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The day the European Defense Fund was cut by one billion

(B2) The scene takes place in one of the offices of the European Council, on the President's floor, before the July 2020 summit. The President's cabinet is in a council of war to prepare for the hopefully ultimate meeting of heads of state and government to decide on the European budget for the next seven years. We need to cut a few billion. But where ?

(flow: LCP - CheckProd - selection B2)

The president's chief of staff, Frédéric Bernard (FB) leads the debate:

  • FB: ..." We need 2 billion for the first pillar and 500 million for the gift list. We have to cut. Where ? Digital Europe...
  • — hum. " There is also Erasmus which has increased a lot ».
  • — “ But that's another sacred cow. What would be the least painful ? "
  • FB: " To be sincere I look at the European Defense Fund and military mobility ».
  • - " But the French will not be happy? »
    FB: " I can ask the French. What do you prefer ? The CAP [common agricultural policy] or La Défense?
    Come on, let's withdraw a billion from the European Defense Fund. Let's propose this to the President

Et voila !

The European Defense Fund will be 1 billion euros less. Military mobility as well. It was the easiest part to cut. An obvious conclusion for negotiators. That's my opinion too. Between Erasmus, the common agricultural policy and defence, there is no comparison, we will cut in defence, especially since the European Commission has not really made this subject a red line, nor has France. All of this can be found in this excellent documentary produced by Check Prod' and broadcast on LCP, and RTBF.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

From the 28th minute for the Defense Fund. But you can watch everything... It's worth the detour!

A rather obvious conclusion

We all knew, and from the beginning, that the European Commission's proposal had been calibrated in such a way that it could take some cuts. And, in a negotiation in general, it is the most discreet budget or the cut which does the least damage to public opinion which suffers the notable loss. These two equations therefore led to this fairly easy solution: hit (a little) in defense. Knowing in the end that the greatest difficulty for the European Union was not to have a slightly constrained European defense budget, but to start from a budget at almost zero (which was the case in the previous budget period) to justify both the relevance of having a budget line devoted to defense and its usefulness for the objective pursued: strategic autonomy (see also: A European Defense Fund, set at seven billion. Ambition failed or successful?). See you in three or four years.

(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).