European Defense Cooperation: Speak the Truth, Act Now

Written by | Monday, January 4th, 2016

Thomas Pellerin-Carlin and Emmett Strickland (Notre Europe – Jacques Delors Institute)

Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) is among the European Union’s youngest areas of competence. Although it has seen numerous successes since it obtained its legal status in the Treaty of Nice fifteen years ago, such as the Operation Artemis in Congo, the lack of political will significantly undermines the potential of this policy to ensure that the Union has adequate security facilities when faced with various crises. Especially in recent years, the situation has called for an enhanced cooperation between Member States in the areas of security and defense. The Russian invasion of Ukraine, the civil war in Syria, the threat of the Islamic state in the Middle East or the escalation in Israeli-Palestinian relations – these and other problems suggest that Europe is literally surrounded by war. Conflicts of this kind combined with poor environmental conditions in African countries also contribute to significant migratory pressures that Europe is faced with today and most likely also in the future.

The fundamental problem in further implementation of the CSDP stems from the cuts in the defense budget, which is in turn one of the consequences of the financial crisis that has affected the whole Europe. Restricting the flow of finance is not just about military personnel and equipment; austerity has also significantly affected technology research, which for the EU means a loss of strategic independence and narrowing down the space for innovation. In this regard, the European Commission therefore plans to finance the so-called dual-use technology through the European Development Fund, which can serve both civil and military purposes (eg drones). It is clear that defense spending needs to be increased again in the future throughout the Union in order to strengthen the military components at the EU and NATO level.

Experts from the security area agree that the Union should strengthen mutual cooperation in defense matters. The establishment of “the Security Council of the EU”, which would meet annually in the form of a European Council summit and focus solely on the issues of security and defense, is among the most interesting ideas. It is also desirable that the EU continues to use its military structures in foreign missions and thus could build on the successful cooperation of the units of individual Member States, as demonstrated by the operation EUTM-Mali. Other proposals include the creation of units designed to defend the Schengen borders or increase the budget for the European Defense Agency, under which joint research projects, purchases of military equipment and training of the so-called battle groups, could be carried out. However, the EU must primarily revamp its defense strategy, which should lead to the drawing up of a joint White Paper on Defense.

(The study can be downloaded here:

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