Blog AnalysisEU Defense (Doctrine)

The Paris declaration of the “Club des Cinq”, commented on

(BRUSSELS2 in Paris) We could say “here is another declaration”, “more blabla”, “this is political posturing”… The Paris declaration adopted on Thursday (November 15) by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and of French, German, Italian, Spanish and Polish Defense… undoubtedly comes from this indeed.

But we should be wary of any confusion, a meeting of ministers in tandem, of the five most important European countries in terms of defense (except the United Kingdom which does not wish the development of this European policy) is not harmless in itself. The fact that it takes place before a council of ministers, and while the budgetary discussion at the European level as well as at the national level is proving very difficult.

The message is therefore a clear political signal, both internal and European in scope. It is also an opportunity for the Five to make recommendations in terms of strengthening structures, developing operations and coordinating capacities. Here is a commented reading of this declaration which can be downloaded here.

The political message of renewed ambition

Europe wants to be adult

This declaration is therefore, above all, a mark of “will“. The word appears in the declaration. And it was repeated several times by the ministers of the “Club of Five” during the press conference which followed the meeting, and in every tone. The EU should be able and determined to take responsibility in areas where their security interests and values ​​are at stake ". She must " give themselves the means to fulfill their ambitions in the field of security and defense “says the text. What the German Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, summed up in a formula: « We Europeans must be more responsible for our security and foreign policy».

Circumstances have changed, the crisis has passed by

This is a fact shared by all the ministers as summarized by Laurent Fabius, the host of the meeting. “ America's Turn to the Pacific, Remaining Threats, and the Fiscal Crisis » made an impression. The imperative of reality has struck. It requires “ have more Europe “, as Guido Westerwelle points out, not really for fun but out of necessity. " We have fewer means available and more limited budgetary means. In the interest of the taxpayer and of foreign policy, it is wise to be able to consult each other, to create synergys ".

It's time for pragmatism

The Five do not hide the fact that they have not been perfect in the past, piling up declarations more ambitious than the others which were not followed up and which were no longer in line with the real capabilities of the Europeans. In the past, " the divergence between set objectives and concrete achievements was too great, today we must undoubtedly be less ambitious but more pragmatic and make common achievements explained German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

An industrial policy

You have to give " work on a more integrated common defense market with synergies and budget savings “In the key thus pleaded the Italian Minister Giulio Terzi. This notion of industrial policy was also very present among the German and French Defense Ministers. De Maizière defending an industrial arms policy, the joint strengthening of the agency and the coordination of equipment projects while his French counterpart Le Drian confirms. " We are fully part of the Defense Agency” going so far as to question whether it was not necessary to entrust him with the reflection on “theacquisition necessary for anti-missile defense ».

Act outside

Despite everything, Europeans want to continue to influence the world.“ There is a consensus on the most difficult part: the commitment of the armed forces, and the contribution of all to the security and stability of the world added Pedro Morenes, the Spanish Defense Minister. Our common denominator, concluded Radek Sikorski, the Polish Foreign Minister. " It’s about being able to act outside. We must not have a European Union which closes itself but reflects and opens to the outside world. "And he added" we must be able to reinforce our diplomacy with our military force. Just as we intervene in the Horn of Africa, we should secure our neighborhood ". A statement which reminds the speakers that for many Eastern countries, the threat still remains in Moscow (the last Russian tanks only left the territory of the European Union 15 years ago).

The recommendations of the Five to the EU

The declaration includes a series of recommendations on both structures, operations and capabilities, which is not entirely trivial

The course and the means

The ministers also place an ambition on this European policy served today by a European External Action Service (EEAS).

Cape. The European Union must act quickly " and " effectively " sure " the whole spectrum "crisis management measures, " in close cooperation with international and regional organizations ". Nb: it cannot be a question of only carrying out “gentle” operations but being able to maintain force. The axiom of integrating the action of the European Union into an international and regional framework is repeated and amplified...

Politico-military structures. " Truly structures civil-military forces to plan and conduct missions and operations and create greater synergy between the European External Action Service and the Commission ". Nb: the Lisbon Treaty system is not really effective, at least not yet. The presence of a high representative who is also vice-president of the European Commission did not produce the desired effect. Between the Commission and the EEAS, there is more than a “difference of cultures”, a difference of approach, which is poorly masked by the concept of a global approach which is often a bit like the “cream pie” of the EEAS. Misunderstandings and funding gaps still exist. We can also note that it is no longer just a question of a center for the conduct of military operations but of a civil-military structure for the conduct of operations. Which would effectively give the European Union an original structure, corresponding to its “thought software” and which could not be criticized for the idea of ​​duplication with other existing structures (national or NATO). Clever.

Battlegroups. It is necessary " be ready to keep them available, train them, deploy them and maintain them in the field ". Nb: the Five repeat their “faith” in these battle groups which have never served, and especially where we do not really see where they can serve. The idea of ​​keeping them in reserve for example for the Balkans could be an idea to work on. Beyond the principle of “deployment”, we can also notice that the notion of “maintenance” is reappearing on the ground. In other words Battlegroups which are not only a “first entry force” but a “presence force”.

European Air Transport Command (EATC). He must " adapted and extended to other Member States, could constitute a real step forward towards rapid and shared air transport and in-flight refueling capabilities ". Nb: this blog was one of the first to visit EATC's Eindhoven HQ. And this command is certainly the first capability truly shared at the European level, in a concerted manner. the Five thus agree on its geographical extension (first to the three which are not members: Spain, Italy, Poland) and material (only air transport is concerned today, the extension to in-flight refueling tankers is therefore expected).

Strengthen five areas of operations

Mali : The Five encourage all partners “ to contribute to a possible training mission in support of the Malian armed forces ". Nb: Aside from Poland, the 4 other countries present affirmed their willingness to send forces as part of EUTM Mali. They invite everyone to make an identical gesture.

Libya : " stand ready " at " assist and support the new Libyan authorities ". Nb: on this mission, there is hesitation both within the Member States and the European External Action Service or the Commission. Hesitation is no longer allowed, say the Five.

Balkans : " reflect on how the European Union could act better on the ground and contribute more to the normalization of the region ". Nb: Concretely, as the Italian minister recalled, we must consider whether the Europeans take charge of KFOR, which would thus pass from the fold of NATO to that of the EU. With an essential advantage, having under the same political authority both the strengthening of the rule of law (EULEX) and the military forces.

Georgia : " remain engaged and involved in efforts to stabilize and resolve the conflict ».

Afghanistan. : " maintain the European Union's commitment to a strong and effective Afghan National Police.”

The presence of five theaters mentioned in the declaration is not entirely random: it corresponds to areas where one or two States authors of the Paris declaration are “pushers”: France and Spain for Mali, Italy for Libya, Italy (and France) for the Balkans, Poland for Georgia, Germany for Afghanistan.

Capacity Coordination

The five argue for:

– a capacity to “ deploy and support military operations in distant theaters and long periods ". Nb: while the withdrawal from Afghanistan begins, which will allow a reduction in the financial and material burden, it is difficult to see how the Europeans could support a new effort in the short term. This commitment is therefore more in the medium term.

– better balance the “ burden sharing within the transatlantic community ". Nb: we will see if this commitment is kept

– ensure “ better coordination between national planning processes » of the member states. Nb: This would represent real added value compared to current systems where everyone plans, buys, and spends without consultation, and undoubtedly explains the weakening of European armies which are multiplying duplication and shortcomings.

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).