Blog AnalysisEU Defense (Doctrine)

Europeans break six taboos on defense

European defense is getting back on track... Objective: contribute to European strategic autonomy (© NGV)

(B2) The grumpy minds who say “this thing will never work” will be surprised: defense Europe is back on track. Of course, it's slow, it can seem a little confusing. But there are very concrete steps that are about to be taken (1) The conclusions adopted this Thursday, June 22, by the 28 Heads of State and Government, beyond the usual agreed language, must be read carefully. Because they reflect this state of mind. Some taboos are about to be broken. And not the least! Because they all aim for a very clear objective: a certain European strategic autonomy.

First taboo broken: moving faster with a few. The 28 will give the political green light to Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO for short). This 'thing' born in the early 2000s, successively enshrined in the Constitution and the Lisbon Treaty, had never seen the slightest start of implementation. It's not the revolution of the century, of course. And no one really knows yet how the criteria for membership in the club or its projects will be defined. Everyone is waiting for Paris and Berlin to resolve their differences of opinion on this subject. But a page has been turned. A good dozen Member States by our count have already indicated that they want to participate from the start (2). And even the United Kingdom “ plays a constructive role ". Nothing is planned in detail. But the political gesture is there.

Read also:  A hard core that has become a marshmallow. A permanent structured cooperation: what for? + The Permanent Structured Cooperation launched… politically. Text and comments

Second taboo broken: finance defense with EU funds. This was the proposal made by the European Commission a few days ago to create a European Defense Fund. The 28 will endorse this project as a key to the future for European industry. For the first time, the community budget will therefore contribute to defense projects carried out by the Member States. Suffice to say that industry and States, and even NATO, are very interested. Of course, here again, there are still many details to be clarified. But the Heads of State will say it clearly: they want to have “rapid” results.

Lire: Defense. Europe must take its responsibilities (V2) + A strong commitment by the 28 to defense and security*

Third broken taboo: more joint financing of battlegroups. The European rapid reaction force has until now been grounded, for various reasons (political, financial, operational). These battle groups or battle groups were so useless that it was embarrassing and contributed significantly to the impression of European impotence. The 28 will unlock a key point: joint financing. Deployment costs will now be covered by a common cassette. The '28' decided it. Details will be worked out in the coming months. Read : These very expensive battlegroups, really unusable? + Joint funding of battlegroups dubbed*

Fourth broken taboo: a permanent European HQ. It was also an old idea, never implemented. The gang of 4 (Chirac, Schröder, Juncker, Verhofstadt) had attempted a coup by proposing the establishment of a permanent military HQ in Brussels. They were met with a British “No” (and others as skeptical). Other attempts were then made, notably in 2012, without really succeeding. This time, it's done. A mini European HQ is being set up in Brussels. He will be responsible for commanding (conducting and controlling in operational terms) non-executive military missions (EUTMs). It's not much but it's a start. Added to this the creation of a small school for pilots of tactical transport aircraft, in Zaragoza. We thus have the embryos of command and training necessary.

Lire: The mini European military HQ is born + Cover this HQ that I will not be able to see… The text on the MPCC finalized. Details*

Fifth broken taboo: defense attachés in European embassies. Until now, Europe had two instruments: crisis management missions (civilian or military, carried out on behalf of the CSDP) and the diplomatic instrument (in EU delegations). Between the two… nothing! Today, we are studying the entire range of actions. The principle of security or defense attachés in Union delegations is about to be generalized to other embassies. Already present in 13 delegations, there will be around twenty in the future.

Sixth broken taboo:  new kind of European missions. In the same spirit, different light structures will emerge in two main crisis zones. A small unit is about to be set up to coordinate action in the five G5 Sahel countries. Defense and security experts will be placed in five countries: Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger Chad (read: The regionalization unit for CSDP missions in the Sahel is created). Two other (small) European actions are being studied: in Baghdad to help the Iraqi internal security forces rebuild (Read: The EU is considering sending a security advisory and support team to Iraq); in Segou and Mopti to coordinate European stabilization aid (read: Towards EU stabilization action in the central region of Mali).

All these bricks laid, made or in progress, may seem modest. They nevertheless illustrate both a change of state of mind and a desire to move forward together. As someone close to Daniel Tusk, a fine scholar of European politics, says, “ We haven't reached Rome yet...but we have crossed the Rubicon ».

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

To go further, read:

* article reserved for members and subscribers of B2 Pro

(1) Our language is deliberately very cautious. We will be careful not to say that European defense has been revived. It has been so many times, often with a spritz effect, that it is better to remain cautious…

(2) France and Germany, as well as Italy, Spain and Finland, the first defenders of PESCO, were joined by: the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Belgium, Estonia, Portugal, Slovenia, who want to be in the first round according to the first count of B2. It will be obvious that this list contains very diverse geographical areas.

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).

Privacy Preferences Center