Blog AnalysisEU Defense (Doctrine)Interview

(Interview) with Karl Von Wogau: a White Paper to prepare for a new stage

(BRUSSELS2) Karl Von Wogau (KVW) drew the curtain on almost 20 years spent in the European Parliament. July 15 was his last session… Well, not quite. Because, at 68 years old, he is one of those "unbeatable" Europeans, sometimes so much mocked, but oh so necessary, who, far from being ideologues, seek progress with pragmatism...

Karl Von Wogau therefore leaves his MEP office on rue Wiertz in Brussels to occupy a few meters further, continuing on this path by occupying another office, that of his Foundation for European Security which he is launching (1). A Foundation which will have the task of thinking about Defense Europe in the future, with the drafting of a White Paper.

And to fill this “Book”, there is no shortage of ideas: spending better in Europe on defense, sharing certain common equipment, particularly in certain strategic areas: communications, transport, research, training. To do this, we must not just carry out a few industrial projects together, but move to the next step, at higher speed: jointly define and jointly certify. We should also not hesitate to pool certain operational bodies (such as the European gendarmerie) or command centers (Euromarfor, etc.).

• Five years at the head of the Defense Committee of the European Parliament. What assessment?

KVW – We need to spend better in the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP). With 27 defense budgets totaling 200 billion Euros, we only reach half of the American budget (and again thanks to the current rate of the Euro). As for the real capacities, they are less than half. Because we spend a lot of money on personnel. With two million soldiers, we should reach at least 3% of troops on external missions, or 60 men really available (from the EU). It is also necessary to closely examine the equipment of the troops; and, for what is expensive, find shared facilities. The objective is not to create a European army. But to have a common command structure and the necessary equipment to carry out civil and military operations (of the ESDP).

• If I give you four priority playing cards, which do you draw?

KVW – 1° Satellites, the communications. We have made great progress by allowing a common availability of photos taken with Sar-lupe, Helios, as with Cosmo/Skymed. And the fact that the EP insisted on launching Galileo, with €3,4 billion in funding, is vital for the future.

2° The transportation (tactical, strategic). It is truly a necessity to have the A400M. We can not emphasize this enough. The additional cost and delay is regrettable. But it is a necessary program. If it is not achieved, it will not be better, it will be worse. It's like Galileo, these are programs which guarantee European autonomy, are part of our strategic capacity to act. Helicopters also need to be developed. We cannot relive the situation of Eufor Chad, when the rich European Union needed the Russians – “a necessary evil” – to have the number of helicopters necessary for the mission…

security research. We have 1,3 billion euros in European budget planning. The protection of external borders and protection of critical infrastructure, such as nuclear power plants, is essential.

Les Hommes. You have to be prepared to manage operations, like in Georgia, where 300 observers had to be on site in a short time. It was a feat but difficult. In this type of situation, it is therefore necessary to have well-prepared contingents. Structures like the European Gendarmerie could be used in this type.

• Are you in favor of strengthening this type of European structure?

KVW – Yes absolutely. I am for strengthening Vincenza. We would have structures like Vincenza and the Eurocorps, and the Euromarfor (maritime command structure in Florence), for the maritime aspect which is very important – if only for the protection of the coasts…, that would be good.

• Are joint projects more expensive?

KVW – It's true. We have a European agency to manage the projects: Occar (the Joint Organization for Cooperation in Armaments). But the definition of projects remains at the national level. Each administration defines specifications different; this does not facilitate rapid implementation, and leads to additional costs. Is it necessary that the 2000 people at the DGA (general armaments delegation), and their equivalent in Germany and the United Kingdom do the same thing? Is it necessary to have several national certifications for the same product built in common.

In some projects, this can be up to 20% of the cost of a project. For the NH 90 helicopter, 11 certifications are required, which has a cost – 4 billion euros. We must move on to the next stage: not only to achieve in common, but to define in common and to certify in common. We need common standards.

• You are launching your foundation, what is its primary objective?

KVW – A proposal for a white paper that would continue the ideas I put forward in my last report on European strategy, space and security. We want to examine the impact of the measures taken under the French presidency. And see what joint projects to carry out. We will therefore have to see how the very recent European directive on public purchasing works; important because it allows the creation of an internal market in defense. (In both cases), the role of the European Defense Agency is important.

• How will you work?

KVW – For me, the model is the French White Paper, with first a public debate, and the organization of a series of round tables on several subjects: common interests, command structures, necessary equipment (especially those too expensive to be financed by a single Member State)... By the end of the year (2009), we want to publish a first paper to frame the debate. The white paper would be published at the end of 2010. But the Foundation will remain a fairly light structure. With specialists who will come to strengthen us. Thus General Kugat (former German Chief of Staff) will chair a working group on threats and common interests (environment, etc.).

• So you really believe in the ESDP, isn't it an illusion as one of my colleagues said?

KVW – Throughout my political life, I have preferred to work on projects that had more than a 50% chance of being carried out. When I worked on the internal market or the Euro, there were criticisms – remember Grenspan who said that this currency would never exist or that it would disappear… Defense Europe will be made. I believe it.

(1) The Foundation is co-chaired by Karl Von Wogau and Guy Teissier, and includes former Belgian Prime Minister Leo Tindemans (PPE/CD&V), Spanish MEP Inigo Mendez de Vigo (PPE-DE), and the German lawyer Barbara Rapp-Jung. Javier Solana, at the end of his mandate (end of October) could join her.

NB: interview conducted face-to-face on July 15, 2009

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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).