[Opinion] Since 2017, CSDP seems to be experiencing a new window of opportunity. Admittedly, the new advances described in a more precise manner will depend on three conditions: the degree of political voluntarism of the States to work together, the resolution of the budgetary constraints still on the lookout and the positioning of the transatlantic cursor.
However, the international environment very often dictates the orientations to be set in terms of European security and defence, notwithstanding the historical, national, doctrinal and geographical invariants of the member countries. And the Europeans were quite shaken: the announcement of the “toxic” Brexit with its schizophrenic questions about the British loss in military terms for the CSDP versus “sabotage” of the said policy by London; major terrorist attacks in France and Belgium sponsored from outside by Daesh; the Russian provocations and the hybrid war still latent in the Donbass (against the background of the occupation of Crimea) with the return to a perception of the Russian threat; the uncertain and provocative posture of the Trump presidency with phenomena of breach of confidence and questions/consternations for many Europeans; and to add to the difficulties, the security aspects of the migration crisis.
The fact remains that these years have brought us many initiatives: the long-awaited launch of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), establishment of the European Defense Fund (FEDef), identification by the European Defense Agency of key strategic activities and renewal of the plan capacity development, action plan on military mobility (EU-NATO in a largely appeased complementarity), creation of a military planning and conduct capability (MPCC) for non-executive missions (i.e. partner armies' training centre) defined as a kind of small headquarters set up within the EU Military Staff which is part of the EEAS; Coordinated Annual Defense Review Mechanism (EACD or CARD) to try to improve coordination between national defense planning cycles and to combat overlap, duplication. Not to mention a "European Peace Facility" for the financing of multidimensional operations with complex evolution, mutual assistance to be better understood and the questions of a possible DG Defense within the European Commission and a European Security Council.
And several icing on the cake, the Preparatory Action for Defense Research (PADR) with, for 2020, the setting up of a defense research and development program proper with the help of the European Commission which is fully involved in the “defence” process with its European Defense Fund.
From a strategic point of view, the EU is still questioning its weaknesses in terms of diplomatic autonomy (still unattainable in many areas) in the face of enlargement, China with its bold trade policy and Russia. manipulative and provocative. The EU's advances in terms of CSDP are also based on bilateral interactions between France and Germany, whose interactions between Paris and Berlin are still just as complex and sometimes even ambiguous, despite the Macron Initiative and the daring around the future Franco-German-Spanish SCAF fighter. Also, what future for the Franco-German proposals on the European Security and Defense Union (UESD, July 13, 2017) whose globalist concept is more promising for Berlin? It also remains to take into account the effects of bilateral and multilateral cooperation of certain Member States in the field of military cooperation on the borders of the EU taken as a whole. Is this plasticity an asset or will it thwart the initiatives and other programs that have been in place for several years within Schuman's authorities?
Moreover, Europeans do not want to throw out “the baby with the bathwater”. The collective defense commitments within the Atlantic Alliance largely limit attempts to think of a possible integrated and assumed European defense with real political and strategic autonomy (capacity) associated with a sovereignty which should be somewhat shared. .
Can we imagine an Atlantic Alliance somewhat weakened by the disconcerting oscillations of the White House as much as by intra-European initiatives? Will Trump unite Europeans and their defense or will the White House in its unilateralism continue to divide and conquer by playing with bilateral agreements with certain European states (UK, Poland, etc.)? Conversely, American reassurance in Eastern Europe, the reform of NATO commands and the Allied maneuvers undertaken within the framework of deterrent reassurance could indicate that NATO remains the cornerstone of so-called Western defense and could play against -lights.
Already, the EU, which accounts for 22% of the world economy, is trying to respond to the multiple challenges it has to face, which is "surrounded by crises" in its immediate environment: Mediterranean, Sahelian, middle -Eastern and Eastern European. The European Commission and then the Council of the EU presented mid-2019 recommendations and strategic programs in an attempt to shape its future in a less and less multipolar world. It aims to be proactive, protective and competitive in its chosen fields, including security and defense in a world that it wishes to be multilateral and multipolar. The great values of the EU are highlighted, as is the protection of citizens and freedoms. So many concepts which were also those of the vision of Jean-Claude Juncker, then President of the European Commission.
In the end, are we going to see the security-defence consequences of this new window of opportunity materialize in the long term after that of 1999 prepared by the St-Malo summit? Is the CSDP based on short-lived initiatives or are we going to see real “strategic” progress that is more assured? Are we finally going, by default, towards a hard core of a few European states? Can the European strategic culture emerge in a Europe politically in crisis where the electoral priorities are identity, sovereignist and Eurosceptic in certain countries; including the debate on a two-speed Europe in terms of defence? And beyond that, the famous three questions: what vision, what will, with what means? And who takes the risks?
The next few months should prove to be crucial, notwithstanding the principle of reality according to which any maturation of the CSDP will depend on the level of cooperation between the Member States internally or in the face of missions and external operations which are currently sometimes unrepresentative if not rendered useless, but also what the treaties allow it.
The years 2019-2020 will be, in this respect, decisive, around the unity of the EU and the eternal question of knowing whether the EU can defend itself alone, knowing that on the foreseeable horizon a high-intensity conflict in Europe will remain the responsibility of the Atlantic Alliance as specified in Article 42 § 7 of the EU for EU Member States which are also members of NATO.
Between strategic cacophony, saving awareness, identity crisis, NATO membership concealed or partially erased by the American pivot towards the Pacific, sovereignty to be shared, voluntarism as much as prudence, difficulty in prioritizing priorities and the weight of industrial national interests, capacity and politico-strategic, the analyzes diverge on the future of the EU - which can only move forward gradually, over time - except those around the Eurobarometers where we see that the majority of European citizens are takers for a greater affirmation of a more united European defence.
(André Dumoulin, lecturer at the Faculty of Law of the University of Liège, research associate at the IRSD Royal Higher Institute for Defence)