The Munich Security Conference (MSC) has become the major global forum for the discussion of security policy. Over the past weekend, it brought together more than 450 leaders and decision-makers from around the world, including heads-of-state, ministers, leading personalities of international and non-governmental organizations, as well as high ranking representatives of industry, media, academia, and civil society, to engage in an intensive debate on current and future security challenges.
Part of the conference was used by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to persuade European leaders to make the biggest revamp of the continent’s defense in years. The Alliance urged the EU to cooperate closely with non-EU allies as the UK is trying to keep its leverage in the region’s security after it exits the bloc. The push came when Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s Secretary-General, warned that after Brexit, the EU alone wouldn’t be able to ensure European security. British Prime Minister Theresa May said that Britain was committed to contributing to European defense and security but urged Brussels to make sure that the EU’s interests were protected.
In addition to some modest increases in national military budgets, the bloc has created a defense research fund which it says should provide €5.5 billion a year in financing after 2020. Brussels has also launched a long-frozen common defense mechanism aimed at identifying and developing critical common defense assets. The fund does not directly block funding for non-EU firms involved in cross-border defense projects with European partners, though the funding is expected to focus mainly on firms within the bloc.
Speaking at the conference, Mr. Stoltenberg said that while the Alliance remains positive about Europe’s defense plans, but it was key to avoid duplication of the organization’s plans. He also added that with 80% of NATO budget coming from outside the bloc once Britain leaves in March 2019, the EU needed to cooperate closely with non-NATO allies, like Norway, Turkey and Britain.