Defense Europe, a priority
The 27 will ensure their security all the more effectively if they find the way to pool their expertise and know-how.
On 1 and 2 October in Deauville, the 27 European defense ministers set out the new objectives for Defense Europe. Overwhelmingly approved by 80% of Europeans according to opinion polls, this is above all a pragmatic structure based on concrete projects. Advances are possible because we have cleared up the misunderstandings: we are not building Defense Europe in opposition to NATO. Through his statements on the areas where the European Union and NATO complement each other, President Sarkozy has enabled us to find fresh impetus.
To revitalize Defense Europe, progress is needed in three areas. First, we want the EU to maintain and develop a genuine industrial capability in order to be autonomous, as we have done for the A400M – the military transport plane. This requires sharing our skills and not each State wanting to do everything on its own. At a time when national defense budgets are increasingly constrained, we must become more efficient and streamline Europeans’ efforts and financial investment. It is also with joint research programmes that we will encourage the emergence of a genuine defense technological and industrial base in Europe.
Secondly, we want to set a genuine European ambition for force projection. The goal is well known: to be capable of deploying our European soldiers in theatres of operations which can be close to our borders, as in the Balkans, or on other continents, as for our operation in Chad, Central African Republic. To be more capable of achieving this, our armed forces must be able to work together upstream, which necessitates strengthening our cooperation on training and exercises, as well as equipment.
Finally Defense Europe is intimately linked to the emergence of a common foreign policy. The EU is now capable of speaking with a single voice on a number of matters of shared interest, as it succeeded in doing in the Georgia crisis. Let’s not forget that barely ten years ago the very expression “Defense Europe” was still taboo. Today, substantial progress has been made and we have been able to conduct together 20 or so civilian and military operations under the European Security and Defense Policy. Today, Europeans are actively contributing to crisis management and peacekeeping.
Similarly, because the situation demanded it, the European Union acted fast and in September launched NAVCO, a naval coordination action to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia. We are concurrently preparing a European military operation. But we will also be able to show that we are capable of terminating our mission in Bosnia, once the military objectives have been achieved.
The progress amassed in Deauville paves the way for important advances in many concrete projects. At the capability level, we have laid the foundations for a multinational airlift fleet, based on the A400M. Similarly, we are going to strengthen our naval cooperation by providing for the establishment, if need be, of a European carrier-based air group. We are also going to develop our collective intelligence capabilities, particularly through new European space observation capabilities. Finally, we have agreed to modernize together our helicopter fleets, with the programme including an important pilot training component so that the helicopters can be deployed in the most demanding theatres of operation.
In the industrial sphere, we are supporting the creation of a genuine internal defense equipment market. For this, the French presidency is encouraging the adoption of new European rules facilitating the transfer of defence equipment between Member States and further liberalizing defense procurement markets through two Community directives which have long been under discussion. This also necessitates an increased role for the European Defense Agency, particularly for conducting European research and armaments programmes, such as those for future heavy helicopters and maritime demining.
Finally, we are forging a military and public awareness of the need for European defence, a European defence "conscience", through initiatives on military training, since – drawing inspiration from the Erasmus programme – we are keen to implement exchanges between young European officers, on coordinating evacuations of European nationals and on surveillance of European maritime areas.
We are convinced that progress will be made on Defense Europe only through concrete achievements, rather than institutional debates. It is by pooling our expertise and know-how that we will be able both to ensure our security and influence world affairs more effectively. Europe has a common future, a common destiny. It must ensure its security./.
Hervé Morin and Javier Solana
original version in French available here : L’Europe de la défense, une priorité