Blog AnalysisEU Defense (Doctrine)

The only permanent structured cooperation: the European army?

Brussels Defense Debate (© NGV / Brussels2)

(BRUSSELS2) (opinion) Dedicated to permanent structured cooperation, the Brussels Defense Debate, organized by the Belgian presidency of the EU this Saturday, showed the impasse in which permanent structured cooperation currently finds itself. took over the rostrum. The words were elegant and often argued. But we can clearly see how this “thing” – provided for by the Lisbon Treaty and detailed in a protocol – today poses a problem for Member States who do not really know how to go about putting it into practice (1). In summary, and in a less diplomatic way: CSP is today either a somewhat outdated and useless framework, or the possibility of taking a new step, a little too ambitious in the current political and budgetary framework. Hence the blockage… Explanations and proposals.

Too late, too high, too complex

The CSP arrives very late…

1. Defense Europe already exists, with certain structures (High Representative, COPS, CMPD, General Staff, SitCen, etc.), some embryonic, others in development. This Europe was still able to carry out some large-scale operations/missions (Chad, piracy, Georgia, Kosovo). Of course, everything is not perfect. But today we clearly understand the parameters for improvement: permanent operations HQ, reinforced resources for the Defense Agency, pooling of certain capacities, etc. without forgetting the political will to intervene.

2. In addition, there are a number of operational, capability and/or industrial cooperations (Eurocorps or even battlegroups, EATC, Helios satellite, etc.) which can now find a place in the European system. Since the Treaty of Lisbon reinforces these possibilities by now authorizing enhanced cooperation (not to be confused with PESCO) within the EU.

3. In a certain way, real permanent structured cooperation, both inclusive and progressive, with definition of standards and capacity to scale up missions, and possibility of participation on the map, already exists... it is the NATO.

The reason for being of the CSP: its 3 parameters

To define what the CSP could be, it is necessary to understand the different parameters.

1. A fully inclusive structured cooperation is useless. It would only be of interest if, within the CSP, decisions could be taken by qualified majority. However, its unanimity regime, identical to what is practiced outside the CSP, condemns it to the same slow progress as outside. The CSP is therefore only of interest if the number of States participating in it is significantly lower than the number of member States. On the other hand, a CSP cannot be reduced to two or three States. Because, legally, it is necessary to have a qualified majority to constitute it (and from a practical point of view, it is easier to carry out ad hoc cooperation in this case). This is both a political and legal dilemma.

2. CSP is not the only tool. If it is to produce a few projects that could very well be carried out, on the one hand, by the European Defense Agency with its range of à la carte projects, on the other hand, reinforced cooperation within the framework of the EU or the ad hoc cooperation outside the EU framework is to confuse the tools. It's reproducing a structure that will remain a half-empty, half-full shell, with tight budgets. This combines the low usefulness of a Eurocorps with the low resources of the European Defense Agency. This risks not only being useless (by wasting human and financial resources which are not inexhaustible) but also causing serious disappointment.

3. CSP is a long-term device. We cannot set up a CSP to just make a plane, even a very beautiful one, or an anti-missile radar system, even a very effective one, or to achieve a few economies of scale or a few meetings of experts. It supposes a (relative) abandonment of sovereignty, progressive, measured, but real. Capacity sharing and greater efficiency come at this price. We need to think about an integrationist mechanism like the Euro or the Schengen zone. A small nucleus which begins, then joined little by little by others. A preparatory plan, set around an ambitious objective. It will not be easy and it will be rather long, around 15 years minimum: 5-10 years of preparation, 5-10 years of implementation, 5-10 years of running-in.

What to do with CSP? Ambitious paths for the future

With these parameters, there are not a lot of solutions. I see two or three, no doubt very ambitious. And that is the problem.

The first, the most ambitious, the most adapted to CSP is… theeuropean army. Here is the instrument that enables both operations and capabilities. This is a long-term, complex project that will not be easy to implement. A series of problems will have to be resolved: compatibility of human resources, equipment, command circuits, information procedures, etc. But it is precisely the only project which actually requires a “permanent” and “structured” structure. This “army” could rely on certain already existing cores: for operations, the Eurocorps and a common HQ; for air assets, the EATC and the A400M; for training, the Franco-Belgian hunting school; for command, etc…

The second track could be to make a European Defense Agency “integrated ". Only states determined to put more money into the “pot” would participate. This agency would not have a hundred experts. But a good thousand. It would be preceded by a rapprochement, a sharing of tasks between the “design offices” of each participating State. She would commit to the merger of industries. It is a heavy process of rapprochement, restructuring, redefinition of tasks. By setting specific objectives: maintaining a capacity for helicopter, aviation, drone, corvette-frigate production, etc.

Nothing would prevent a third, ambitious track, mixing the two previous ones.

For the participating countries, we can detect a hard core bringing together – depending on the hypotheses – France, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands as well as Poland, even Hungary and Slovenia, Sweden or Italy. Which is already a good start! It's up to others to join the CSP when it is in an ascending phase. But not before, otherwise it would compromise it.

NB: Certain other projects could have found a place in the CSP but this is not really possible. The anti-missile shield for example. It is a typically transatlantic project right up to the Russian borders. It is difficult to imagine a CSP limited to the EU. Additionally, this threat may change tomorrow or decrease. And the CSP will then no longer be useful. This type of project is therefore more within the scope of enhanced cooperation or NATO. Another example: civil protection and disaster response. But, since the Treaty of Lisbon, this competence is in the community, civil sphere, and no longer in the intergovernmental or military sphere, whether we like it or not. And the question of the involvement of the military in civil protection, if obvious for certain (Latin) countries, is much less so for others (notably Nordic countries).

Today, defense Europe suffers less from an absence of political will than from an absence of structures. An ambitious, long-term project for the CSP would be an opportunity to breathe new life into defense Europe. And to hell with the “it’s difficult”, “it’s complicated”, “it’s not realistic”. All European projects by this standard would never have passed the milestone. Europe cannot afford to no longer have ambition. On the way !

(1) Read also:

And again on citizens eyes, another analysis

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

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).

2 thoughts on “The only permanent structured cooperation: the European army?"

  • Hello

    I read with great interest this article on PESCO and I am delighted to hear a dissenting voice over the tom-tom on the “inclusiveness” that should characterize PESCO.

    I would like to point out a last article published by the GRIP on the subject, which precedes another article published in November 2009:

    But I would especially like to ask a question on this blog that I can not elucidate: ie the position of France in relation to this CSP. MEP Fronion's report seems to take up and deepen Belgium's positions, in favor of a CSP (absurd) which would unite everyone. However, in a speech by Hervé Morin on June 2, 2010 at the Military School (Economic Defense Council Colloquium), the Minister said that CSP should not remain a technical project, but it should also be political, leaving hear that it shouldn't be too inclusive. Finally, in a more recent speech he would have said that, unfortunately, we should not expect too much from this CSP.

    Why has France not taken an official position? What is Paris waiting for?

    Thank you

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