The European Commission and the High Representative have just given new impetus to making Europe a stronger actor in security and defence matters. This is also in line with President Juncker's political guidelines.
Two reports sent to the President of the European Council Donald Tusk, published today, summarise progress made in key areas related to Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) as agreed with Heads of State and Government in 2013. The reports highlight that the EU is indeed acting as a facilitator and enabler for defence cooperation to support Member States’ capability development. The EU also adds value by maximising other EU policy tools in areas such as space, research, cyber security or the Single European Sky.
We need to build on progress made in recent years and respond to new challenges.
Since 2013, Europe is confronted with rising security threats, a changing strategic context, and insufficient investment in security and defence capacities.
That is why the Commission and the High Representative also propose a number of new ideas to feed into upcoming discussions on CSDP, in particular at the June European Council.
The High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini said: "7000 men and women are currently deployed under the EU flag to advice, train and support military and security forces on three continents. We can be proud of their dedication to serve in some of the world's most difficult places, promoting the values of peace and human rights and working for stability and security in our region and in the world. Building on this strong basis, we have now to do more - pool our resources, work more efficiently together and broaden our cooperation with our partners. We are facing serious crises in our neighbourhood. We owe it to our citizens and to our neighbours to tackle them together. This requires a strong political will and I am confident the upcoming meetings of EU Ministers and leaders will clearly indicate it".
Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, said: "A competitive and efficient European defence and technological industrial base requires a shift from the existing short-term focus on national industrial capacities and markets to a longer-term vision. This includes more investment in research and innovation in defence technologies, strengthening security of supply of defence products and services across the EU, and a functioning internal market for defence which caters for the specificities of the sector. Space is also a domain where we must pursue and strengthen EU cooperation, especially in the area of space surveillance, observation, high-resolution imagery and navigation."
The contribution of the European Commission and the High Representative to upcoming discussions by Ministers (18 May) and Heads of State and Government (25 June), is two-fold:
- A joint report which provides an update on the EU's progress in promoting a European Defence and Technological Industrial Base, most notably in the areas of the internal market, research and industrial policies.
- A second report signed by High Representative and Head of the European Defence Agency Federica Mogherini, which presents an overview on the EU's activities in security and defence since December 2013 and makes initial proposals to increase the effectiveness, impact and visibility of the CSDP.
The reports contribute to the ongoing debate by defining strategic objectives and providing further guidance on the EU's actions in its Common Security and Defence Policy. Ahead of the June European Council, they form a package together with the recently adopted "Joint Communication on capacity-building in support of security and development" through which the Commission and the High Representative propose options to further help partner countries in preventing and managing crises.
Internal market and industry policy
On 30 March 2015, Elżbieta Bieńkowska launched a high level group of politicians, academics, think tankers and defence company CEOs to advise on how the EU can support research related to the Common Security and Defence Policy. The list of members of the high-level group is available online. The creation of the group follows the conclusions of the December 2013 European Council calling for the creation of a so-called Preparatory Action - a term used to describe the testing of a new policy approach requiring financial resources - linked to defence research outside Horizon 2020. These resources could for instance stimulate further research into technologies of dual use (for civil and defence purposes) such as drones.
Commissioner Bieńkowska is also supporting the EU's industrial defence base by ensuring the effective implementation of the EU legislation in the area of defence (Directives on defence procurement and on EU transfers of defence-related products). A genuine internal market for defence procurement which takes the specificities of defence into account should also include support to defence-related SMEs to access business opportunities across borders.
EU missions and operations
The EU has a comprehensive approach towards crisis management, drawing on civilian and military assets. Through the Common Security and Defence Policy the EU engages in peace-keeping operations, conflict prevention and the strengthening of international security. Since 2003 the EU has launched some 30 peace missions and operations contributing to stabilisation and security in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
At present, there are nine civilian and five military CSDP missions.
To adapt to rapidly-evolving security challenges and contribute to the security of its citizens, the EU needs to be able to rely on civilian and military capabilities that can plug into a rapid, efficient and coherent response.
Member States have committed to making such capabilities available for the implementation of CSDP. The report by the HRVP / Head of the European Defence Agency (EDA) highlights that generating capabilities is both a priority and a challenge. The HRVP commits to starting a strategic debate with Member States on force generation for civilian missions and mainstreaming defence cooperation.
The report also looks at practical and high-potential projects in critical capability areas, such as cyber defence, drones deployable to improve air traffic, satellite communications, and air-to-air refuelling capacity.