Terrorism, hybrid threats and cyber- and energy insecurity leave EU countries no choice but to step up their security and defence cooperation efforts, thus paving the way to a European Defence Union, say MEPs in a resolution passed on Tuesday. They suggest devoting 2% of GDP to defence, establishing multinational forces and EU headquarters to plan and command crisis management operations, and enabling the EU to act where NATO is unwilling to do so.
“Our Union is not equipped to face overwhelming defence challenges. For almost 30 years, most of its member states have been cutting their defence budgets, leading to smaller armed forces. Cooperation among member states is occasional and Europe continues to rely heavily on NATO capabilities and on the US solidarity“, said rapporteur Urmas Paet (ALDE, ET), in the debate on Monday. He stressed that “the momentum to move towards a working European Defence Policy has come.”
The security situation in and around Europe has worsened significantly in recent years, due to challenges like terrorism, hybrid threats or cyber and energy insecurity, that no country is able to tackle alone, says a resolution on the European Defence Union, approved by 369 votes to 255, with 70 abstentions. “Solidarity and resilience require the EU to stand and act together”, it says.
Pool military resources
MEPs want the EU to respond faster and more robustly to real threats, which, they say, demand that Europe’s armed forces work together better. Duplication, overcapacity and barriers to defence procurement result currently in annual waste of €26.4 billion, they say.
MEPs call on member states to pursue joint purchases of defence resources, and to pool or share non-lethal material such as transport vehicles or aircraft. They suggest introducing a “European Defence Semester, whereby member states would consult each other’s planning and cycles and procurement plans” and advocate strengthening the European Defence Agency’s coordination role.
The resolution asks the European Council to lead the creation of “common Union defence policy and to provide additional financial resources ensuring its implementation.”
An EU headquarters should be set up to plan and command crisis management operations, say MEPs. EU member states should aim to spend 2% of GDP on defence and should establish “multinational forces within the Permanent Structured Cooperation and make these forces available to the common security and defence policy”, they add.
EU support for defence research
MEPs back the proposed EU investment in defence-related research projects “of at least 90 million euro during next three years”, suggesting that this should be followed up by a separate European Defence Research Programme with an annual budget of €500 million.
Synergy with NATO
MEPs stress that the EU and NATO should cooperate more, particularly in the east and the south, to countering hybrid and cyber threats, improve maritime security and develop defence capabilities. However, the EU should also be prepared to act autonomously in cases where NATO is not willing to take the lead, MEPs add.
MEPs will also debate a separate resolution on the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) on Tuesday evening, and vote on it on Wednesday. The draft text suggests radically overhauling the CSDP and launching a training operation in Iraq to support member states involved in the coalition against Daesh.