At right, Juozas Olekas, Lithuania's defense minister, speaks Monday during a hearing at the European Parliament. At left is Arnaud Danjean, chairman of the parliament's Security and Defence Subcommittee. (Lithuanian Ministry of National Defense)
BRUSSELS — Lithuania, the current holder of the EU’s rotating presidency, wants EU leaders meeting at a summit here in December to begin updating the EU’s 10-year-old security strategy by, among other things, including cybersecurity and energy security.
It also wants to see the decline in Europe’s defense spending and EU partnerships in security and defense addressed at the summit.
“Over the past 10 years, the world outside Europe has become more unsafe, more volatile and more radical. Meanwhile, Europe itself has become more introverted, politically less ambitious and militarily less able to deal with emerging security challenges, even in neighboring territories,” Lithuanian Defense Minister Juozas Olekas told members of the European Parliament in a speech Monday.
“In the review of the strategy, Europeans will need to think well beyond the problems in our vicinity. We cannot ignore the fact that the US, which over decades was deploying considerable forces in Western Europe will, in the future, focus increasingly on other parts of the world.” Olekas said. “Therefore, Europe will need to rethink its global role, including the role of military force within its strategy.”
He added that cybersecurity and energy security “are conspicuous by their absence in the current strategy,” and yet “are the ones which are currently the most pressing for Lithuania and a number of other European countries.”
NATO has a Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn, Estonia, and an Energy Security Centre in Vilnius, Lithuania.
“The establishment of these centers is a reflection of the growing security threats in our region and beyond,” he said.
Olekas said he wants to see EU leaders discuss cybersecurity and energy security issues in greater depth at the EU summit in December.
“Their distinguishing feature is complexity. This means that the response to threats of this nature must also be complex — ranging from regulation, standard-setting and targeted investments to active diplomacy, deterrents and responses,” he said.
“The European Union, with its expertise, political and economic leverages, and with its institutions, is currently better placed than anyone to take the lead in dealing with such non-military issues as cyber threats and energy insecurity.” he said. “Naturally, problems of this kind can only be solved in close cooperation with other countries and organizations, not least NATO. … I would like to hope that also in this area, the December European Council will set ambitious guidelines for the European Union.”
With regard to EU partnerships in the field of security and defense, he bemoaned the fact that “there is no regular security dialogue between the European Union and its neighbors, let alone military cooperation programs.”
In this context, he described the use of the paid services of private companies to compensate for capability shortfalls without turning to partners first as “another deeply flawed practice in EU operations.
“Thus, the European Union Training Mission in Mali recently hired medical evacuation helicopters, at a cost of €2.5 million for six months. Next year, we are likely to pay over €5 million for this service,” Olekas said. “And yet, the European Union has not once approached its partners who have such capabilities and who might be able to provide them on much better terms.”
Referring to European Defence Agency data that says EU defense spending dropped by 10 percent from 2005 to 2010 and by as much again from 2010 to 2013, he warned that “left unfettered, this process will have profound and far-reaching consequences not just for the European defense industry, but also for Europe’s position in the world. There is no getting away from the fact that the December European Council will have to pay considerable attention to defense funding issues.”
Olekas also played down expectations in terms of new projects arising from the December EU summit.
“These days, when European countries [including Lithuania] refer to the ‘development of military capabilities,’ we are actually talking not so much about development, but rather about the management of decline. Therefore, any talk of, and calls for, the December meeting of EU national leaders to announce new, ambitious projects and initiatives cannot be really taken seriously.
“Countering the decline in actual defense spending could be an ambitious enough objective for national leaders to set themselves for the moment,” he added.
The Lithuanian defense minister also argued energy costs could be sharply reduced through more efficient technologies and processes.
“Savings made in the more efficient running of military barracks, using less fuel-thirsty vehicles or renewable resources, could be invested into the required military capabilities,” he said.