Blog AnalysisEU Defense (Doctrine)

Eurodéfense's proposals for a Defense White Paper

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(B2) The association Eurodefense – France published, under the signature of several former senior military officials, in mid-June, a call to draft a “Defense White Paper” providing guidance on the content of this document as well as the prospects for exploitation. This call deserves to be relayed as a debate begins which should culminate next June on a new European Security Strategy (June 2016).

“Recent developments in the global security context are dangerously weakening the current defense system of European countries. The increase in conflicts and threats at Europe's borders, combined with a regular and risky decline in the defense budgets of European countries for more than 20 years and an inevitable disengagement of the United States, is mainly responsible. This uncertain situation encourages a pooling of forces and capabilities within the European Union, but it is clear that the political will of States has been lacking until now. (…)

The production of a European White Paper for security and defense would mark an awareness of the shortcomings and shortcomings of Europe's current defense system. Sheltered from American power in NATO, the individual military action capabilities of most European states have become marginal. As for their capacities for joint action in the EU, these remain ridiculously weak in view of the economic and heritage stakes that Europe represents, a notorious consequence of the relative decline of its nations and of insufficient defense spending, in an uncoordinated way. Yet European states face broadly common threats and risks, even if their priorities may differ. The American withdrawal nevertheless puts them under the obligation to take back responsibility for their defence, which they can only assume by analyzing their needs together and pooling their efforts. It is by playing on the addition of their capacities and their complementarities that they will be able to reach the necessary critical mass, which has become a central criterion of power in a globalized world.

Un a number of obstacles however, must be overcome to achieve this. The absence of a real common foreign policy comes first, but could be partially made up for by closer convergence between States, file by file, within the framework of a new strategic analysis at European level (moreover envisaged by the new High Representative). It will then be necessary to overcome the reluctance and fears of national leaders, worried about having to modify their priorities so as not to spread their differences, of finding themselves constrained by positions approved at European level and of having to justify options that could be seen by their fellow citizens. as surrenders of sovereignty. The heterogeneity of the political and military cultures of the European states and of their conception of power should not be underestimated, but could nevertheless be reduced in an analysis considering the EU as a global entity of which each state is a part. Such an analysis would undoubtedly awaken the debate on the objective sought by European construction and its limits, but would have the advantage of clarifying the vision of our fellow citizens, in particular in the face of false nationalist alternatives. As for the argument of a weakening of NATO resulting from the strengthening of European capabilities, this seems totally specious at a time when our American partner is calling for a rebalancing of the sharing of the burden of European security.

Opportunities to act?

On the other hand, the new landscape of threats and risks all around the EU and in particular in its neighbourhood, offers opportunities to be seized in favor of a European approach to defence.

The consideration of these risks in a global way in their diversity and according to their dangerousness on a European scale would make it possible to set priorities, to better distribute efforts between the States, to play on their complementarities and therefore to improve the cost/effectiveness ratio of European defence. The current problem of uncontrolled migratory flows in the Mediterranean provides a good illustration of this need to provide solutions at European level.

Such an approach would also favor the definition of a better division of roles between Europeans and Americans in the defense of Europe but also for the defense of our values ​​and the protection of our common interests at world level.

It would allowidentify strategic capabilities which European States will not be able to acquire individually in the future, but which are essential to their independence and freedom of action (space resources, strategic transport, major weapon systems of the future, etc.)

What content?

A European White Paper should express the political will of EU states, in agreement with their public opinion, to think about and organize their defense at European level, without this necessarily leading to a fully integrated European defense system (European army).

It should deal in particular with:

  • the deepening of the notion of critical mass for the power of influence of States;
  • the expression of power and the use of armed force by the EU;
  • the expression of solidarity in the field of security and defense within the EU with the aim not only of protecting the common interests of the Member States but of jointly defending all their interests (common and national);
  • the implementation of the principle of subsidiarity between the EU and its Member States in defence, the purpose of the European approach being to provide common solutions where nations are individually failing and not to replace them;
  • the issue of a concerted approach to nuclear deterrence and anti-ballistic missile defense in EU defence;
  • the conditions for the EU's strategic autonomy to achieve its objectives and the means necessary to achieve them.

With needs, ambitions and capabilities reassessed at European level, it should show how the EU is preparing to take into account the partial disengagement of the United States and to redefine a transatlantic partnership adapted to the realities of the 21st century.

Capability needs should be expressed by purpose: anticipation, prevention, protection, intervention, deterrence, with reference to the strategic autonomy sought.

Short and educational work, it should be supplemented by detailed implementation strategies in the areas of internal security, external security, by regions of the world with priorities.

Such a white paper should serve as an instrument of coherence and optimization at European level, being a frame of reference for national white papers. It should not be a technical document, but should have an educational purpose, be general in scope and accessible to the general public.

A constituent element of the overall approach to its defense by the EU, it would allow the definition of regional (e.g. Sahel, Horn of Africa) and thematic (e.g. strategy for maritime security, cyber defence, energy or the link between the CSDP and the neighborhood policy), the organization (command and control), the realization of the necessary budgets (eg CFSP and Athena), the doctrinal corpus, the capacity development plan (CDP), in link with safeguarding an industrial and technological base and the operational commitments envisaged. The European White Paper could also establish the desirable level of relationship and coordination with major organizations such as the UN, OSCE, NATO or the African Union

In the current climate of Euroscepticism, the drafting of a European White Paper could be an exercise with a salutary educational vocation making it possible to make our fellow citizens aware of the security challenges posed to EU member countries but also to propose possible solutions at European level. Its main goal would be to clarify the conditions that would make it possible to concretely strengthen the security of all States and their citizens by developing their solidarity.

Lieutenant General (2s) Jean-Paul Perruche; General Armament Engineer (2s) Patrick Bellouard; Pierre Lepinoy; Major General (2s) Maurice de Langlois; Beatrice Guillaumin; Brigadier General (2s) Patrice Mompeyssin.

Download the proposition detailed information about Eurodéfense (pdf)

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).