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H. Morin: “Defence Europe has been relaunched. Mission accomplished "

At the end of the Council of Defense Ministers, which was held on November 10, the French Minister who chaired the meeting, Hervé Morin commented on the main results of the meeting. (article published in Europolitics)

What is your assessment of this Council?
Relaunching European defense was one of the presidency's priorities. This mission is fulfilled. On Monday, we signed a set of agreements and letters of intent, as never before. This is significant progress in strengthening our military capabilities. And the European Summit in December will confirm this progress.

Defense Europe is about to become an adult then?
Yes. You have to realize that the Europe of defense is something new. Barely ten years old. Europe was built on the idea of ​​renouncing the traditional elements of power. And, since the failure of the European Defense Community, it was little mentioned in the mouths of politicians. For the convinced Europeans that I am, we can consider that things are not going fast enough. But today the Europeans have proven their ability to carry out autonomous operations. The Atalanta operation that we are launching in the fight against piracy, off the coast of Somalia, proves this. The European Defense Agency, created in 2004, which until now had a limited workload, will experience a real work programme. We are moving forward on symbolic subjects such as a common fleet of A400Ms, or the military Erasmus, a maritime mine clearance program, an EU maritime surveillance network.

To what do you attribute these advances?
Has a real will found. When two or three leading countries commit to a program, it finds its momentum and momentum. When I have been touring capitals for a year, with my British, German, Spanish or I had felt this will to act. We had a lot of political agreements but more reluctance on the side of the politico-military structures. The intuition of the President of the Republic (Nicolas Sarkozy) not to oppose Defense Europe and Alliance played a major role. This caused other developments. As long as the Europeans saw in the ESDP a possible weakening of the Alliance, Defense Europe could not move quickly. If the Poles have so much drive today on the ESDP, that's also why. And then, there is a European awareness that we must ensure part of our security ourselves.

Can we speak of a Saint Malo bis? Since even the British today seem less reluctant to European defense.
Saint Malo was a political declaration that had to be implemented. Today, we have worked on real concrete and pragmatic progress. The British have long reproached us for making cathedrals without content. During our presidency, we tried to show them the need for a Europe of defense through specific advances, concrete projects. Bricks laid little by little that form a whole. With the political lifting by the President of the Republic of the incompatibility between NATO and European defense, a lock has been lifted. It is indisputable. And the result is there: for the first time, in the fight against piracy, the British will command a military operation. It is a beautiful symbol of the evolution of European defense and its transition to adulthood.

Isn't the momentum of the French presidency in danger of being broken, however, over the following presidencies, it is clear that the Czechs are not enthusiastic about the subject.
… In the following presidencies, there are also Sweden and Spain, which are extremely active on European defence. I trust. There is a dynamic that has been created.

If you had to choose only one subject, among these advances, which one is the most important to you?
The military Erasmus is a beautiful symbol. We are going to move towards the creation of a European culture, a factor of interoperability and a military awareness for the future military elites.

And in industrial matters?
I will cite the “European fleet” project, based on the Airbus A400M. With this plane, we will have done everything together: design and build it, train the pilots, ensure joint maintenance, and finally operate it together. Whatever difficulties we may have, this is proof that Europeans can play an industrial role.

Precisely in terms of difficulties, EADS keeps announcing delays?
We are currently in discussions with Eads on aircraft specifications and delivery times. What we want is a commitment on a delivery date. We will then see for the compensations.

Another subject: the Congo. Europe has decided not to intervene, while the situation is deteriorating and several NGOs are asking it to send reinforcements for MONUC, what do you think?

We don't need additional troops. Because there are already significant resources at MONUC: 16 men, about 000 planes. It would be really quite curious to send European troops to supervise those of the United Nations. The important thing is rather that the UN reorganizes its forces and redeploys. And there is also a political effort to be made with neighboring countries.

The Russians have just announced the renewal of their missiles in Kaliningrad. Isn't this likely to be a new source of tension?
We haven't talked about it in the Council. But in general, it is time to build a partnership of trust between Europeans and Russians. We have the same culture, the same literature, the same history in part. We bathed in the same European bath. We must build a reliable, lasting relationship with the Russians. Europeans have everything to gain in a country that has the energy and raw materials we need and in a customer that needs equipment and technology. And the Russians have as much interest as us in forging this strategic partnership, of trust, with the Europeans, to ensure their economic development and peace on the continent.

And this partnership must also include the pact on security, proposed by Medvedev?
Yes. In this partnership, security will play a role.


Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).