually 50%, reflecting a growing movement of retrenchment and a focus on purely national priorities.
These massive cuts are cause for concern in two respects. Firstly, the global competitiveness of European defence industries is directly linked to their levels of investment. Secondly (and perhaps most importantly) the strategic independence of the Member States is directly linked to their industrial capacity.
So we need to act quickly if we are to maintain the strategic independence of Europe’s countries.
Joost VAN IERSEL and Edouard SIMON