Blog AnalysisEU Defense (Doctrine)

European defence. In one year, we have made more progress than in 60 years. True or false

(B2) This has become the leitmotif of French leaders: Europe of defense, “ made more progress in one year than in 60 years » specified in turn Nathalie Loiseau (Delegate Minister for European Affairs) than Florence Parly (French Minister for the Armed Forces). Is it correct ? Not really

A revolution in a year?

Certainly we are moving forward, but it has not been for a year (NB: subliminally, a deadline which corresponds to the arrival of the Macron team in power…) It has been for three or four years in fact. The arrival of the Juncker Commission has, on the one hand, given undeniable impetus to defense issues. It then made it possible to put a series of rather ambitious projects on the table, which break certain taboos (notably financial). All under external and internal pressure, and thanks to a certain consensus which now exists within several Member States and European institutions (read: Defense Europe. A quintet in action).

In sixty years?

Defense Europe has experienced progress sporadically, on several occasions, like bouts of fever. To take the most recent ones, we can identify three main waves: first, at the beginning of the 1990s with the Treaty of Maastricht and the rebirth of Western European Union (WEU), which was to be the embryo of the Defense Europe. The hope was quickly disappointed. Secondly, at the beginning of the 2000s in particular, the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam, the appointment of a first High Representative in charge of foreign and security policy, the establishment of a series of tools political (COPS) as well as military (the EU General Staff, the European Defense Agency, etc.) and the launch of a series of ESDP (European Security and Defense Policy) operations and missions ) signals a rise in power of this policy. At the end of the 2000s (2007-2009), the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the establishment of standards for the internal defense market, the creation of the European Diplomatic Service (or European External Action Service ), a strong surge in external missions and operations carried out under the CSDP (European Common Security and Defense Policy). It is this historical memory that must make us 'cautious' in the face of the enthusiasm of the moment.

Is the movement over?

No. And it won't really be in a month or two. The most ambitious projects, such as the European Defense Fund, have not yet been definitively approved. And its amount has not yet been approved. It will be by the end of 2019 (optimistic version) or 2020 (realistic version). It will not produce results before 2024. As for permanent structured cooperation, it has not yet produced its first results. Most of the other advances are very gradual and set horizons of 2020, 2023, 2025 to be achieved.

What has changed

What has changed over the past year is a more assertive, less pusillanimous French position, demonstrating a return to a central role on defense issues. This is not entirely new. We had a similar role during the French presidency of the EU, under Nicolas Sarkozy (in the first part of his mandate). But it is undeniable, France is now regaining its place at the European table, bringing initiatives and ideas to push defense Europe.

The formula 'more progress in one year than in 60' is not only a 'slight' increase in optimism, but it is historically and concretely false. It is more of an electoral slogan than a political reality. It is dangerous because it gives rise to hopes, which are quickly dashed when reality is explained. It has an advantage: shedding light on a reality, there is progress.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

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).