European Parliament pushes for major changes to EU defence policy

Members of the European Parliament have urged member states to speed up the creation of an EU army, citing growing international threats.

Pockets of co-operation have already sprung up, such as the annexing of Dutch naval resources by Germany. But, in a resolution adopted by the Foreign Affairs and Constitutional Affairs committees, MEPs say they want to see much greater integration across the bloc.

Michael Gahler, a German MEP and co-rapporteur of the resolution, told colleagues they must make use of the Permanent Structured Cooperation [PESCO] protocol set out in Articles 42 and 46 of the Lisbon Treaty, which allows member states to merge their civilian and military security structures for the use of the Union at large.

“In a time of external crises, the Lisbon Treaty offers us a huge potential for improving our common security and defence policy and spending taxpayers’ money better,” Gahler said.

“We urgently need to link up the isolated islands of military cooperation and start Permanent Structured Cooperation.

He added: “We should also start funding the operational and personnel budgets for PESCO and the European Defence Agency out of the EU budget.”

His colleagues agreed, suggesting within the resolution that both the European Defence Agency and PESCO be treated as a sui generis EU institution, funded by the EU budget. They further advocated establishing a “defence ministers” meeting format within the EU Council of Ministers, and urged member states to join PESCO as soon as possible.

And they would like to see the defence budgets of all member states reach the 2 per cent of GDP target, handing an extra €100 billion to defence by the end of the decade.

With Russia stepping up its aggressions on the EU’s eastern border, and in light of President Donald Trump’s reticence to commit to NATO unless other members pay their way, EU politicians and bureaucrats are increasingly concerned about security. It is likely that this will be reflected in the next EU budget.

European Parliament’s rapporteur on the EU budget Siegfried Mureșan told Euractiv on Thursday that in 2018 the budget will focus on growth and security.

“Last year we committed to launching preparatory actions in the area of defence research at the European level. By this I mean we should spend money on defence only once at the European level and then share it among member states. Spend it once and share it among the countries, because we are partners,” he said.

“This area is vital for a safe Europe, and we’re ready, with the resources we have available, to do everything necessary.”

Presenting a draft report on general guidelines for the preparation of the 2018 budget Thursday, the Parliament’s Committee on Budgets stressed, “strengthened cooperation in the field of defence is needed in order to meet the security challenges that the EU is facing, which are generated by prolonged instability in the EU neighbourhood and uncertainty regarding the commitments of certain EU partners towards NATO objectives”.

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