Terrorism, hybrid threats and cyber- and energy insecurity leave EU countries no choice but to step up their security and defence cooperation efforts, thus paving the way to a European Defence Union, say MEPs in a resolution passed on Tuesday. They suggest devoting 2% of GDP to defence, establishing multinational forces and EU headquarters to plan and command crisis management operations, and enabling the EU to act where NATO is unwilling to do so.
Today during the plenary session MEP Dubravka Šuica, Vice-Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, said: ˝In any case we need to improve military cooperation within the EU to make Europe safer. The Lisbon Treaty requires Member States to ensure adequate capacity for civil and military missions and operations for common security and defense policy. Maybe it's just the right time for more political will in order to move into the construction of a European Security and Defence Union, although some Member States see the idea as a threat to their national sovereignty. One should know by now that America was the main contributor to the budget and spent on defense more than any other NATO member. According to the European Defence Agency the total amount that Europeans spend on defense is less than half of what Americans spend. By strengthening the defence industry we would reduce the fragmentation of the market and strengthen the strategic position of the EU.˝
Better cooperation with NATO also is part of a common defense security policy, but is also important in light of the US elections. NATO and the EU are strategic partners - of the 28 EU member states, 22 countries are also members of NATO and have common interests and challenges. Headquarters of both organizations are located in Brussels, and greater cooperation to revitalize transatlantic relations.
The security situation in and around Europe has worsened significantly in recent years, due to challenges like terrorism, hybrid threats or cyber and energy insecurity, that no country is able to tackle alone, says a resolution on the European Defence Union, approved by 369 votes to 255 and 70 abstentions. “Solidarity and resilience require the EU to stand and act together,” it says.
Pool military resources
MEPs want the EU to respond faster and more robustly to real threats, which, they say, demand that Europe’s armed forces work together better. Duplication, overcapacity and barriers to defence procurement result currently in annual waste of €26.4 billion, they say.
MEPs call on member states to pursue joint purchases of defence resources, and to pool share of non-lethal material such as transport vehicles or aircraft. They suggest introducing a “European Defence Semester, whereby member states would consult each other’s planning and cycles and procurement plans” and advocate strengthening the European Defence Agency’s coordination role.
The resolution asks the European Council to lead the creation of “common Union defence policy and to provide additional financial resources ensuring its implementation.”
An EU headquarters should be set up to plan and command crisis management operations, say MEPs. EU member states should aim to spend 2% of GDP on defence and should establish “multinational forces within the Permanent Structured Cooperation and make these forces available to the common security and defence policy”, they add.
EU support for defence research
MEPs back the proposed EU investment in defence-related research projects “of at least 90 million euro during next three years”, suggesting that this should be followed up by a separate European Defence Research Programme with an annual budget of €500 million.
Full synergy with NATO
MEPs stress that the EU and NATO should cooperate more, particularly in the east and the south, to countering hybrid and cyber threats, improve maritime security and develop defence capabilities. However, the EU should also be prepared to act autonomously in cases where NATO is not willing to take the lead, MEPs add.
Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) review
The EU “should be able to intervene across the whole spectrum of crisis management, including crisis prevention and crisis resolution”, while “all Council decisions on future missions and operations should prioritise engagements in conflicts directly affecting EU security”, says the text.
The resolution suggests launching a CSDP training operation in Iraq to support member states involved in the coalition against Daesh. MEPs also urge the Council to set up a start-up fund for the initial phases of military operations.
The resolution was passed by 386 votes to 237, with 74 abstentions.