To reach 'European Defence 2.0' a real step-change is needed

22 Feb 2016 - 14:03
Source: Dutch Ministry of Defence

In this ‘Euro-View’ for the Security Europe site Senior Research Fellows Margriet Drent and Dick Zandee argue that it is time for a step-change to generate a credible European defence. The current Global Strategy and a follow-on ‘Whitebook’ should bring about a stronger CSDP and deeper European defence cooperation.

The EU’s common security and defence policy (CSDP) needs an overhaul. It has to be adapted to the new security environment, characterised by complex threats and challenges of a military and non-military nature. In June 2016 the EU’s foreign and security policy chief, Federica Mogherini, will present a new “Global Foreign and Security Policy Strategy”. The EU’s current Dutch Presidency is campaigning for a CSDP “white book” to fill the gap between the new strategy and national defence efforts. While CSDP will still contribute to crisis management and conflict resolution in Africa and elsewhere, it will also have to be used to strengthen Europe’s border security (under leadership of civil actors) and to reinforce the EU’s territorial security.

To reach this “European Defence 2.0”, a real step change is needed. European capitals must start shifting from voluntarism in defence cooperation to more binding arrangements by applying a new system of political peer pressure and accountability. This would, of course, be combined with bottom-up practical cooperation projects as well. Elsewhere, the full potential for using alternative financing formats should be explored to help defence ministries overcome their budgetary constraints. EU-funded research has a role to play here too. Harmonising demand and connecting civil-military requirements must be mirrored by more consolidation of Europe’s defence industries in Europe. At stake is not just the survival of companies and hundreds of thousands of jobs: if Europe is to be a serious security provider its needs credible military capabilities. If our 28 political leaders are truly serious when they say ‘defence matters’, then they need to take a leap forward in June 2016 and commit themselves to real action instead of leaning back and dozing off as in times past. In today's security environment, that is a luxury that Europe can no longer afford.