Blog AnalysisEU Defense (Doctrine)

A new division of labor in Europe?

Canon of the Brest Fortress (© NGV /B2)
Canon of the Brest Fortress (© NGV /B2)

(BRUSSELS2) The expression “all together in, all together out” often used for operations – notably by NATO in Afghanistan – seems well and truly dead. Assuming that it was one day respected, it no longer corresponds to current reality in Europe. The new “strategy” is more about a division of tasks. We thus notice a certain distribution of roles between Europeans in relation to the risk of instability in certain parts of the African continent.

Some leave at the whistle, others support behind

It is up to the French to go “in force” to preserve a certain stability (Mali, Central Africa or Chad yesterday), to enter first. To other European countries, the care of providing logistical support or even taking over afterwards in a more multinational framework – European (EUTM Mali or EUFOR Chad) – or UN (MINUSMA). Some countries (UK, Germany, Italy, Netherlands…) during this time, carry out other missions, of less intensity, such as that carried out in South Sudan to evacuate national nationals and others (from which several other European… and French nationals benefited).

The essential role of the European Union

As for the European Union, it plays a significant role which should not be neglected. First, it finances the effort of Africans to rebuild their strength and restructure. A role that should not be considered “null”. Because it constitutes in some way the assurance that we will be able to leave more quickly... than in Afghanistan. It’s everyone’s exit strategy. It also finances humanitarian and development aid (leading donor to Syria for example). Finally, it is the essential political sounding board which makes it possible to legitimize or establish an operation. Without this political support, it is difficult today to carry out a “national” operation, without taking the risk of being criticized both on the national scene and on the international scene.

Shadow theaters

We can complain of being “all alone” (Holland) or of not “being informed” (Merkel), or even be alarmed by these European claims to equip themselves with certain defense tools (Cameron), it is more a political language intended for the national scene to justify a security positioning. It would be simpler to say it clearly: the French love to go to trouble, to be the precursors, to show the way (it's a very “Valmy” and French Revolution tradition). Others love to support… from afar. We can joke that Defense Europe is an illusion or does not exist. We cannot automatically rejoice in this state of affairs. But we must take it into account and learn from it.

If France wants to keep this role while having part of the interventions financed by Europe, there is a fairly simple way: take on-call duty on the battle groups permanently. We would thus have a “battlegroup” of entry first, of force, capable of the masterstroke, fast. And a second battlegroup, for lower-intensity missions such as “evacuation of nationals” or more “structuring” while awaiting the ramp-up of a European or international operation. Both can be financed (a little) from a common budget. This is not quite the “concept” of battlegroups. But we must know how to stop dogma quarrels. In any case, that's the spirit. It is at this price that Europe will be able to reconcile everyone's differences, while not remaining indifferent to the tragedies of the world and being more reactive.

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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).

One thought on “A new division of labor in Europe?"

  • So France should take charge of all EUWGs… It is true that if the other Member States see the risk of having to send their troops ruled out, that could make the decision easier. In addition, in fact, part of the cost would be shared. But only a part… It would also be a question of finding partners who are willing and able to take part in this WG, because contrary to what one might say about “experts”, France can no longer provide a WG permanently ( it's mathematical), but that's another problem (LPM…).
    Let's sum up: capable and willing MS, a blank check at 28, partial funding from common funds… it's called a CSP! However, the CSP is all well and good, but there is a great principle that bears the brunt of it in passing: the principle of solidarity would not be correctly translated by the assumption of responsibility – far too limited – of part of the costs of the deployment . Again, it's math.
    But let's be clear: France has nuclear weapons (and remember Cherbourg, the speech, which also speaks of an umbrella); France intervenes and not the others; France pays to the EU and NATO, with good grace (a bit more math: how much does a deployment for a major Steadfast Jazz type exercise cost France?).
    One can be pro-EU (this is my case) and like you despair of the CSDP's lack of military dynamism. We cannot constantly ask the French taxpayer to assume the cost of these convictions which, once again, are good, but place our fellow citizens in inequality compared to countries which have voluntarily withdrawn into themselves, except when it suits them.

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