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2017: A turning point for European defence?

17 Jul 2017 - 15:01
Source: European Naval Force/flickr

In this article author Dick Zandee presents an analysis on the future of the EU and how it is making a 'quantum leap' in security and defence cooperation. The full text of this publication can be read here.

Half way through 2017 optimism about the European Union’s future has replaced the doom and gloom that dominated on New Year’s Eve. The elections in the Netherlands and in France have shown that populist parties continue to attract many voters, but neither in The Hague nor in Paris have their leaders entered the government offices. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel is most likely to remain in power after the national elections in September, with or without the Social Democrats.

With pro-European political leaders in power in both Berlin and Paris the question is not if they will push the EU forward but rather how and in which direction. The second half of 2017 will be decisive for President Macron and Bundeskanzler Merkel to steer Europe’s course on many current issues, ranging from a further reform of the Eurozone to immigration and countering terrorism. The ‘to do’ list now also includes defence. European leaders have concluded that the geostrategic summer holiday is over. Europe has to become serious about arranging its own security and defence. During his second visit to Europe – to Poland and the G-20 Summit in Hamburg in early July – President Trump made an attempt to polish away the cracks over the American NATO commitment. However, the American political leader remains unpredictable. Certainly, Washington will continue to push Europe to increase its defence expenditure and to build up more military power.

It seems that many elements now come together to conclude that Europe is at the cross-roads in making a quantum leap in security and defence cooperation: continued instability and conflict in the Eastern and Southern neighbourhood; a stronger American call for true transatlantic burden-sharing; renewed impetus from Mercron (Merkel-Macron), the Franco-German motor bloc of European cooperation; the June European Council decision to launch permanent structured cooperation (Pesco) in the second half of 2017; and, last but not least, the appearance on stage of the European Commission as an active player in promoting and financing collaborative defence research and capability development through the European Defence Fund. The key questions are: what will Mercron look like in terms of security and defence; can Pesco be the framework for a game changer; can we expect a real European Defence Union or is more union in European countries’ defence efforts the more likely result? In short, will 2017 be a real turning point or just another year of slow progress?

This article is published with the support of the Adessium Foundation

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