WASHINGTON — As the European Union continues to expand its role in regional defense strategy, the head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization stressed the need for coordination, in three simple steps.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg acknowledged that more engagement by the EU in defense and national security could serve as a great advantage to NATO efforts.
“Stronger European defense has the potential to help us increase defense spending, provide new capabilities and also to improve burden-sharing within the alliance,” he said. “So this is a way to strengthen the European pillar within NATO.”
But in advance of meeting EU Defense Ministers, 22 of whom he met last week at the NATO defense ministerial meeting, Stoltenberg did warn of challenges that could emerge if efforts are not properly coordinated. He pointed to three measures to simplify an alliance between NATO and the EU through three measures.
“One is that we need coherence when it comes to development of capabilities. We must avoid that the same nations have two sets of requirements for what kind of capabilities they should develop,” he said.
Second, ”we need to be sure that forces and capabilities developed under [the Permanent Structured Cooperation] are also available for NATO,” Stoltenberg said.
Lastly, Stotlenberg mentioned the need to engage with non-EU members, especially amid an expected exit by the United Kingdom from the EU, known as “Brexit.”
In June the EU unveiled a new defense fund to get better value for money on high-tech projects like drones or robotics, providing a total of €500 million (U.S. $563 million) in EU money in 2019 and 2020 to help buy and develop military equipment.
“Europe can no longer afford to piggy back on the military might of others,” Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the EU’s legislative body, said in his 2016 state of the union address. “We have to take responsibility for protecting our interests and the European way of life. It is only by working together that Europe will be able to defend itself at home and abroad.”