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EU Parliament Members Call for 'Rewrite' of Defense Priorities

Sep. 3, 2013 - 05:13PM   |  
By JULIAN HALE   |   Comments
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BRUSSELS — A group of center-right members of the European Parliament (MEPs) is calling for the European Union to define its security and defense priorities in the run-up to a key EU defense meeting in December.

In a joint policy paper made public here on Tuesday, the European People’s Party group coordinator in the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Security and Defence, Michael Gahler of Germany, demanded a comprehensive defense review with the aim of pooling key procurement projects by EU member states. The paper also was signed by Subcommittee Chairman Arnaud Danjean of France and Vice Chairman Krzysztof Lisek of Poland.

Among a slew of proposals, the paper calls for EU heads of state to commit themselves to launching the preparation of an EU White Book on Security and Defence in defining the union’s security interests, prioritizing its strategic objectives and linking these with operational deployments.

“A European white book is the No. 1 priority to allow capability and defense planning processes. It would amount to a rewrite of the European security strategy, including the EU member states that joined the EU in 2004,” said Martin Michelot, a research and program officer at the German Marshall Fund think tank in Paris. The countries that joined the EU in 2004 include the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Malta and Cyprus.

France is keen on it, he added, as are the 2004 EU entrants because the strategy was written without their strategic priorities in mind.

“The European security strategy needs to be revised before there can be any agreement on European defense planning processes,” he said.

Although Michelot said he does not expect a consensus at the December summit on the need to have a white book, he argued that a European defense planning process is needed and that there should be incentives, whether positive or negative, for EU countries to report their defense planning processes in Brussels.

“The best thing to come out of the summit would be a compromise to revise the European security strategy,” he said. “EU heads of state need to recognize the EU as a security provider, and not as a security consumer.

“There are a lot of emerging security challenges for Europe that the US is no longer willing to shoulder alone,” Michelot said. “European strategic independence is required if the EU wants to preserve its autonomy in the current strategic context.”

One passage in the paper hints at the possibility, raised before, of a two-speed defense policy in which some EU countries go ahead without the others, known in the Brussels jargon as “permanent structured cooperation.”

“Despite continued initiatives and projects in the field of European capability developments, no real progress is visible,” Michelot said. “All loose ends of different capability development initiatives have to be put under one overarching umbrella.

“Therefore, it is high time that the heads of state and government activate the ‘permanent structured cooperation,’ ” he said. “Such activation should lead to a European defense review process and to the coordination of the national defense planning processes at EU level. From a European perspective, it is not efficient if member states cut defense budgets and reform their armed forces [while] unilaterally disregarding parallel efforts of European partners.

“France is willing to be the engine of European defense cooperation, but it needs others to follow it,” Michelot added.

Asked which countries might follow, he said, “The number one country is Poland, which is looking to sign a bilateral defense treaty with France; the number two is Germany; and then come the Scandinavian countries, which have shown willingness to support French operations. The UK has stronger affinities with NATO.”

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