The Long Road Toward a More Integrated Defence in the EU

Employment and Social Affairs

The European Union started a process of closer cooperation in security and defence. Recently, 23 Member States agreed to step up the EU work in this area. They also acknowledged that enhanced coordination, increased investment and cooperation in developing defence capabilities are key requirements to achieve significant results in the field.

In mid-February, during the security conference held in Munich, the president of the EU Commission, Jean–Claude Juncker, urged to simplify the decision-making processes in the Union defence and security policy. “We want to emancipate ourselves in defence and security policy issues” he said, adding that this didn’t mean to be against NATO or the United States. To reach this objective, it is crucial for the EU Member States to spend more, and in a more effective and coordinated way, when it comes to security and defence issues.

Toward this key objective for the future of Europe, the European Defence Fund has been set as a crucial instrument in order to help Member States to spend money more efficiently and to reduce duplications in spending. The Fund will coordinate, supplement and amplify national investments in the defence research, in the development of prototypes and in the acquisition of defence equipment and technology.

The European Defence Fund has basically two strands: research; development and acquisition. For the first section of activities, 90 million euro will be placed until the end of 2019 and 500 million euro per year after 2020. In 2018, the Commission will propose a dedicated EU defence research programme with an estimated annual budget of 500 million euro, making the EU one of the biggest defence research investors in Europe. As regard development and acquisition, the EU allocated 500 million euro in total for 2019 and 2020 and 1 billion euro per year after 2020.

A more substantial programme will be prepared for the post–2020, when it will leverage national financing by 5 times. The programme could therefore generate a total investment in defence capability development of 5 billion euro per year after 2020. Thus, after many years of divisions, the European Union succeeds in creating a defence research fund. This is a decisive result to better coordinate the expenses, although still a lot should be done.

While applauding the new EU initiative, the NATO Secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, declared in Munich that it is important to “also highlight that we need to avoid duplication” between EU and NATO. “This is not about an alternative to NATO,” he said “this is about strengthening the European pillar within NATO”. The United States and NATO have pushed the European nations to spend more on defence and to take more responsibility for European security for years. By 2024, Jens Stoltenberg said, at least 15 of NATO’s 29 member nations are expected to hit the collective goal of spending at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defence.

On one hand, this is a real development toward an enhanced role of the EU in security and defence, but on the other hand the EU should be more coordinated in its common foreign policy. Without this key development there is no room for a real common defence, but just for some useful integration of the defence industry and of the research and development. Also on this side, it is crucial to have coordination among Member States when it comes to the new post–2020 Multiannual financial framework, that the Commission will present in May 2018.

“Here again we have a choice: either we pursue the European Union’s ambitions in the strict framework of the existing budget, or we increase the European Union’s budgetary capacity so that it might better reach its ambitions”, EU Commission president highlighted.

To reach those important objectives, it is necessary to coordinate the priorities and to have a broader consensus among Members States. In any case, making sure that the increase in the budget for defence and security will not damage other key areas for the social needs of the European citizens. In the end, a common defence is not just a matter of more money but it is a matter of a coordinated approach on foreign policy.

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