While there is no EU army and defence remains exclusively a matter for member states, the EU has recently taken big steps to boost defence co-operation.
Since 2016, there has been significant progress in the area of EU security and defence with several concrete EU initiatives to encourage cooperation and reinforce Europe’s capacity to defend itself. Read the overview of the latest developments.
High expectations for EU defence
Europeans expect the EU to guarantee security and peace. Three quarters (75%) are in favour of a common EU defence and security policy according to a special Eurobarometer on security and defence in 2017 and a majority (55%) were in favour of creating an EU army. More recently 68% of Europeans said they would like the EU to do more on defence (March 2018 Eurobarometer survey).
EU leaders realise that no EU country can tackle the current security threats in isolation. For example French President Macron called for a joint European military project in 2017, while German chancellor Merkel said “we ought to work on the vision of one day establishing a proper European army” in her address to the European Parliament in November 2018. Moving towards a security and defence union has been one of the priorities of the Juncker Commission.
Recent EU measures to boost defence cooperation
A common EU defence policy is provided for by the Treaty of Lisbon (Article 42(2) TEU). However, the treaty also clearly states the importance of national defence policy, including Nato membership or neutrality.
In recent years, the EU has begun to implement ambitious initiatives to provide more resources, stimulate efficiency, facilitate cooperation and support the development of capabilities:
- Permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) was launched in December 2017, and 25 EU countries are participating as of June 2019. It currently operates on the basis of 34 concrete projects with binding commitments including a European Medical Command, Maritime Surveillance System, mutual assistance for cyber-security and rapid response teams, and a Joint EU intelligence school.
- The European Defence Fund (EDF) was launched in June 2017. It is the first time the EU budget is used to co-fund defence cooperation and the fund should be part of the EU's next long-term budget (2021-2027). EDF will complement national investments and provide both practical and financial incentives for collaborative research, joint development and acquisition of defence equipment and technology.
- EU strengthened co-operation with NATO in 74 areas including cybersecurity, joint exercises and counter-terrorism.
- A plan to facilitate military mobility within and across the EU to make it possible for military personnel and equipment to act faster in response to crises.
- Making the financing of civilian and military missions and operations more effective. The EU currently has 16 such missions on three continents, with a wide range of mandates and deploying more than 6,000 civilian and military personnel.
- Since June 2017 there is a new command and control structure (MPCC) to improve the EU’s crisis management.
Spending more, spending better, spending together
At Nato's Wales summit in 2014, the EU countries that are members of Nato committed to spend 2% of their gross domestic product (GDP) on defence by 2024. The European Parliament has been calling on member states to live up to it.
NATO 2018 estimates show that only six countries (Greece, Estonia, the UK, Latvia, Poland and Lithuania) spent 2% of their GDP on defence.
However, building up EU defence is not only about spending more, but also about spending efficiently. EU countries collectively are the second largest defence spender in the world after the US but an estimated €26.4 billion is wasted every year due to duplication, overcapacity and barriers to procurement. As a result, more than six times as many defence systems are used in Europe than in the United States. This is where the EU can provide the conditions for countries to collaborate more.
If Europe is to compete worldwide, it will need to pool and integrate its best capabilities as it is estimated that by 2025 China will become the second largest defence spender in the world after the US.
The European Parliament’s position
The European Parliament has repeatedly called for fully using the potential of the Lisbon Treaty provisions to works towards a European defence union. It consistently supports more cooperation, increased investment and pooling resources to create synergies at EU level in order to better protect Europeans.
Apart from practical challenges, the EU needs to reconcile different traditions and different strategic cultures. Parliament believes that an EU white paper on defence would be a useful way to do it and underpin the development of a future EU defence policy.
NATO vs Russia: Dangerous games
It seems that the Black Sea has recently become more and more an arena of confrontation between NATO and Russia. Another confirmation of this was the large-scale military exercises Sea Breeze 2021, which were recently completed in the region, which Ukraine hosted, writes Alexi Ivanov, Moscow correspondent.
The Sea Breeze — 2021 exercises are the most representative in the entire history of their holding. They were attended by 32 countries, about 5,000 military personnel, 32 ships, 40 aircraft, 18 groups of ground and sea special forces from Ukraine, as well as NATO member and partner countries, including the United States.
The main venue for the exercises was Ukraine, which, for obvious reasons, considers this event as a military and partly political support for its sovereignty, primarily in view of the loss of Crimea and the military—political impasse in the Donbas. In addition, Kiev hopes that hosting such a large-scale event will contribute to the speedy integration of Ukraine into the Alliance.
A few years ago, the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation was a regular participant in this series of maneuvers. Then they worked out mainly humanitarian tasks, as well as interaction between the fleets of different states.
In recent years, the scenario of the exercises has changed significantly. Russian ships are no longer invited to them, and the development of actions to ensure air and anti — submarine defense and amphibious landings-typical naval combat operations-has come to the fore.
The scenario announced this year includes a large-scale coastal component and simulates a multinational mission to stabilize the situation in Ukraine and confront illegal armed groups supported by a neighboring state, no one particularly hides that Russia is meant by it.
For obvious reasons, the Russian Armed Forces followed these exercises very closely. And as it turned out, not in vain! The sea was patrolled by Russian warships, and Russian fighter jets were constantly in the sky.
As expected in Moscow, the NATO ships made several attempts to arrange provocations. Two warships-HNLMS Evertsen from Dutch Navy and the British HMS Defender tried to violate the territorial waters of Russia near the Crimea, referring to the fact that this is the territory of Ukraine. As you know, the West does not recognize the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014. Precisely, under this pretext, these dangerous maneuvers were carried out.
Russia reacted harshly. Under the threat of opening fire, foreign vessels had to leave the territorial waters of Russia. However, neither London nor Amsterdam admitted that this was a provocation.
According to the special representative of the NATO Secretary General for the countries of the South Caucasus and Central Asia, James Appathurai, the North Atlantic Alliance will remain in the Black Sea region to support its allies and partners.
"NATO has a clear position when it comes to freedom of navigation and the fact that Crimea is Ukraine, not Russia. During the incident with HMS Defender, NATO allies showed firmness in defending these principles, " Appathurai said.
In turn, British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said that British warships "will continue to enter the territorial waters of Ukraine." He called the route followed by the intruder destroyer the shortest international route from Odessa to Georgian Batumi.
"We have every right to freely pass through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international standards. We will continue to do so, " the high-ranking official stressed.
Moscow said that it would not allow such incidents in the future, and if necessary, it is ready to apply the "toughest and most extreme measures" to violators, although such a scenario is presented by Kremlin as "extremely undesirable" for Russia.
Many experts both in Russia and in the West immediately started talking about the potential threat of the 3rd World War, which in fact can flare up because of Ukraine. It is obvious that such forecasts are not beneficial to anyone: neither NATO nor Russia. Nevertheless, a belligerent and resolute attitude remains on both sides, which cannot but cause fear and concern among ordinary people.
Even after the end of Sea Breeze 2021, NATO continues to declare that they will not leave the Black Sea anywhere. This is already confirmed by the sending of new ships to the region.
Nevertheless, the question remains open: is the North Atlantic Alliance ready to take extreme measures against Russia under the pretext of protecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, which is still persistently denied admission to NATO?
Strategic Compass is controversial but better than indifference says Borrell
EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels today (12 July) discussed the EU ‘Strategic Compass’. EU High Representative Josep Borrell said that it was both an important and controversial initiative, adding: “I don't care if it is controversial, I prefer to have controversies than indifferences.”
It is the first time the foreign ministers, rather than defence ministers, will have discussed this project which aims to strengthen the EU’s crisis management, resilience, partnerships and capabilities.
Strategic Compass is considered by the European External Action Service (EEAS) as one of the most important and ambitious projects in the field of EU security and defence. It is hoped that it can be finalized by March 2022, with a draft presented in November. It is hoped that EU states will provide clear political-strategic guidance on what they want the EU to achieve in this area in the next 5 to 10 years.
It will guide the use of instruments the EU has at its disposal, including the recently established European Peace Facility.
Trafficking of firearms: Commission launches public consultation to review EU rules on imports and exports of weapons
The Commission has launched a public consultation on the review of EU rules governing exports, imports and transit of civilian firearms, with the objective to close possible loopholes, which traffickers can use, and to simplify the legal framework for legal traders. All interested parties are invited to contribute until 11 October 2021. The results of the consultation will feed into the review of the rules, to improve traceability and exchange of information, and to increase the security of export and import control procedures. Firearms trafficking feeds organized crime within the EU and breeds political instability in the EU's neighbourhood. With the development of fast parcel delivery and of new technologies, trafficking of firearms is taking new forms to escape controls. At the same time, legal importers and exporters of firearms are faced with a wide variety of different rules across the EU. The initiative to review the current legislation is part of the EU Action plan on firearms trafficking for the period 2020 to 2025.
Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson (pictured) has also published a blog article today encouraging all interested parties to contribute to the consultation.
Brexit3 days ago
EU backs Ireland as UK searches for solutions to Northern Ireland Protocol dilemma
EU Reporter4 days ago
Summertime and the livin’ is… not always so easy
Energy3 days ago
US and Germany strike Nord Stream 2 pipeline deal to push back on Russian 'aggression'
coronavirus3 days ago
Ensuring smooth air travel while checking EU Digital COVID Certificates: New guidelines for member states
coronavirus3 days ago
Coronavirus: Commission steps up research funding with €120 million for 11 new projects to tackle the virus and its variants
Kazakhstan2 days ago
Voters go to rural polls for first time in Kazakhstan
coronavirus2 days ago
How the Delta variant upends assumptions about the coronavirus
Brexit3 days ago
UK's Johnson urges EU to consider post-Brexit proposals seriously