Evolution and future of European defense
I’m delighted to be at this joint hearing, which enables me to discuss with you a subject particularly close to my heart: European defence. As you know, I’ve made this issue one of the three priorities of my work at the Defence Ministry, alongside success with the reform and the strengthening of France’s industrial and technological base.
In 2008, the White Paper on Defence and National Security reaffirmed our defence policy’s European dimension by establishing very clearly that it fits into two complementary frameworks which can now mutually reinforce each other: the Atlantic Alliance and the European Union. (…)
Today more than ever, this European dimension remains a fundamental priority of our foreign and defence policy. Indeed, it plays a role in our ambition to build a political Europe. The EU can’t carry its full weight in global stability unless it’s supported by a defence capability. Defence Europe is an essential condition for the political Europe our hearts are set on.
This priority is also a realistic goal: in a world that’s less predictable than ever, Europe can’t be alone in giving up its means of contributing to international security and ensuring its own defence. The threats are new and various, whether they be terrorism, cyberattacks or proliferation.
Ultimately it’s a necessity: in view of the defence budget cuts by all the big countries, Europeans must coordinate their efforts in order to increase, together, the overall efficiency of military spending. If European policy has any meaning it’s right now, when resources are limited. (…)
We must make the best use of the resources available, by seeking joint solutions for sharing and pooling capabilities, synergies between our armed forces, economies of scale and increases in productivity, wherever this is possible and useful. That’s the whole spirit of the commitments made by the 27 heads of State and government in December 2008, during the French presidency.
A few advances have been made in the past two years: I’m thinking particularly of the creation in September 2010 of the European Air Transport Command (EATC). This progress is still insufficient, however, given that our partners don’t all have the same awareness of the challenges and consequently the same political will to make progress on Defence Europe. Faced with the crisis, the temptation more than ever is to pull back.
What can France do? We’ve chosen to emphasize all the concrete areas for cooperation, at different levels: bilaterally, or among a few, or all 27 together.
With the Franco-British treaty, signed on 2 November last year – aimed at organizing unprecedented long-term defence cooperation between our armed forces and our respective defence industries, which represent more than 75% of Europe’s capability – we crossed an important threshold. Among other things, we decided to retain a missile capability and work together on developing a combat UAV. I recently met my British counterpart, Liam Fox, and I’m happy to say working groups comprising the chiefs of staff are gradually being established. We set a date for a meeting this summer to gauge the progress made in the areas of deterrence, force projection and UAVs.
We’re also working with our German partners, even though the situation is more difficult. Capacity issues will be at the heart of my discussions with my opposite number, Mr Zu Guttenberg, on 3 March.
This bilateral cooperation doesn’t rule out progress among all 27, even though that’s always harder to achieve. That’s why we’ve started a discussion in the European bodies about sharing and pooling the Member States’ defence capabilities, particularly in the framework of the EDA [European Defence Agency]. (…)
This doesn’t mean we’re setting out to compete with either the United States or NATO: quite the contrary. In certain fields, cooperation in capability terms must also be sought. (…)
This action to relaunch European defence will only bear fruit completely if we can develop a common political will and a shared vision of the European Union’s strategic positioning.
The EU must first of all define a clear policy towards its big neighbours, chief among them being Russia and the southern shore of the Mediterranean. (…)
Like NATO, the European Union must strengthen its strategic dialogue with Russia, with which it has a relationship of interdependence. President Sarkozy repeated this to President Medvedev in Deauville on 18 October last year: over the next 15 years, we must succeed in building a common economic, human and security area. The Astana Summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) was a milestone on this path. Of course Russia is still a difficult partner and her position may depend on the political tendency being expressed, but we mustn’t lose sight of our common, long-term security interests.
As regards the southern shore of the Mediterranean, the upheavals under way in Egypt and Tunisia can only be a wake-up call for Europe: we must think about a common approach to the democratization and development of the countries in the region. (…)
WEIMAR TRIANGLE/COMMON SECURITY AND DEFENCE POLICY
Beyond dialogue with our big neighbours, France is fighting and will continue to fight to bring about a shared European political will. It’s a difficult battle, because not all the countries share the belief that Europe must be a political and military power capable of contributing to global stability.
Above all, the initiative must come from the Member States: Defence Europe remains an intergovernmental policy and the States’ willingness is essential.
That’s the whole spirit of the letter which we – Michèle Alliot-Marie and our German and Polish counterparts – sent Mrs Ashton at the end of December. This initiative by the Weimar Triangle countries proposes specific orientations for the coming months: improving the ability to plan and implement European operations, strengthening joint tactical rapid-reaction task forces – an important element of our forces’ modernization – reinforcing European military capabilities through new methods of pooling or sharing that enable us to optimize the use of our resources, and strengthening cooperation between the Atlantic Alliance and the European Union on both the operational and capacity levels. (…)
Over the coming months, I’ll do everything to achieve a concrete relaunch of the CSDP [Common Security and Defence Policy] that can lead to a European Council devoted to defence issues at the end of the year, under the Polish presidency. Poland also supports this initiative. Like Germany and France, she believes it would be a good opportunity to give fresh impetus to Defence Europe. (…)
Q. – (on the Franco-British defence agreement and military cooperation in general)
THE MINISTER – The Franco-British agreement is based on the simple acknowledgement that our two countries are at the heart of the European defence system, but that their budgets in this field are ever more limited. The United Kingdom today seems fully prepared to cooperate with France. She’s abandoned vertical take-off on her aircraft carriers in favour of the French catapult system. Cooperation with France also enables her more effectively to assert the autonomy of her nuclear deterrence in relation to the United States. Other subjects are at the preliminary discussion phase, particularly in the fields of mine warfare, support for the A400M and the missile industry. (…)
EUROPEAN “SPIRIT OF DEFENCE”
Q. – (on possible lack of “spirit of defence” at European level and Franco-British military cooperation)
THE MINISTER – (…) There is no European spirit of defence; the question also arises about a French spirit of defence, which we strive to encourage. You’re right: it’s a major challenge. I can’t understand why our fellow French and European citizens aren’t more aware of how dangerous the world we’re living in is. From the Middle East to Pakistan, in the Sahel region and south of the Mediterranean, the world is neither peaceful nor predictable. This is an opportunity to spur Europe into action and explain that we don’t have the right to lower our guard in the face of new threats, cyberattacks, proliferation and terrorism. So I don’t despair of bringing out this spirit of defence – a task which is incumbent upon the governments of the major European countries. (…)./.