EU Defense (Doctrine)Interview

[Interview] The lines are moving. Let's dare Europe! (General de Rousiers)

(BRUSSELS2) French general Patrick de Rousiers is back in Brussels. In a few days, he will take over as head of the EU Military Committee. The last meeting chaired by Swedish General Syren will take place at the end of the month. He was kind enough to explain to B2 how he saw his role, the different issues and opportunities…

Brussels for you in a word…?

It's captivating. This is not completely unfamiliar territory for me. But things have evolved. And the position is different from the position I was in (permanent military representative of France).

You are not Chief of Staff and you are nevertheless president of the military committee which brings together the CHOD. What accounts for this feat?

I am not the chief of staff of chiefs of staff. There is no European army. I am their spokesperson. My varied background, both operational and strategic in different conflicts (Iraq, Middle East, Afghanistan, etc.) in a joint framework, was likely to convince. As well as the capabilities course, on the work on challenges and threats, at the General Staff of the Armed Forces and at the General Staff of the Air Force. Finally, my knowledge of the European institutional framework and my approach to the subject were useful.

How would you define your task?

I have three hats. First of all, I am the spokesperson for the Chiefs of Staff. I must also be the consensus builder at 27, that is to say in particular bringing the actors (CEMA or Permanent Representative) into agreement on themes and pushing for a consensus. Finally, be the military advisor to the High Representative and the board of the European diplomatic service.

What is the clearest development that you sense at the level of the European Union?

Unquestionably, it is the joint work of all the actors, Van Rompuy, Barroso, Me Ashton, all three are promoting a summit devoted to defense at the end of 2013. It is clear that there is a a less decompartmentalised approach, a gradual maturity acquired by the EU which, without fear, tackles all subjects. This translates to the field. For example, on the Horn of Africa, the situation has been stabilized militarily, which then allows the deployment of other tools to reduce piracy.

The awarding of the Nobel Prize...?

It is both the result of a historical assessment but also a reminder. A reminder that despite periods of tension, the nationalist refocusing of this or that State, collectively we remain in solidarity with each other. It's a bulletin of encouragement.

The lines are moving

The Europe of defense, is it not an illusion, an Arlesian…?

No. Neither. There are concrete achievements, but always up to the will of States. If States feel that it is necessary to engage in a zone, particularly military, Europe will go there – this is what is being decided in the Sahel region. Things are changing. But Europe does not intend to be the world's policeman. It's logical that it only works when the 27 together want to do things. But the lines are moving...

Is it the same thing in capacity…?

Yes But we will now have to make it happen. This is the big challenge in the months and years to come. Our geostrategic environment is evolving. It is natural that we equip ourselves with military capabilities, since politically between Europeans we want to do so, whether internally (disasters, etc.) or in our immediate neighborhood or further afield, because there are our interests and convictions. . We have a duty towards the future.

This capacity development, where can it occur?

We are not at all going to develop collective common capacities for all European states. I am not convinced, I am not sure that we have the financial capacity nor the political will. We must create interdependence between Europeans, in the acquisition of equipment but also over the lifespan of the equipment, in all its aspects. Pooling and sharing is not just about buying equipment of the same model. It is with equipment from the same group, knowing how to operate together, developing the same doctrines, the same employment standards, the same logistical flows. With this, we create two virtuous things: interdependence among us and an economy among them.

But isn’t interdependence a danger?

Some countries may fear it, including the one I come from (NB: France). But for other countries, they are born with it, so to speak. They're there all the time. Despite everything, they have a desire to get involved, to weigh in on decisions. And they have military capabilities, but already know (CEEC, Benelux, Nordic, etc.). It is up to each country to take its own line. Europe must dare. Let's dare to Europe. Cost and virtue in the long term. We can't do without it. Daring to embrace Europe in times of crisis is difficult. But it is precisely because there is a crisis that we must dare, create a dynamic.

Are you a Frenchman who heads the military committee?

No, he is a European who has been nurtured by his professional experience – France being one of the founding actors of Europe – it is of course on the strength of my impartiality that the CEMA elected me to this position. (3 years term). I leave my flag and the Marseillaise for the Hymn to Joy.

I leave you. Which priority file now?

Mali, the 2013 European Council, the Balkans (which we must not forget)… Rest assured, I have plenty to keep me busy. I have a good pile of files on my desk…

(interview conducted by telephone, on the train from Strasbourg to Paris, October 24)

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).