Blog AnalysisEU Defense (Doctrine)

A Europe of defence, despite everything

Summit SallePresse 2013-12-20 18.11.27
The press room at the end of the Defense Summit (© NGV /B2)

(B2) Criticism of defense Europe is necessary. And this blog is not lacking in that. There is no point in hiding behind your little finger and saying that everything is fine in the best of all possible worlds. This would be an error not only in communication but also in politics.

Two commonly used flaws in European defense

There are two other pitfalls to avoid.

First, see “Brussels” as a superpower – which wants to rule everything. It's the old British fantasy, regularly evoked and still developed at this peak (very timidly in fact!). A totally unreal fantasy, let’s be clear.

Secondly, to estimate, jaded, that Defense Europe is ruined, cooperation will never work, it is better to work nationally (because we are the best, eh!) or bilaterally (with really serious people ;-). A fairly common trend in France, particularly in certain military circles who are satisfied with recent successes (rightly).

To all of these, we can say: they are on outdated paths. There is a certain Europe of defense, in its infancy, still unequal, and which is still finding its way. And this is being built not really so much on the operational aspect (the CSDP) – as was the underlying idea yesterday – but through the economy and industry.

Inward-looking or cooperation?

Faced with the crisis, five years ago, two options were possible: withdrawal or cooperation. In recent years, we have seen more of a trend toward withdrawal. Everyone trying to manage as best they can, internally, bilaterally – the French with the British, the Germans with the Dutch, the Belgians in Benelux, the Czechs and the Slovaks, the Balts and the Nordics, etc. And to generate budget cuts, more or less brutal, in all countries. But today, we still need to make savings. And we have exhausted all the “easy” recipes. There is no other way than to cooperate together... It's a little more complicated, it sometimes takes longer, but today it's the only possible result. This is the result of the Summit. And this is not negligible.

The beginning of awakening

Defense Europe is emerging from a "slow hibernation" comments a European diplomat. " A few years ago, this subject was regularly on the agenda of European summits” complete an old summit trucker. It took five years! Why this delay? We put the question to the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, who did not fail to respond with his usual irony. " … But I remind you that for five years, we have had an economic crisis. And the survival of the Eurozone was more urgent to resolve. Now that there is no longer any existential threat from the Eurozone, we can focus on other issues. » And for a year (and the mandate given by the Council in December 2012). “We worked well. With multiple contacts”…

All the work done upstream

Which is not an empty word… B2 witnessed it. We must clearly see that, over the course of a whole year, the CSDP gave rise to important work, often discreet but very real. The twelve directorates general of the Commission – directly or indirectly concerned – worked on options and ideas. “ This is a job never done in the European Commission, breaking down the “silos”. Because this house works too often in silos » said the Commissioner for the Internal Market, Michel Barnier. « This time we tried to do the job from above ». The European Defense Agency has mobilized its forces. The same in the different departments of the European Diplomatic Service (EEAS) as in ministerial offices at national level and in large industrial groups.

Everyone has phosphorus. And the work is not finished. Because a new meeting has already been set: in June 2015. And a series of reports must still be submitted and discussed and intermediate steps taken by then. (read about the Club: Conclusions of the Defense Summit (draft): the roadmap)

A paradigm shift

« We came out with big words or big declarations without too much of a future ” explains an expert on these files. « We must remember the declaration of 2008. It was a bit like Sarkozy, all alone, who wanted to set significant ambitions in terms of operations. There was no real debate ». Objectives "designed still on the early 2000s" so before the crisis. However, after Iraq and even more so Afghanistan, « no one wants (and can) carry out large operations anymore. (…) Everyone also realizes the limits of this type of commitment which does not really make it possible to rebuild a State or stabilize a region. We are now more involved in missions aimed at supporting countries to ensure their own security, to be able to take over afterwards.”

Comments. No one dared to say it expressly. But if the objective of the summit must be summarized in a few words. We could use an old Central European proverb, «If your sword is too short, lengthen it a step». Today a step has undoubtedly been taken. But it's only a step. No more…

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Read also our summary of published articles: Defense Summit on 19 and 20 December. Useful articles to read

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).