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Spanish Presidency 2010: interesting priorities for defence…

(BRUSSELS2) In a few weeks, Spain will take over the presidency of the European Union. We are starting to know some of its priorities (1), as Carmen Chacon, the Minister of Defense, presented them to some Spanish elected officials. We can be reassured. This presidency (like the current Swedish presidency and the following Belgian presidency) has made certain progress in terms of European defense and the common security and defense policy (PeSDC).

A stronger and more capable Europe

« We are committed to a European security and defense policy. » says Carme Chacon. For Spain, Europe should “ be stronger, more capable and more effective ". You have to show a Strong Europe, a more united and integrated Europe, which can take decisions effectively and also weigh in the world ". And to add: Building Europe means building peace, said Jean Monnet. Today, thanks to the progress the Union is making in defense and security, we can say that the words of Europe's founder are closer than ever to becoming a reality. »

Application of the Lisbon Treaty

The top priority of the Spanish Presidency for the CFSP, as in other areas, remains the implementation and application of the various provisions of the Lisbon Treaty. With this instrument, as Prime Minister Zapatero considers it: "the'Europe speaks with one voice in the world, but this time in a definitive way.' The work opened by the new Treaty is not small: high representative, structured, reinforced cooperation, avant-garde group, etc. (read: Lisbon Treaty: ESDP becomes PeSDC. A little more common?).

Innovation and equality

Two principles will guide this Spanish presidency: “innovation and equality”.


« Although we have made substantial progress in military-industrial research, we still have to improve our relationship with the civilian sector. We must also encourage innovation to achieve more efficient systems of logistics, procurement and design assures Carme Chacon. For Spain, innovation does not only concern industry. It is also about having a innovative momentum in operations, in doctrine, and how to act in increasingly complex scenarios involving multiple actors, including civilians, military, government agencies, and NGOs ».


All Member States are concerned. " The notion of security must also cover all EU countries, so that all European citizens feel protected in the same way."

Three priorities

Three priorities have been established for the Spanish presidency in this second semester: the institutional level; capacity building, and consolidation of the global approach in times of crisis.

1st priority. Institutional reform

Formal meetings of defense ministers

At the institutional level, with the new High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Spain also wants to strengthen the meetings of Defense Ministers. While these meetings for 10 years have been taking place informally, Spain would like to formalize them. " it seems reasonable for Union defense ministers to meet to discuss and take decisions on specific issues such as capacity building or monitoring of operations Considers Carme Chacon. " This will, among other things, facilitate the work of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, whose agenda is already saturated with questions of purely military or defense aspects”. Will they be chaired by the High Representative or the presidency rotating? The solution is not specified (in your opinion…)

2nd priority. Capacity building

More operational Battle groups with a European HQ

The Spanish priority intends to take up the torch of the (Swedish) presidency, and continue the work aimed at improving the mechanisms to facilitate the use of tactical groups or Battle groups (read:(Slightly) more flexible Battlegroups ). Spain thus intends to propose using the " EU Military Staff Operations Center as Headquarters in case these groups are activated ". " This would strengthen the Centre's capacity to plan and conduct operations, while one day the European Union will have its own Headquarters, which integrates civil and military capabilities to direct operations. ».

First debate on permanent structured cooperation

 If not, Spain wants to apply the new permanent structured cooperation provisions, at least to start the debate. Thereby "  countries that want it and meet certain requirements in terms of military capabilities will be able to put them together and improve efficiency in the management of any security crisis ". " With wisdom » the Spanish presidency does not envisage (only) « initial debates on the issue, allowing Member States to express their political vision on this new instrument for the future development of this cooperation ».

Renew the Headline goals

The “Headline Goal 2010” exercise is coming to an end in the second half of next year. Carme Chacon considers it necessary " to analyze achievements and reflect on its future ».

Boost the Defense Agency

Spain considers that “ the Agency must make progress in all areas of activity such as capacity planning, technology cooperation and research, and the definition and launch of collaborative programs ". The time is also propitious for analyze the current situation regarding the European defense industry ", to ensure a " reassessment of its relations with the European Defense Agency ».

3. The global approach to crisis response

Helicopter and IED pilot training

The Spanish presidency wants to deepen the work started by the Swedish presidency in terms of crisis management and resolution, by promoting synergy between civilian and military resources. " During the first half of 2010 Spain will try to move this issue forward. Particularly on the training of helicopter crews ". And the Minister cited the AZOR 2009 exercise, a flight training exercise in heat zones. It is true that Spain has an advantage, geographical and meteorological, allowing it to combine the two extreme training grounds (desert flying and mountain flying).

An exercise will take place in June at the “San Gregorio” Training Center in the Pyrenees (read also: The training of helicopter pilots will take place in 2010).

Another example of synergy: in the field of improvised explosive devices. Spain offers dual-use EU-NATO, its C-IED Center of Excellence in Hoyo de Manzanares, for training in deactivation techniques.

Objectives general

In line with the declaration on strengthening the ESDP adopted by the European Council in December 2008, Spain also wants: improve the projection of forces in operations, strengthen the collection of information and space intelligence; increase force protection and efficiency in operations; improve interoperability and the ability to work together ».

Maritime cooperation

For Spain, the maritime domain is an excellent example of how security policy can progress " for the benefit of all citizens ". For this reason, it intends to strengthen the synergies and opportunities between the two main European policies – PeSDC and the Commission's Integrated Maritime Policy.

NATO-EU cooperation. Spain is also considering different possibilities to improve the framework of technical cooperation between the two organizations when they act in the same theater ».

The operations

Operation Althea Bosnia: reduction phase

The Spanish presidency will have the task of facilitating the transition from the Althea mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina to a non-executive mission, smaller in size than the current military operation. This new mission will contribute to train the Bosnian armed forces and advise the country's defense authorities » and could be set up during « during the semester of our presidency". " If so, Spain is committed to making a significant contribution of manpower, a percentage similar to what we have now in ALTHEA (NB: Spain is one of the last European countries to maintain a contingent of several hundred men in Althea after the French and British withdrawals and before the Italian and Bulgarian withdrawals).

Operation Atalanta anti-piracy, more robust.

For the Spanish, the major mission remains Operation Atalanta, from all points of view – military (commitments of several frigates), political (sensitivity of the subject), economic, philosophical and… media. Certainly the Minister of Defense supports the renewal of the EUNAVFOR Atalanta operation and the addition of a provision which allows “ to intensify its actions against illegal fishing and to support the Somali authorities to enable them to exercise better control over its territorial waters " (read : The extension of Atalanta formalized in December, the modifications...). But you don't have to deviate from the basic mandate ". The main thing therefore does not seem to be there for Spain.

For Carme Chacon, the Atalanta operation can still improve. " Operation ATALANTA can and must be even more effective ". She advocates that " resources are redirected as a priority towards reducing the impunity of pirates in their ports and delivery points. "" The impunity enjoyed by pirates in its territory is based on the lack of capacity of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia to patrol its territorial waters and arrest pirates.. " (read : Operation Atalanta… not effective enough for the Spaniards). Carme Chacon relies on the Common Action to justify this enlargement. " With the support of naval and air units, we must intensify surveillance and control and interdiction operations at ports and other piracy embarkation points in Somalia. We also need to strengthen measures against mother ships that allow pirates to go far offshore, more than a thousand miles from the Somali coast.".

Operation Somalia: comprehensive approach

Spain supports a medium-term strategy to support the political process in Somalia under the auspices of the UN ". The capabilities of " Somali security forces should be strengthened as well as development cooperation programs that offer alternative livelihoods to those who now live, very profitably, from crime and extortion ". Spain, confirmed the Minister, is " willing to assume the role of framework nation in the new mission (European to contribute to the training of the Somali security forces) and to contribute with a significant number of instructors.

Two conferences: on piracy, on Somalia

During its presidency, the Ministry of Defense plans to organize a European Union conference on piracy, bringing together all potential players. Spain also proposed holding a “ international conference on Somalia under the auspices of the UN, to (have) a global perspective »: support for the peace process, increased funding for development cooperation, strengthening of security in Somalia and the countries of the region to completely eradicate piracy from these waters. " If we do not do this, we will have to prolong the maritime operation indefinitely. explains Carme Chacon.

In summary: a formal council of defense ministers, a Brussels HQ for the battlegroups, training for helicopter pilots, a boosted European defense agency, the transformation of the operation in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the launch of 'a new training mission for Somali soldiers, without forgetting the Lisbon Treaty... if Spain achieves everything it has set out, that will be good.

(1) I already wrote it. But it bears repeating. The presidencies continue to rotate; only the presidency of the European Council (heads of government and/or state), of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, of the Council of Ministers of the Economy of the Eurozone are fixed.

(photo credit: Spanish Ministry of Defence)

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).