THE FINNISH INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS
- 2016 December European Council discussed a bundle of measures to strengthen the EU’s security and defence policy. While the Brexit vote and the US elections raised the ambitions of some member states, the measures largely represent a readjustment and repackaging of existing policies rather than a conceptual overhaul.
- With or without the UK, EU member states continue to have diverse views on the relationship between the EU and NATO, the priorities of the EU’s security and defence policy and the level of EU involvement in defence in general.
- However, if implemented, the proposed steps may help member states to coordinate their capability development plans and to jointly nance research into and procurement of key defence technologies. is development would not question NATO’s role in defending Europe but, on the contrary, would help contribute towards transatlantic burden-sharing.
- As some of the member states are more ambitious in pooling defence capabilities, the emergence of a multi-speed Europe in defence matters is a real possibility. is could deepen the divides that already exist between the member states.
In December 2016, the European Council is set to discuss ways to strengthen the EU’s role as a security provider and enhance the Union’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). the political momentum for deepening cooperation in security and defence matters has increased as a result of Europe’s deteriorating security environment, including an uncertain relationship with Russia and instability in the Middle East, Northern Africa and the Sahel. In order to adapt the EU’s policies to the challenges at hand, the EU member states tasked Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign A airs and Security Policy, to compose a new foreign and security policy strategy for the EU.1 e Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy (EUGS), unveiled in June 2016, makes security a key priority of the EU’s external action and calls the Union to increase its credibility in the area of security and defence.
The idea of turning the EU into a more credible security provider has gained further relevance in view of two recent developments. – – First, the result of the EU referendum in the UK means that one of the most persistent critics of EU defence cooperation – and the Union’s biggest military spender – seems destined to leave the club.
- Second, the future of Europe’s primary security provider, NATO, has become more uncertain due to Donald Trump’s vic- tory in the US presidential election. All of this will impact the preferences of the member states as to the extent to which they want the EU to do more on defence matters.
Currently, the EU’s agenda in the area of security and defence consists of three main elements. e rst covers the reform proposals adopted by the Foreign A airs Council in November 2016 as part of the implementation of the EUGS in the area of security and defence. The second builds on the European Commission’s Defence Action Plan, which puts forward measures to strengthen Europe’s defence industry.3 e third aims at improving cooperation between the EU and NATO and is under- pinned by a joint declaration signed by the two at the Warsaw summit in July 2016.4
In this paper, authors explore the dynamics in the EU’s security and defence policy and evaluate whether the current plans introduce signi cant changes to existing practices and policies. Our analysis concludes that despite the challenging security environment and the recent political developments, EU defence cooperation continues to progress very slowly. is re ects the fact that there is still a wide variety of views within the EU when it comes to the role of the Union in security and defence matters. Irrespective of the projected UK exit, sovereignty concerns and sensitivities related to the relation- ship between the EU and NATO in particular remain major hurdles on the way towards a more ‘EUropean’ security and defence policy. As a consequence, the bundle of measures currently on the table is largely a readjustment and repackaging of existing policies rather than a conceptual overhaul.
That said, many of the proposals represent small steps in the right direction. If implemented, they would allow member states to better coordinate their capability development plans and jointly nance defence research and procurement, thereby creating the potential for spending national defence budgets and organising national capabilities in a more efficient manner. Rather than creating unnecessary duplications of EU and NATO structures, these measures could contribute to greater trans- atlantic burden-sharing. e EU might also see the establishment of limited strategic planning struc- tures that might improve the planning and conduct of future EU civilian-military crisis management operations.
Finally, more than ever, the current agenda leaves the door open for a core group of like-minded member states to advance faster than the rest, although the concrete proposals for such coopera- tion remain limited in scope and ambition. Moving to a multi-speed Europe could change the dynamics of EU defence cooperation, but also risks deepening the divides that already exist between the member states.
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