BRUSSELS — In yearlong preparation for a December meeting that will shape European Union defense policy, the chair of the EU’s Military Committee has urged fresh ideas to strengthen the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy and improve the availability of civil and military capabilities for that purpose.
“[The December meeting] must allow us to improve the way we build, today, still more solidarity so that we are in a position, tomorrow, to respond to the numerous challenges that Europe will certainly be faced with,” said Gen. Patrick de Rousiers at a hearing of the Security and Defence Committee of the European Parliament Jan. 23.
In other remarks, he noted that Europe was disarming while the world rearms, and that since 2001, the proportion of Europe’s military expenditure has fallen from 29 percent of the world’s total to 20 percent.
“What place can a Europe of 500 million inhabitants have if it doesn’t have credible capacity to ensure its security?” he asked rhetorically.
He supports the concept of pooling and sharing, but with more emphasis on “coordination than on integration.” He also supports creation of land, sea and air groupings that could conduct similar exercises and share experiences while respecting the sovereign right of contributing countries to commit to an operation or not.
He also referred to several ongoing projects that should improve interoperability among armies in the coming years in the areas of space, ballistic anti-missile defense, unmanned aircraft, in flight refueling, air transport capacities and medical support.
He also called for better forward planning. Developing weapons such as tanks and ships can be a lengthy process, he said, and “we need to think ahead to respond, together, to the threats that are emerging. “
He stressed that capacity is not just about equipment.
“You need to recruit, train and exercise the personnel that use it. Because the equipment is more and more complex and is used in more and more demanding environments, you need between five and 10 years to recruit and train specialists. That needs to be planned too. And it’s a path that we need to develop among Europeans.”