In favour of a European fund for security or crisis management?

(BRUXELLES 2, editorial). Budgetary constraints, capability gaps and funding problems will not disappear tomorrow by some miracle. In Europe, we will have to get used to annual defense budgets representing around 1% rather than 2% (target set by NATO) of GDP. This will force a change in attitude and require new mechanisms. We have to innovate. For instance, why not set up a European fund for security (EFS) and defense (EFSD) or for crisis management (EFCM)? The aim would be to have permanent funding available for contingency military operations, battlegroups, capability gaps, etc.

Are there any precedents? 

To innovate does not necessarily mean to create something from scratch. A few arrangements already exist and the new mechanism could be based on them, at least as far as resources are concerned. The European Development Fund (EDF) is not part of the Community Budget and is funded by member states according to a sharing formula decided on at a European summit.  This budget is fixed for 5 years and amounts to € 22.7 billion for the 2008-2013 period. It is the main instrument for the cooperation and development policy. The European Globalization Adjustment Fund (EGAF) is part of the Community Budget, drawing on unused funds with a maximum of € 500 million per year to finance actions within the framework of redundancy schemes made necessary by globalization. As far as organization is concerned, a resources management mechanism already exists for military operations: the Athena mechanism, which provides for the financing of the common costs of the 4 current military operations (about € 45 million for 2013).

Where would the resources come from?

This new mechanism could be placed outside the Community Budget. In this respect, the EDF model is interesting. Its multi-annual programming is interesting too. But a characteristics of the EGAF could be added, i.e. the use of resources not spent. The sharing formula could be that of the Athena mechanism (or even that used for the EDF). There could also be a contribution from the Community Budget, for instance from the Preparatory Action Budget.

Who would participate in this fund?

To bypass a possible veto (without mentioning any names… J), voluntary contribution might be necessary. This could be done by adopting a flexible ad hoc or enhanced cooperation mechanism, or even by adopting the Permanent Structured Cooperation mechanism, which has the advantage of already being envisaged in the Lisbon Treaty and allows qualified majority decisions to be made once the fund has been created. The “In or Out” principle (as in the case of the European stability mechanism): those who do not provide finance cannot benefit from it…

The participation of the Weimar+ countries, of the Benelux countries, of East European countries and of Nordic countries could make the project possible. The participation of the United Kingdom could add complexity and might be excluded. That of neutral countries is worth their internal consideration but seems desirable as the majority of those countries make interesting contributions to the ECSDP. It could also be useful to associate the aspirant countries or the countries currently applying for membership (Albania, Serbia…) as they are likely to take a greater part in ECSDP missions. The implementation could be progressive: 8 to 10 countries to start with, and then more.

How would the decisions on expenditure be made ?

The decision-making process should not be based on the “one State/one vote” principle. This would prove destructive, giving power to countries that make only small contributions to the detriment of the biggest contributors. From the unanimous vote, which makes each item of expenditure dependent on the willingness of any one State, to the qualified majority, which makes it possible to deny the will of a significant minority, there is a wide range of solutions for reconciling the rapidity of decision with the respect for sovereignty, i.e. efficiency with responsibility.

One principle could be to adopt a varied approach depending on the amounts committed: for some amounts (less than a million euro or less than 500,000 euros), the majority could simply be qualified. It could be super-qualified for greater amounts. Some decisions could even require unanimity. A State should be allowed not to vote (vote à la carte) if it deems that engagement in a region or for a specific action does not meet some of its constitutional commitments or national security requirements (for neutral countries for instance).

What would this fund finance?

This fund could finance:

  • specific common capabilities in the framework of the missions (command, communications…), a bit like the Athena mechanism today;
  • the recurring gaps in operations, such as medical support, force protection;
  • part of the battlegroups’ training or projection capabilities (transport…). Indeed, it is acknowledged that when there are operations, the financial barrier prevents countries having capabilities from offering them because they don’t have a single penny to send soldiers, for instance;
  • specific industrial and operational projects developed by the European Defence Agency (as was the case for the counter-IED laboratory for instance or for the field hospital). This would strongly encourage countries to take the lead of these projects;
  • contingency requirements. The list of fundable activities should be sufficiently flexible to adapt to new conditions or threats. UAVs or anti-cyber capabilities could for example be urgently needed in the framework of a European mission. In such a case, it is necessary not to lose time;
  • lastly, it is not unreasonable to think that this fund could also finance the sending of ad hoc military experts or planners, before a mission, for example to reinforce temporarily the European crisis management structures… 

What would be the amount of the fund?

I asked several persons about the amount available for this fund. Taking into account the fact that this fund would include common budgets, the amount might lie between € 300 and 500 million per year. This represents about 0.1 to 0.2 % of the member States’ defense budget.
The planning period should not be annual but rather multi-annual, with a duration of 3 to 5 years. A 5-year period corresponds to the European institutions’ turnover. But it seems too long to make the necessary adjustments. A 3-year (or 2 x 3-year) period might be preferable. This would give a budget of 1 to 1.5 billion euro, depending on the amount available.

How about the unused expenses? 
The reuse rule of the globalization fund could apply: any budget that has not been used during the year could be carried forward to the next year. At the end of the planning period, it could be either paid back to the member States or used for selected EU activities (equipment…), or both.

Nicolas Gros-Verheyde

Rédacteur en chef du site B2. Diplômé en droit européen de l'université Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne et auditeur 65e session IHEDN (Institut des hautes études de la défense nationale. Journaliste depuis 1989, fonde B2 - Bruxelles2 en 2008. Correspondant UE/OTAN à Bruxelles pour Sud-Ouest (auparavant Ouest-France et France-Soir).