1. The timid emergence of a European Defence Policy
• In 1992 the Maastricht Treaty, which created the European Union, laid the foundations of a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), which included the long-term definition of a "Common Defence Policy" (CSDP). Since the signature of this text, the Union has undeniably developed its capacities in the area of foreign and defence policy, notably through the creation of multiple operations.
• The work undertaken in this context has been mainly civilian crisis management missions. The slow process born with the CSDP has laid more emphasis on a widened security agenda than on a defence identity. The CSDP is losing its impetus and is struggling due to a lack of pro-active policies on the part of the Member States, and the European Union does not assert itself as a privileged vector for their security policies.
• But a combination of factors has been fostering renewed energy for the European defence project over the last few years. New contemporary challenges (terrorism, cyber-security), increasing instability at world level, the uncertainty of the transatlantic relationship and the challenge made to multilateralism, migratory pressure and the departure of the UK are all likely to be favourable to a rise of the European Union in the area of defence.
• At the same time the appointment in 2014 of Federica Mogherini as High Representative of the Union and her "Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy" presented in June 2016, as well as the drafting by the European External Action Service (EEAS) of an "Implementation Plan on Security and Defence" are all phases that have revived European debate over defence. At the same time the attacks on Paris on 13th November 2015 led France to invoke the "defence clause" of the Lisbon Treaty (article 42.7) for the very first time.
2. Recent renewed energy for Defence Europe
• In June 2017 Military Planning and Conduct Capability for non-executive military operations designed to guarantee the strategic command of three training missions in Somalia, Mali and in the Central African Republic.
• The creation in December of 2017 of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) by the Council in line with the measures included in the Lisbon Treaty (Articles 42.6 and 46). It brings together 25 of the 28 Member States in a permanent structure that aims to facilitate cooperation in the areas of capabilities and operations. By joining the PESCO, the participating States promise to respect 20 "common commitments" and to cooperate within 17 "capability projects".
• The entry by the European Commission into the area of defence from a "more political" angle targeted by its President Jean-Claude Juncker with his European Defence Action Plan in November 2016 and his proposal for a European Defence Fund (EDF) in June 2017, a first initiative for which community funds will be used to support defence projects directly. This fund works together with the intergovernmental agreement on the Permanent Structured Cooperation which states that the Member States will devote a minimum of 20% of their defence budget to equipment and 2% to technological development. In all, the budget devoted to the industrial defence policy in the next multiannual financial framework 2021-2027 will be close to 13 billion € as announced by the European Commission on 2nd May 2018.
3. Measures facing a series of persistent political and cultural obstacles
• The very definition of "Defence Europe" is one of the main obstacles, since defence questions are mainly addressed from the angle of capabilities to develop and not from the angle of operations to be undertaken. The concepts of "strategic autonomy" and "level of ambition" remain vague about the outcome of the goals in terms of defence; As for European defence it still has to be defined. If we consider that collective defence is not the responsibility of the Union, which, incidentally, is NATO's prerogative, and that military operations, such as those undertaken since 2003 as part of the CSDP, concern rather more security than defence, the Union's defence policy must then lie in the gap between these two areas.
• The heterogeneous nature of the strategic cultures of the countries of Europe and the consequent lack of any "common strategic culture", stressed by the French President Emmanuel Macron in his speech at the Sorbonne on 26th September 2017. The Member States continue to differ over their perceptions of what threatens them, the nature of the response to give and the institutional channels to privilege in the management of these. One of the most striking of these differences is that between France and Germany which appeared when the PESCO was being concluded, and without which the development of a role for the Union in the area of defence might prove difficult to complete.
• For several States the European Union remains secondary in comparison with NATO in the definition and implementation of their defence policy, and they are reluctant about the drive for strategic autonomy expressed by certain Member States. It is particularly true of Germany, which deems that it owes it its return to the international arena after the Second World War, and whose armed forces were for a long time only used within the framework of the Atlantic Alliance. But this is also true of the States of Central and Eastern Europe, whose first response was to integrate NATO before even joining the EU to guarantee their security after the collapse of the USSR.
• The reality of the implementation of the decisions taken and the proposals put forward by the common institutions remains an uncertainty since the partial financing of the European defence industry by the community budget requires unanimous acceptance by the Member States of an ambitious draft budget, which is constrained by Brexit, which in the long-term will deprive it of 14 billion € in annual revenues.
4. Proposals to clarify the place of the Union in a widened defence system of its Member States
• Defining a clear typology of the possible fields of intervention for Europe in terms of security and defence, to establish a framework in which the Union might undertake openly coercive military or maritime operations, or help towards operations to strengthen the military capabilities of the partner States. In 2016, the Council mentioned the protection and resilience of its critical networks and infrastructures, the security of its external borders, the guaranteed access to the use of common goods, the fight to counter hybrid threats, cyber-security, counter-terrorism, the fight to counter the trafficking of people and organised crime.
• Working on the governance of the Permanent Structured Cooperation and the eligibility of projects to community financing.
• Settling the issue of the heterogeneity of strategic cultures via a flexible, pragmatic approach alongside military commitments, capability efforts and development/prevention policies on the one hand and joint operational initiatives between some countries on the other, ideally as part of the common security and defence policy.
• Thought for the long-term regarding a new institutional arrangement for defence, in line with imperatives of efficiency in the chain of command, of safety in the financial support given to the projects launched, of legitimacy and of democratic control.
Defence: Europe's Awakening
Since the end of the Second World War Europe has been seeking a foreign and security policy to call its own. The pooling of the defence's resources of its Member States is certainly one of Europe's most well-worn political issues.
Over the years, as circumstances demanded, at the cost of unrelenting, often thwarted initiatives and effort, this extremely sensitive question, and the States' first priority, i.e. ensuring the security of its citizens, has slowly moved forward. NATO was the response given to the Cold War, the turmoil during the dissolution of the Soviet Union provided opportunities for initial awareness, notably because of the Balkan wars, and rapid changes in the geopolitical context at the turn of the century challenged it directly. It now finds itself in a completely new strategic environment in the world arena as well as on its borders.
The very nature of the European Union does not predispose it to rapid adaptation. Since it is a Union of sovereign States with different histories and identities, it constantly has to come to agreement before it makes a move. Its substance also limits its international action: building to ensure harmony between the continent's nations, it is the opposite of an empire, and to date has refused to think of itself as a power. The new international situation is a challenge to its very essence. It is responding to this with its consubstantial slowness, but we have to recognise that it is starting to react. In terms of defence it is waking up.
Since 2013, the date of the first European Council devoted to Defence
, questions pertaining to its security have become subjects of discussion, and now of real decisions. Rather late in the day, European awareness is now real. We can see that there has been an undeniable acceleration in the organisation of European Defence. The reality of it remains to be confirmed. It helps us imagine new possibilities.
1 - Undeniable acceleration:
The international geopolitical context is nothing like the one we inherited in the immediate post-war period.
Balances of power in the world have changed significantly. The Asian wakening has transformed these countries, and more equal development has weakened the international institutions, i.e. the accepted rules of a world order organised around poles of stable power. The explosion of international trade, the movement of people and information have increased interdependence, scientific innovations and their rapid technological spread have deeply modified the demands of public opinion, and consequently, the constraints that weigh on government action.
For Europe, which has systematically pursued its integration and its enlargement, thereby strengthening its economic and trade power, this is reflected in greater involvement in world issues, whether these are linked to trade, the environment, politics or social issues To date it was lacking the diplomatic and military phases that it is now urgently trying to complete.
Indeed, in addition to uncertainties and global strategic surprises there is now pressure on its borders. Conflict, civil or frozen, is drawing closer, in the South and also in the East. This is challenging its ability to guarantee its security; and this affects its internal stability both directly and indirectly. Russian revisionism is challenging it directly, Islamist extremism has brought its torment within its fold, the stability of Africa, a neighbouring continent, has become a priority, terrorism, migration and the demographic challenge are now part of its daily lot.
European awareness has been slow in developing. Albeit late, it is nevertheless real. For example, all of the Member States increased their defence budgets in 2016
, except for six of them
, whilst defence financing in Europe had been decreasing constantly since the 1990's
. Some States like Estonia, Lithuania and Sweden have re-introduced obligatory military service, which 17 European countries have recently abolished, others have modified their Constitutions and their defence laws.
At Community institution level we have witnessed a true awakening.
The referendum on 23rd June 2016 requesting the exit of the UK from the EU mainly had a politically "liberating" effect on the Europeans, who, until then, had been prevented from moving forward together on defence due to Britain's dogmatic position, since it deemed that Europe's approach challenged the Atlantic Alliance. The influence of America's relative disinterest and hesitation was even greater. Barack Obama had already defined the 'Asian pivot' which took America's focus further West rather than East. As Donald Trump has seemingly challenged the mutual defence clause in the NATO Treaty
, clarifying his "America First" programme, he has finally spread doubt about the "American umbrella" behind which Europe has comfortably sheltered since 1949.
Moreover, the conflicts that have occurred in the meantime, two wars in Iraq, war in Libya, the French intervention in Mali - all took place without there being any common European position and a fortiori any joint involvements in the field. They were left to the resolve of the Member States alone and led to the marginalisation of European issues involving security.
Under the pressure of some Member States and thanks to a "more political" vision on the part of its President, the European Commission and the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, effectively changed this vision. This was almost a revolution for the institutions of Europe, which the treaties had carefully confined to the side-lines regarding defence issues and within whose walls the word was almost taboo.
For the very first time Europe's security strategy (revised in 2016) introduced the need for the Union to target Europe's "strategic autonomy".
Following in its footsteps the European Council of Heads of State and government decided to meet regularly to assess security issues, and at the end of 2016 they finally approved an action plan put forward by the European Commission. The latter, in line with its competences, added its stone to the edifice by making real proposals to finance defence research, project development and support to collaborative equipment programmes
An experimental Preparatory Action on Defence Research was launched to finance collaborative projects between 2018 and 2020 - a European Defence Fund was put forward calling for community financing - part funding by the European budget - of equipment manufactured together by several Member States. A regulation, a European law, has been put forward and this is due to be adopted in the spring of 2018. Finally, the European Commission, after accepting to finance the Preparatory Action to a total of 90 million €, has planned to devote nearly 13 billion € to the financing of defence research, the development of demonstrators and the co-financing of collaborative work.
As it addresses defence issues via the economy and financing, the EU's institutions are respecting the treaties and remain within their remit. These developments comprise nevertheless a major step forward, made possible by the invocation by France - and for the very first time - of the European solidarity clause contained in article 42.7 of the TEU after the terrorist attacks in 2015
. By invoking this measure, France resolutely linked itself to the construction of European defence, a claim made quite deliberately by Emmanuel Macron, the new president elected in 2017. For its part Germany has continued its effort to take on more international responsibilities more in line with its economic weight. It responded to France's request via the dispatch of a frigate and airborne resources in the Mediterranean; it increased its presence in Mali, where 350 soldiers took part in the European training mission (EUTM), and more than a thousand others in the UN peacekeeping operation (MINUSMA). We should not underestimate what these developments mean for a Germany that lost 54 of its soldiers in Afghanistan, whilst its army is still under the control of its Parliament and that its public opinion is still extremely reticent about any external intervention.
From then on initiatives gathered pace and for the very first time, in December 2017, 25 Member States established a "Permanent Structured Cooperation" 
, a possibility offered by the Treaty on European Union for a few to decide to step up their cooperation in defence. 17 research and development projects were decided upon and distributed amongst the leaders and the nations that were interested. Others are due to follow in 2018, when a second list is expected.
Carried along by a re-legitimised and more determined Franco-German couple - at least from the French point of view - these innovations were facilitated by the two main powers on the continent of Europe setting the example. As of 2016 they announced a joint initiative, notably in military air transport. In 2017 they appeared to be more pro-active, albeit with some difficulties. Germany had engaged as part of NATO to the organisation of clusters (Nation Framework Concept), which is mainly industrial and designed to pool equipment and complete lacking capabilities with smaller countries. It continued on this path, hoping for an "inclusive" Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), i.e. including a maximum number of participants, which is in contradiction with the idea, the spirit and the definition of Structured Cooperation. France for its part, hoped for more operational decisions, i.e. giving the Union operational capabilities that it had never really been able to establish. The strength of agreement between the two countries, France's satisfaction with European developments that it had wanted for a long time, led to a compromise which had a domino effect on the other Member States, since none of them were willing to risk not joining in the nascent process. In the end only the UK, Denmark and Malta did not join.
These initial steps are a real novelty for the European Union that still has to be confirmed by action and over time. Several uncertainties remain about the will of the Member States to continue their defence efforts.
2 - Determination to be asserted:
Three uncertainties still weigh over the reality of European progress in defence, which depend on the relationship with the USA, the effective implementation of the decisions announced and strategic divergences that persist between Europeans.
For a long time, Europe has depended on the USA for its security. This has been particularly true of Germany, which deems that it owes the USA its return to the concert of nations in the wake of the tragedy of the last world war, and whose armed forces have only been put to use under the Atlantic Alliance.
This is also true of the Member States of Central and Eastern Europe, particularly those which share a common border or history with Russia. Their return to sovereignty was enabled by the collapse of the Soviet Union, to whom they paid heavy tribute. The Baltic States were occupied illegally by Russia for 45 years and the Warsaw Pact imprisoned the others in a totalitarian empire from which they freed themselves via popular insurgency. Their first response was to integrate NATO, even before joining the EU, to guarantee their security.
Furthermore, the UK has always considered NATO to be the only organisation apt to take care of the defence of Europe and it continued to oppose any effort by the Europeans to put together a credible "European defence pillar."
Although it is true that the Alliance guarantees the effective defence of Europe, a role that is not being challenged, nothing can prevent the Europeans however from organising themselves to take on a greater share of the burden, which incidentally, has been a recurrent request on the part of the USA, which deems, notably with D. Trump as President, that they take on too much of this (nearly 70%). The American position of withdrawal, started by two successive American Presidencies, have cast doubt about the reality of the commitment of the world's leading military power alongside its Allies
, in spite of a programme to reassure them, which witnessed the deployment of American troops on the Union's eastern borders. Increasing disagreement on both sides of the Atlantic, whether these be trade or diplomacy related (Iran), has triggered the Member States wish to strengthen their own autonomy and has revealed the anachronism of NATO's "exclusivity" in terms of defence, which has never been very far from the interests of the American defence industry that has benefited greatly from the Atlantic organisation.
Europe's strategic imperative for autonomy is not at all contrary to keeping the Alliance. It acknowledges developments in America, strategic changes and tallies with the continent's requirements.
Circumstances, as well as reciprocal interests, have also helped overcome oppositions between NATO and the EU - which have signed joint documents about how they intend to cooperate.
It remains however that several Member States still believe that their security imperatives are guaranteed by the Atlantic Alliance and are reluctant about the Union's drive for autonomy. This is one of the weak points to be overcome as far as nascent European defence is concerned.
The second uncertainty which to be faced is the reality of the implementation of the decisions taken and proposals put forward by the common institutions. The partial financing of the European defence industry requires the Member States unanimous acceptance of an ambitious draft budget, made necessary by Brexit, which will deprive it long term of 14 billion € in annual revenues, and implies incidentally, to need for difficult redeployments. To be able to take full advantage of the European Defend Fund, not only will the States have to finance between 70% to 80% of the collaborative projects themselves, but they will also have to accept an increase in the common budget, the negotiation of which is proving difficult to say the least.
Likewise, the procedures that will be adopted for the community financing of the equipment projects will have to be simple, effective and not encroach on the States' competences. The first discussions with the Parliament and the Council promise to be difficult as far as this is concerned.
Furthermore, some reluctance has emerged during parliamentary and intergovernmental discussions, notably regarding defence market access by third country businesses, which will evidently not be financed by community funding. NATO's Secretary General, in an unfortunate statement
, which was neither denied nor sanctioned, vigorously advocated for the European market to remain open to foreign businesses, i.e. also financed by the European budget, which would really be taking things too far!
The American attitude and that of the Member States which believe that they cannot dissociate from it will also condition the success of European work in this direction.
This also leads to questions regarding the respective roles of the European institutions in the common financing now being planned. Will the Commission play the same role as it does in the other markets? Will the European Parliament understand and accept a true strategy of power given its composition, whilst to date it has illustrated that it is more idealistic and pacifist? Will the Member States come to agreement and how? Will the European Defence Agency, an intergovernmental organisation be a credible tool since it is now linked to the Commission as far as these programmes are concerned? These are all uncertainties that weigh over the achievement of Europe's goals.
Finally, there remains true strategic divergence between the Member States.
These are of size and are linked to history, as much as to constitutional and legal differences.
They appeared between Germany and France when the Permanent Structured Cooperation was concluded. For a long time, the EU was for the Germans firstly a space for economic and industrial cooperation, whilst the French partners placed a great deal of strategic and political hopes on it. The first wave of PESCO projects will therefore be devoted to capability issues and will include a maximum number of Member States. In line with the Treaty France would have liked them to cover the operational aspect of defence cooperation with those of States that want and are able to engage in the field. The compromise found privileges the former and as far as the latter is concerned, simple declarations of intention have been made.
Many European partners are still overly wary of France, who they suspect of wanting to use Europe for its own interests with the support of an efficient army and ambitious diplomacy.
Moreover, tighter defence of the European territory, guaranteed by NATO under strong American influence, which has become a real concern, masks the global dimension of European interests.
Many find it hard to understand, and especially to explain to their public opinion that the security of Africa immediately impacts that of our continent, that peace in the Middle East, which is so close by, really does affect Europeans; they find it hard to explain that the freedom of navigation on the China Sea, the free passage in the Straits of Ormuz or Bab-el-Mandeb, like all of the major international straits (Malacca, Bosporus etc ..), are of course global questions, but that they primarily affect European interests directly - and that it is relevant intervene there resolutely and diplomatically, i.e. with military credibility, to defend our ideas and our interests.
Finally, the use of force in relations between States, which the Europeans does not support, is still a point of divergence. The Union has five neutral States (Austria, Cyprus, Ireland, Malta and Sweden), its citizens are reticent about military commitment. Moreover the European institutions, starting with the Parliament, are not very receptive, poorly equipped and not very competent in terms of strategic reasoning.
Although recent changes have tended to erase these differences, and have led to general awareness of security imperatives, there is still a long way to achieve the converge of opinion, which for the time being, can only be the focus of partial compromises. Hence for the time being they will remain the rule that will govern the construction of Europe Defence.
In this regard the Franco-German relation is decisive. It will set the trend and gauge progress or failure in European defence.
Both governments are aware of this and are trying to initiate real collaborative projects showing the way via the example. The Franco-German Defence and Security Council of 13th July 2017 announced that they wanted to build the future 5th generation jet fighter together, an intention that became a reality on 26th April 2018 at the Berlin Air Show, via the two Defence Ministers, who made their commitment official with the signature of an agreement. Dassault-Aviation, the French company, the only one in Europe at present that can build and produce the future jet and contribute to a full air combat system will be the leader of the project together with Airbus, whilst the latter will continue to work with the same partner and the Italian Leonardo to pilot the construction of the MALE, the European drone, which our armies lack and whose model was presented at the same show.
These projects are the result of the political will of both governments, who are using European progress as their support, which will help and finance them in part. If they are undertaken well, notably via regular financing and according to new methods which allow industrialists to organise the way they cooperate themselves, these two projects will be historic in nature. The merger of Nexter-KMW in the armoured vehicles sector augurs for its part profitable work together.
Forming links between the most credible representatives of the European defence industry, they augur for efficient project alliances and sharing, which will save resources since they will relinquish, once and for all, the disastrous "fair return" rule - which comprised each State measuring exactly what it was getting back in terms of employment and industrial spin-offs before they would commit to cooperation.
Whilst no major joint two-partner military equipment project had been considered in over 30 years, this now is a true revolution, which is more effective than any speech to support a competent, top quality European arms industry that lacks financially backed orders and projects.
The best way to overcome strategic divergence then is to continue launching real cooperation projects of this type and according to this method. This will open up new opportunities.
3 - New opportunities?
The decisions taken together by the Europeans must now be implemented.
Studies and research initiatives that have already been approved must be implemented faster than usual. The credibility of the whole depends on it, likewise any future community financing. A new wave of projects drafted by the members of Permanent Structured Cooperation is expected for the autumn, which should in all likelihood be more ambitious than the previous one, notably regarding its content. It might mark more resolute commitment by the States and influential industrialists showing the usefulness of the procedure, which some still doubt.
Budgetary proposals (Multi-annual Financial Perspectives) presented on 2nd May 2018 by the European Commission for the period 2021-2027 confirm the commitment of the common institutions and are in line with the work announced. They are still subject to the unanimous agreement of the Member States and will probably be the focus of long bitter negotiations, but they do mark real commitment in the financing of defence and security.
The European Defence Fund is due to be granted 13 billion € and the Military Mobility Plan, requested by NATO, 6.5 billion €. The Union will devote 120 billion € to external action over the same period, which includes development and food aid, the vital pillars of a stabilisation policy on our borders and beyond. A European Peace Facility has been created and is to have 10.5 billion €, which will enable the financing of assistance, training and support operations to armies that are already receiving support under the external operations framework. It should also help contribute to the protection of our forces stationed abroad and provide them with the vital financial means for the completion of their tasks.
Other reforms must now be undertaken, notably that of the Athena mechanism, a complicated financial support procedure to Member States engaged in operations, and which mainly leads to them being responsible for expenditure that is a result of their good will! The new facility should help compensate in part for this anomaly, but a new procedure should be developed. This might open the way for the implementation of the measures included in the Treaty,
which gives the Council the power to grant a group of Member States a Union mission and to plan true intervention missions, with the possible use of force, which, to date, has remained marginal.
The role of France
For a long time, France was alone in its evocation of a "Powerful Europe", which takes responsibility for itself and has the military tools that allow it a level of diplomatic influence on a par with its economic strength. In these first European decisions France has found some reasons to be satisfied. The assertion of the need for Europe's strategic autonomy and the common financing of military efforts by some that benefit all of the Union, are being recognised and accepted in principle, pending their effective financing and completion.
However, it hopes to go further and complete the Permanent Structured Cooperation of 25 and its capability programmes by suggesting to its partners joint work in the preparation of the response given to strategic surprises and operational requirements.
This is why it is launching the European Intervention Initiative put forward by President Emmanuel Macron in his speech at the Sorbonne on 26th September 2017 and formalised in a proposal by Florence Parly, the French Minister for the Armed Forces, to some of her colleagues at the beginning of January 2018.
In the spirit of the action undertaken within the EU and by NATO France is offering its partners, who so wish, to participate in the construction of a true strategic operational autonomy of Europe.
This "community of will" should help gradually forge a common strategic culture, designed to prepare for possible joint operational engagement by sharing more systematically situation analyses, via the exchange of information that cannot always be shared by 28, and by working together on crisis and intervention scenarios.
This means strengthening exchange between our staff and operational cells to accelerate intervention decisions that the political level might have to take.
Without any new structure this club of flexible and quick acting partners, would hold enormous advantage, outside of the Union, but in line with its goals, of integrating cooperative States including post-Brexit UK and Denmark, which do not participate in the Common Foreign and Security Policy. This unique anticipatory strategic network will foster an opening of national operational structures and will strengthen all the policies developed in the European context or the Alliance.
This initiative is due to be launched in June, and formalised by the end of 2018 and is, via the list of those who are going to join, further proof of Europe's determination in terms of defence.
Emmanuel Macron's France which could content itself with having the biggest army and navy in Europe, is resolutely opening up to European cooperation. The Strategic Review drafted under the presidency of MEP Arnaud Danjean, published in October 2017 embraces the major global issues in a spirit of exemplary opening and cooperation. All of its strategic community is now focused on European achievements. Many real actions bear witness to this. It is proposing for example, to take on HQ missions of the anti-piracy operation Atalanta with Spain after Brexit, which might be situated in Spain, with the Maritime Centre of Brest centralising the monitoring and surveillance of maritime traffic operations. It is stepping up its work to share its savoir-faire, its analyses and many field operations with its partners by taking part in the East in operations and air traffic control. This heralds a notable change, true commitment that is a positive contribution to joint efforts, in a new spirit and with real resources. It should enable long-term continuity for a new wind that is filling the sails of European defence.
These first overdue steps on the part of the Europeans in the organisation of more common defence tools should indeed last over time. But the Union is not equipped for this. Its treaties limit the action of the common institutions, whilst the States legitimately want to retain control over their defence. Thought will therefore be necessary long-term to find a new institutional organisation in line with the imperatives of efficiency in the chain of command, safety in the financial support given to the projects launched, legitimacy and democratic control.
The Commission has gone as far as the Treaties will allow it to go. The latter have even been superseded by the intervention of the European Parliament. From the start, the defence policy has belonged to the realm of the intergovernmental, and the legal intricacies of the institutions, which have allowed these excesses, cannot mask for very long the fact that they are not totally in line with the word and spirit of the Treaty
It is still too early to imagine any new solutions in this area, but it might be useful to start thinking about it. Will the Commission be able to find the competences and manage the European Defence Fund under comitology, i.e. by taking on the role of secretariat between the States, but what room for manoeuvre would it then have? Should it have a role, and which one, in an area in which decisions can be taken according to the procedures, sluggishness and transparency applied elsewhere? Is the European Parliament capable of intervening on sovereign issues, as long as the way its assembly is made up means that citizens are not represented equally? And aren't its majority positions a risk in terms of it interfering in military equipment export policies, the Member States' or groups of States' military interventions, or it preferring moral and ideological positions? Will it want to control the timeliness of the appropriation of community resources granted to the Fund? Will the European Court of Auditors want to control them? Will the European Defence Agency recover from Britain's long-standing, constant efforts to limit its action, budget and the means? And will it find its way amongst these new developments? Doesn't the construction of a defence industry financed in part by European funds imply the establishment of a "European preference" rule in the purchase of equipment, the cost of which European taxpayers bear and therefore measures to protect a very specific market that firstly depends on public funds?
These are all difficult or new questions for the Union, which oblige us to think and very certainly legitimise the European Intervention Initiative, which France would like to establish outside of the Union's framework.
We also know that the number of non-community agreements and treaties has risen and that they will have to be either reintegrated under the common framework (the case of the Budgetary Treaty
) or try to survive under a solemn and legally safer framework. We also know that certain Member States want to have strong legal bases, notably to guarantee exceptional measures taken to guarantee the end of the public debt crisis.
And so, one day it will be necessary to draft a new institutional arrangement for the European States who want to make Europe Defence a reality. This is why it seems that a specific treaty on the defence of Europe is necessary, which reasserts the joint commitment of the States which want to act together in the respect of the Atlantic Alliance and the European treaties, to protect, guarantee and ensure the defence of Europe more effectively
Europe's awakening is real. Rising uncertainty, threats and strategic surprises have pushed it to making a response. It has done so in its own way, in keeping with its spirit, late in the day, but in a serious manner, slowly, but in relative consensus, via the economy, but also taking in the political aspect into account. It now has to confirm these intentions and implement its decisions.
It will not be able to stop just at that, because strategic upheavals are challenging it and forcing it to gather pace. It will have to have intervention capabilities and real defence tools, vital for the credibility of its diplomatic voice.
Europe still has a great deal of work to do to achieve strategic autonomy.
The context seems favourable given the bad news regarding the challenge made to multilateralism, of which it is now a guardian, aggression in the areas of trade and technology, surprises and excesses in the international arena. Europe is facing a tough challenge due to geopolitical change. Its future really does depend on the response it gives.
European Defence: after the declarations, action!
Long term strategic awakening or passing euphoria?
"More has been achieved over the last two years than in the last 60," says a European Commission document dated June 2017 and devoted to the future of European defence. On a slightly and comparatively more modest level the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), Federica Mogherini frequently speaks of more significant results "over the last year than in the last ten." Whatever time reference is retained, the euphoria seems to have infected Europe's leaders who competed with their superlatives in 2017 to highlight the historic step that has finally been crossed by a European defence policy that is worthy of being called so.
It has to be said that since the publication of the "EU Global Strategy" in June 2016 by the High Representative, the declarations and initiatives have indeed followed one another at an unprecedented pace, until the launch in December last of the famous "Permanent Structured Cooperation" (PSC or PESCO) - the long standing story of the Lisbon Treaty that has been spoken of constantly since 2009, but which no Member State was really in a hurry to extricate from the legal-institutional limbo in which it had quietly been sleeping.
What has got into the Europeans, the leaders of the Brussels institutions, as well as the government authorities in most of our capitals? Has this strategic wake-up, that is going hand in hand with a significant change in direction in terms of the defence budgets, which are up in most Member States, come from a really, deep, reasoned growth of awareness of the international environment and the challenges to security that the European continent has to face for the long term? Or is it not rather more a welcome but short-term political response, to developments that are affecting transatlantic relations due to the impact of the erratic Trump Presidency?
The question is less anecdotal and provocative than it might seem, because it reflects the long term of this apparent turning point and its possible reversibility. If this new declared determination on the part of the Europeans really comes from a lucid, deep interpretation of the strategic context, the probability of a sustained, coordinated effort to face it is stronger. And a certain optimism is therefore in order. Many declarations are being made in this rather reassuring direction. Incidentally, it is true that the work to identify and to shape a hierarchy (which has always been a crippling conundrum with 28 members) of the dangers and threats had already been started by the services of the High Representative in the preparation, and then the finalisation of the global strategy. Ms Mogherini can therefore quite rightly suggest that her pro-active stance is not the result of circumstance.
But this is all the more questionable if we consider the calendar of events over the last few months. Because it was worth waiting for the end of 2016 and above all to mid-2017 for ambitions to be clearly demonstrated. At the same time the major security challenges to which this progress is supposed to rise do exist and were identified a long time ago. The convulsions on the south flank have been flagging up structural instability since 2011, the Sahel has been the focus of priority attention since at least 2013, the jihadist terrorist wave that has been striking the European continent since January 2015 and the conflict in Ukraine has been raging since 2014 ... Although these phenomenon should objectively be deemed to be the triggers of the realization of Europe's vulnerability and the imperious necessity for a collective response, we might well be surprised that it took until mid-2017 for a European response to finally be formulated. The objection that European processes are always long and that a time span like this regarding issues affecting the sensitive cord of national sovereignty so deeply, is not so exaggerated. However, this calendar has been less shaped by major strategic events that have succeeded each other since 2011, than by the concurrence of two political events that deeply affected the view Europeans have of their own identity, singularly in terms of security: Brexit, then the election of Donald Trump, were undoubtedly more decisive in Europe's strategic awakening than the crises in the Middle East, Ukraine and the terrorists all together.
Not only did Brexit raise a deep existential question across the Union as a whole, but from a specific point of view, in terms of defence policy, it raised theories that have been debilitating for more than a decade. The election of Trump followed by often untimely declarations has for its part lent credibility to the hypothesis which Europeans had never fully absorbed, of a detachment, even of a possible strategic divergence, between the old continent and its American "protector". Obama's pivot to Asia already led to a great deal of debate over the place granted to European security by Washington. But this was rather more intellectual speculation, which was certainly not unfounded, than of a true turning point, since the Ukrainian crisis quickly reminded us of how decisive America's investment in Europe still was, particularly within NATO that suddenly recovered the virtue of its reason for being via new collective defence postures on the East European flank. With the Trump Presidency, a kind of deep uncertainty has taken hold of all Europe's stakeholders. It is not just a question of doubt about the reliability of American foreign policy within the Alliance, but also regarding the erratic directions of American foreign policy,, which might, out of isolationism and also adventurism, clash more or less directly with European security interests, or in any event not take them into consideration in more unilateral decisions.
More than the rise of threats that were identified several years ago, it was the sudden eruption of strategic unpredictability, both domestic and transatlantic, which convinced European leaders to react and revive some defence policy tools that had been virtual to date which were far from being political priorities. And this introduces a major nuance regarding the long-term nature of this movement. We simply have to see how certain European leaders hang on to the slightest "reassuring" signals from Washington regarding the strength of transatlantic commitments to understand how tempting it is for many capitals to return - as soon as conditions are right - to "business as usual" under the American umbrella. This extremely relative attitude also emerges in the reference to European strategic autonomy. A major semantic and conceptual breakthrough in the European texts drafted in 2016, it does not feature systematically in all of the texts produced in 2017 and its inclusion in the fundamental goals of a defence policy is always the focus of bitter discussion. This is proof that many Europeans still hope that the extra efforts made in terms of defence are more the result of a potentially reversible, short-term cycle rather than a structural development that is bound to be constitutive of a renewed Union, adapted to the strategic challenges of our time.
It would however be unfair to be negative about the progress that has been made, whilst apathy has prevailed for almost a decade. In itself, the pro-active policy that comes from the European institutions regarding defence issues has to be welcomed. We have scorned the naivety and total lack of strategic vision on the part of the authorities in Brussels too much to now criticise the fact that security is fully recognised as a priority in speeches as well as in actions.
This new arrangement especially became a reality with the entry into action of the European Commission in the area of defence that had been hermetically closed to date. The Defence Action Plan presented at the end of 2016 broke with the major legal and political taboo of a defence policy that was exclusively the realm of intergovernmental action. However, we are far from the sovereignist caricatures that present a European Commissioner presiding over the fate of national armed forces! The Commission has joined the debate in the respect of its primary prerogatives, and from a resolutely economic point of view. The launch of the European Defence Fund is in line with a double logic of the rationalisation of a defence economy that is too fragmented and redundant at continental level, and the optimisation of public investments in terms of research and the acquisition of capabilities by the Member States. The parts of this fund - research and capabilities - will respectively be provided with 500 million and 1 billion euro annually over the period 2020/2027, with the leverage of one billion at Community level that will enable investments to a total of more than 5 billion euro annually by the Member States in capability acquisition projects.
The other major step forward is the launch at the end of 2017 of the Permanent Structured Cooperation. A measure that was introduced in the Lisbon Treaty of 2009 (article 46 of the TFEU) to help those who wanted to make faster progress in common defence projects, this form of "enhanced cooperation" soon proved to be a political and legal conundrum. Over the last ten years its implementation never went beyond the conceptual discussion stage in obscure, hyper-specialised workshops ... The mainly difficulty, before the focus of potential cooperation had even been defined was of a political nature and depended on the definition of the outline of this "hard core". Inclusivity or selectiveness, this was the dilemma. It went together with a paradox that was always strange: many countries that were not in a hurry to see the common security and defence policy move forward did not imagine for a single second that they would not integrate "a club" that was precisely more ambitious for this policy...
Some French concessions on the famous "inclusiveness" of the process, the absence of British obstruction due to the Brexit and new German pro-activity, finally led to the opening of the process and to formalise the establishment of the CSP/PESCO during the Council of Ministers on 11th December 2017. 25 pays agreed on a list of 17 capability projects and binding commitments in terms of defence spending.
To these key provisions in the defence funds and the CSP/PESCO we might add other ongoing processes (annual coordinated assessment of defence policies - CARD - significant improvement in the EU/NATO cooperation based on 42 initiatives focusing on issues of common interest, the revision of tactical group financing mechanisms ...) bearing witness to rising interest in European defence.
The absence of any political will - mainly on the part of the capitals, but also in certain Brussels circles - was correctly accused as being the main impediment to the development of a common security and defence policy that was included however in the founding texts and provided - on paper - with specific instruments. This political will is now there and the rare convergence (High Representative, President of the Commission, President of the Council) and the main capitals (Paris and Berlin, whose driving role is evident in this area, especially with the Brexit) offers a unique window of opportunity. This is the dynamic, that started ten years ago, which has now been underway over the last few months.
But still fragile and incomplete
The euphoria that has accompanied this awakening should not however supplant lucidity. Apart from the possible reversibility of the analyses and commitments that have led to this revival in a certain number of European countries, two fundamental considerations should encourage us to keep a cool head: on the one hand, the still largely virtual nature of the measures that have been announced, on the other the persistence of extremely heterogeneous strategic cultures within Europe.
2017 was a year rich with ambitious announcements. But all of the measures put forward now have to be implemented. And the obstacle course might prove harder to negotiate than the enthusiastic declarations lead us to believe. Regarding the European Defence Fund, its implementation requires the adoption of regulations submitted to the European Parliament, particularly on the "development of the defence industry" chapter which is due to be voted on ideally before the spring of 2018, if we are to hope for its effective entry into force in 2019. But the preliminary debates at the European assembly, which to date, has rarely had to take decisions on defence issues and which, therefore, has only limited expertise in this area, encourages us towards caution. This is not because the MEPs, in the main, do not see the imperious need for the Union to integrate security and defence into its priorities. But the devil hides behind the details and some recent discussions, on much more modest measures than the planned European fund, have illustrated the limits of consensus. Without dwelling on the ideological hostilities of principle expressed by certain political groups (via total pacifism, as they see in the ongoing process an unbearable militarisation of the EU or via total sovereignism, as they deem that any community effort is an unbearable incursion into an area that is a strictly national issue) I would like to stress that two frequent objections, which might incidentally find echo in the upcoming budgetary discussions within the European institutions and even within government themselves - what will the eligibility criteria be for projects to benefit from community financing? Would the launch of consortiums integrating investors from third countries be possible or inevitable? Here there is a real application of the idea of "strategic autonomy" which reveals deep divisions within the EU ... on the one hand how will this European fund be financed, whilst mechanically Brexit will lead to a substantial reduction in the community budget and that none of the remaining 27 Member States are seriously planning to increase their share of the common budget. Contributing to a defence fund would therefore suppose internal redeployment and arbitration that have not been extremely detailed to date, but which will inevitably give rise to epic negotiations as the budgetary deadlines of 2019/2020 draw closer...
Procedures will also be significant in all of the definitions regarding the governance of these instruments. What role will the European Commission play? Should it have a specific DG? How will it work with the European Defence Agency? What will the role of the European Parliament be? And in the CSP/PESCO, how will the leadership given to certain Member States really be exercised regarding the pre-selected projects? There are many questions, which are not anecdotal, and which might seriously impede the rapid implementation of the goals that have been announced. Especially since, as far as the European fund and the structured cooperation are concerned, these will mainly, if not exclusively, be capability projects, i.e. which are based on close cooperation between industrialists - many of whom fear that the virtue of the financing measures will give way to complex paralysing procedures - or that the announcements made about community financing will - to a certain extent - insidiously lead to foreclosure effects on national budgets, which are still the main component in research and acquisition efforts.
These mainly "technical" and procedural difficulties should not be underestimated, even if we might reasonably think that they would not deeply upset political voluntarism amongst key players, whose convergence and energy we have already highlighted. But the final taboo lies not so much in the arguments over procedures (although in European processes difficulties in the form reveal and often feed differences in substance!) but rather in the persistence of extremely heterogeneous strategic cultures. Without going into the historic, institutional and even deep philosophical areas which legitimately explain the differentiated approaches on the part of Europeans to defence issues, we must take note that the scope of the present initiatives might be impacted by these.
Hence France places its priority in its operational commitments, particularly in Africa, which leads us to believe that despite regular qualitative adjustments, they will remain quantitatively significant for the next decade. It is a euphemism to say that this effort, for reasons that are quite easily explained, will not be approved easily by other European States, even though solidarity has been expressed in a stronger manner over the last few months. Germany, whose constraints are known, mainly focuses on industrial and capability development. This does not make these approaches totally incompatible long term. But it would be naive to think that these deep-set positions, which are part of both countries' strategic culture, are without consequence regarding the way developments in a European defence policy are viewed. These differences have filtered into discussions over the CSP/PESCO, with a more selective and more operational requirement coming from Paris in response to the inclusive, capability approach on the part of the Germans. The solution that was finally found (a mixture of geographic inclusivity and selectiveness on projects with a more operational outcome) proves that compromises are - fortunately - always possible. But rationale supposes that the strategic positions of the main EU countries will remain extremely pronounced at each "technical" stage of the implementation of European initiatives.
We might wager on strategic convergence. But it remains extremely hazardous, and not very workable, in the short and midterm. The option of complementarity is often brought to the fore, since the French southern operational priority can work together with civilian and development efforts, which receive greater support on the part of the other countries that are less inclined to commit themselves militarily and whose security priorities obey other geographical rationale. Here we mean sharing the burden between Europeans, an idea that is not void of logic and virtue, but which leads to many adverse effects. The specialisation that it implies does not provide for true equity in the face of the risks taken, and in the long run, it would restrict each one to individual policies that are totally contrary to dignified European solidarity.
Undoubtedly compromise rests on flexibility, a pragmatic combination between on the one hand a kind of complementarity between military commitments, more assertive capability and development/preventive policies, and on the other extremely operational joint initiatives between some countries, ideally under the frameworks offered by tools in the common security and defence policy, but potentially according to a more open method, (Brexit, incidentally, will make this opening inevitable since it is out of the question to foresee defence cooperation that systematically excludes the British).
Europe's strategic awakening - even if has been caused for reasons that are not necessarily those which will ensure strength and continuity, could be a turning point in the continent's history and in the transition towards a fragmented, uncertain international environment. Europeans have an opportunity to show that they finally intend to take greater responsibility for their own security. The conversion of this into ambitious initiatives is a first step, but it must not be neglected or scoffed at -whilst we are perfectly lucid about the colossal efforts that remain to be accomplished and the obvious limits of the ongoing exercises, which make national fundamental efforts and political voluntarism absolutely vital.
Europe taking back Control of its Defence
A true window of opportunity for Europe
For a long time, Defence Europe has had but one pious wish. It took a tragic European event, Brexit, to take things forward regarding the sensitive issue of defence. The international context also contributed to this, with an increasingly aggressive Russia, a certain amount of scepticism regarding the arrival of Donald Trump and the evident need to increase all means allocated to counter terrorism.
Hence the Member States are now aware of the usefulness of investing more and acting in a more coordinated manner to rise to these challenges, or otherwise witness Europe slowly relinquish its territory. The European Commission has given shape to the nine political priorities set out by President Jean-Claude Juncker to strengthen the European Union in the international arena notably by developing its military capabilities.
The legislative process has been unprecedented for the European Defence Fund. Put forward in June 2017 by the European Commission a final agreement on its "capabilities" chapter is due to be completed by June 2018, whilst the "research" chapter has already been launched. And this in an area in which never legislative proposal been made to date.
True inter-institutional political will at the Council, the Commission and the Parliament has meant that tight deadlines have been kept and a ambitious goals maintained.
An inadequate European Defence Budget
The Member States' total defence budget has been declining for a long time, unlike those of other world actors such as China and Russia. The difference between the total of the budget devoted to defence between the USA and the EU is double. This should be a warning to us since the other powers will not wait for us to develop the best technology for them to defend themselves and they will be present when their strategic interests are at stake.
Each Member State must be aware of the need to take part in the defence budget at European level. The present situation, which lays the responsibility for defence on several large countries, mainly France, Germany and the UK, is not sustainable long term. The paralysis of some could very well impede the work being undertaken. Hence, we need an objective that is worthy of the capabilities that we want to develop.
For the very first time, with the European Defence Fund, community money will be used to support and co-finance defence projects directly and community co-financing will aim to encourage the Member States to invest more financially in projects that might be beneficial to them in both the short and long-term.
Two chapters will ensure that the whole cycle of industrial development in the defence sector will be financed. The first chapter will finance collaborative research in innovative defence technologies. It represents 90 million € until 2020 and will total 500 million € per year after 2020. The second chapter targets the acquisition of defence capabilities achieved through cooperation; the European industrial development programme will have a budget 500 million € until 2020 and more than one billion € per year after 2020, to which the Member States will add two billion € per year until 2020 and 4 billion € per year after 2020. In all the budget devoted to the industrial defence policy in the next multiannual financial framework 2021-2027 will be close to 13 billion € as announced by the European Commission on 2nd May 2018. This is a unique effort that is to be confirmed by the Member States.
New policy, new financing. The Member States will have to commit to contributing "fresh money", without cutting any of the other European programmes that are so important, like Galileo, Copernicus, ITER, the interconnection mechanism for Europe and many others. Beyond the traditional institutional debate between redeployment based on existing budgetary lines, and the use of non-allocated margins from the financial framework, this implies the responsibility of the Member States, who must embrace this new objective and give themselves the means to do so.
Research, the crux of the matter
According to a paper by the Research and Information Group on Peace and Security in March 2016, military expenditure in research and technological development has decreased over the last few years, dropping from 13.5 billion € in 2006 to 9.5 billion € in 2013, with 90% of this research being concentrated in France, Germany and the UK. This is a warning for the EU in a time in which defence and security stakes are coming to the fore again as never before.
Without any ambitious research policy in the civilian and military areas, the European Union will not be able to acquire any independence of action and will endanger entire swathes of its industry. European industry, according to the Commission, employs 1.4 million highly qualified workers, directly or indirectly, with a total turnover of 100 billion€ per year.
This is why the European Council of December 2013 invited the "Commission and the European Defence Agency to cooperate closely with the Member States to draft some proposals that would aim to stimulate research more, focusing on dual use applications" and to introduce "preparatory action on research linked to the common security and defence policy," that would seek synergy with national research programmes.
Following this explicit request, the European Commission laid out details of the means for this preparatory action in its "European Defence Action Plan", published in November 2016 providing a budget of 90 million € until 2020 (25 million in 2017, 40 million in 2018 and 25 million in 2019) and on 11th April 2017 adopted a decision to implement preparatory action. Three priority lines of research were retained: drones, individual protection systems and a methodology for a strategic technological vision. The European Defence Agency was asked to implement it.
The debut of this research policy that is clearly military in goal is still difficult to assess. In all events, preventing an excessively "thin" spread during its implementation should be a constant goal if we want to achieve tangible results.
A need for capability rationalisation
President Jean-Claude Juncker often recalls that "the European Union has at present 178 different arms systems in comparison with only 30 in the USA." To remain in the international competition the European Union must therefore be more competitive by developing key innovative technologies, which will give it the upper hand over its international partners. It must also cooperate more to federate European skills and avoid duplication, improve interoperability, and put an end to budgetary inefficiency by achieving scale savings in industry and production. This is an enormous task, which has been proven vital: without long term investments in defence, European industry may not have the technological capacity to build the next generation of critical defence capabilities.
Of course, cooperation often costs more in the short-term. Hence the idea of the European Defence Fund, which aims to compensate for the extra cost of cooperation and encourage the latter between businesses in the various Member States, with their financial support.
This means avoiding the old cooperation programme traps. They have not always produced the results anticipated. Delays, additional costs, different requirements according to the States ... The difficult implementation of some projects - which were nevertheless emblematic - must serve as a lesson so that we avoid making the same mistakes.
Supporting the emergence of a defence policy through industry
Article 173 TEU is the legal base of the regulation establishing the industrial programme. This article calls on the Union and its Member States to ensure that "the necessary conditions for competitiveness of industry in the Union are guaranteed". The absence of any reference to defence has led to some legal questions being raised: defence is addressed via industry. But it was the only way to distribute community money directly to projects like this. Article 42 TEU on the common security and defence policy would not have allowed this. It is incidentally, industrial projects which are being supported to increase competitiveness and innovative capacity of the Union.
The European Union would benefit a great deal if it clarified its competences in terms of defence, but the reluctance of some Member States force it to use the legal means it has at its disposal. The new role of co-legislator on the part of the European Parliament in terms of defence is not an easy thing for some capitals to accept, which since they are more used to a purely intergovernmental process and see what is perceived to be a loss of sovereignty with a critical eye.
A pragmatic approach for greater efficacy
The advantage of the European Defence Fund lies in its support to projects that bring few Member States together, but on well-defined terms from the very beginning. Fortunately, we did not wait for a common foreign policy to start developing projects of size in the defence industry. It was this "small steps" policy that prevailed in this programme, an approach that has always produced results in the history of the European Union.
The existence of common specifications between the participating Member States will be particularly decisive for the success of financially supported industrial projects. This certainly does not mean creating a complicated system that will discourage the Member States and industrialists. Three businesses from three Member States will be enough to comprise a consortium with a certain flexibility to allow the co-financing of the project by two Member States. Here a compromise had to be found between those who wanted to stick to the goal of creating new cooperation projects and those who wanted to adapt to the reality of ongoing industrial projects.
The pragmatic approach also means that there is no "geographic return" rule which would mean that each Member State would see a just return on its community investment via participation by one of its businesses in a project. In other words, defence industrialists' supply chains should not select a business just because it lies in one particular Member State of the Union. It is the technological excellence and the competitiveness of this company that will help in its selection in a non-discriminatory, transparent, open process, thereby enabling real competition.
Clearly the idea is to have a range of projects that bring together a maximum number of Member States, but this would be achieved firstly according to the innovative capacity of the companies. This is why the way SMEs, as well as mid-caps are treated has been the focus of particular attention. Some encouragement, via financial bonuses has been introduced to reward projects that have a certain share of the eligible costs devoted to SMEs or mid-caps. This is a way preventing extra burden being placed on industrial programmes that are already complicated.
Finally, the defence programme is typified by support to the European integration process of defence industrialists, whilst maintaining incentives for new cooperation projects.
Towards European strategic autonomy
European strategic autonomy finally has the wind in its sails. This idea is of course not clearly defined at European level, but it has been used in the "Global Strategy for a foreign and security policy for the European Union" in which we see that the EU does not want just to be a "soft power" but a complete power, that can be autonomous, and free in terms of its action. It was added to article 2 regarding the goals of the industrial programme.
The ideological reluctance of the countries in the north and in Central and Eastern Europe in accepting greater European autonomy in this area is clear. Firstly, this is due to a prism that is mainly oriented towards NATO, then it comes of the fear of seeing France and Germany dominate the definition of this strategic autonomy.
And yet the EU is still extremely dependent on technologies and products that are purchased from third countries. But since products and technologies are increasingly connected, purchasing a product off the shelf in the US for example can have great impact in terms of the protection of our sensitive information. We should not therefore wait to have completely harmonised strategic interests to launch projects à la carte to strengthen our capabilities which help towards the EU's independence.
Strategic autonomy also fosters the industrial and technological base of European defence. We have to ensure that community money that is made available for this industrial programme really does benefit our industry. This is the very essence of the eligibility of the businesses under discussion in the design of this programme. The Commission and European Parliament have played a particularly important role in this regard.
Naturally the Member States tend to want to do what they want with community money to the benefit of their businesses, without any particular guarantee. This is not reassuring with regard to some Member States which are not rigorous regarding the independence of their national defence.
Only businesses established in Europe and under the control of European countries or entities will be able to benefit from the financing. In certain tightly controlled situations companies established in Europe, but under the control of third countries or entities, will also be eligible, under extremely strict conditions linked to sensitive information access, intellectual property and governance connected to the action being financed.
However, no financing will be granted to a business outside of the EU, even if it were to cooperate with an eligible company. This is a truth that is not so easy to defend given some cultures which are far from the French idea of strategic autonomy.
With this industrial defence programme the idea is also to encourage the States to manufacture and purchase "European". Indeed, the Member States will have to commit to purchasing the product or the technology that results from the action financed by the programme. Hence, a new approach is being put forward by the regulation, which it is hoped, will take practices forward in the years to come.
Articulating the intergovernmental and the community
In the end the European Defence Fund should work harmoniously together with intergovernmental action undertaken at the same time. The Permanent Structured Cooperation Agreement which bought 25 Member States together in December 2017 and selected 17 projects was a major step forward, finally using the tools of the Lisbon Treaty. According to this agreement the Member States will devote a minimum 20% of their defence budget to equipment and 2% to technological development.
In the industrial defence programme a financial bonus will be given to projects if they are undertaken within the framework of permanent structured cooperation. This is a way to connect the intergovernmental and the community in an area in which the States retain a leading position.
The rise of the European Defence Fund will also depend on the Member States' commitment to providing the best projects at European level to create a virtuous circle of investments. Europe needs federating, successful projects to guarantee its future and the defence policy could comprise a strong pillar, on condition that the Member States commit to it unhesitatingly.
The return of European Defence?
For a long time, the European Union has been criticised for its apathy in terms of defence and the reluctance of its Member States to intervene at military level to help stabilise zones of crisis. Faced with turmoil in the world, terrorist, Russian, cyber and hybrid threats, the Union is said to have remained a civilian power imbued with Kantian values that are ill-adapted to contemporary challenges. Some Member States regularly show their impatience with this cautiousness, and all the more so since the treaties are ambitious in terms of the Union's Common Security and Defence Policy.
Over the last few years however a certain amount of progress has been made in terms of defence, at the early stages in the drafting of a new Global Strategy for the European Union's foreign and security policy (June 2016), then subsequently in its implementation. Hence, the Union created the Military Planning and Conduct Capability, France invoked the defence clause in the Lisbon Treaty and projects regarding the Permanent Structured Cooperation and the European Defence Fund have now taken shape.
This new dynamic breaks with the past and seems to imply State support for a greater role played by the Union in defence. But major challenges persist. Firstly, the definition of defence in a European framework has to be clarified; then, the implementation of the decisions taken over the last few years will require a continuous effort on the part of many players, both State and institutional; finally the new dynamic fails to mask strong divergences in States' perceptions of the virtues of turning to the Union for their own defence.
The Union, security and defence
In 1992, the Maastricht Treaty which created the European Union, defined a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), which included the long-term definition of an "eventual framing of a common defence policy, which might in time lead to a common defence."
Twenty-five years later the Union undoubtedly has developed its capabilities in the area of foreign policy and defence. It has launched more than 30 operations, twelve of which have been of a military nature and it has become a vehicle for its Member States' security policies.
Whether these actions are constitutive of a defence policy however is not clear. Hence the "defence" aspect of the Union's Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) is still underdeveloped, and the Union remains, despite recent progress, an institution dominated by a civilian culture within which the security agenda tends to prevail over that of defence.
At least three chains of development show the relative weakness of the Union's defence in terms of its external action.
Firstly, since the very start operations under the CSDP have been mainly of a civilian nature, which challenges the initial goal of building European Defence. More than 20 civilian missions have been launched by the Union, with ten ongoing in March 2018, in contrast to six military operations. As referred to in in the EU Global Strategy, civilian crisis management has become a trademark of CSDP and has shaped the Union's strategic culture.
On another note, the Union has developed expertise in the areas of conflict prevention and mediation, reform of the security sector, the rule of law, police activities and peace consolidation. This has been achieved through CSDP missions, the European Commission, and more recently, via the Justice and Home Affairs agencies, which have played an increasing role in crisis management.
Thirdly and more symptomatically, the Union's military operations have had little impact on its position in defence. By nature, these military deployments have been more concerned with what the United Nations calls "peacekeeping", i.e. a consensual and not very coercive approach, rather than the use of the armed forces against a clear political enemy. Some operations, like the two maritime operations to counter piracy in the Gulf of Aden (Atalanta) and against smuggling networks in the Mediterranean (Sophia), were given quite strong mandates (in theory at least); without comparison however to what some States do nationally or within the framework of NATO, and finally without giving the Union a central role in the establishment of a defence policy.
In brief, most of the Union's activities under the CSDP have taken place on the margins of the goals set by the successive treaties in terms of defence. Of course, the Union is no longer the civilian actor it was in the immediate post-Cold War period, but the slow process that has emerged with the establishment of the CSDP has placed more emphasis on a widened security agenda than on the development of a defence identity.
In parallel to the debate about the reality of the European defence policy, the period as of 2010, was marked by a structural crisis of CSDP. Barely ten years after the launch of its first operations in 2003, the CSDP was struggling due to the weak support provided by its Member States and seemed ill-adapted to constantly changing threats. The mandates of the operations launched led to unattainable expectations, their impact has been difficult to gauge and often challenged, to the point that the Union has been largely unable to impose itself as its Member States' privileged path in the security and defence domain.
In this context however, a combination of factors over the last five years has led to new impetus for the European defence project.
Firstly, the development of the security environment on the Union's threshold and within its borders has led to the Member States' growing awareness of the need for greater responsiveness. The Arab Springs as of 2011, the renewed rise of the Russian threat on the Union's doorstep, terrorism within the States and the potentially destabilising effect of illegal migration have revealed the downturn in the state of Europe's security. At the same time the dual effect of the upcoming exit of the EU by the UK, Germany's stronger position in the international arena together with the election in France of an openly pro-European President
, together with uncertainty regarding the transatlantic relationship, have pointed to an increasing role for the Union in response to rising instability.
In December 2013 the European Council debated defence issues for the first time since 2008 and the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty on 1st December 2009, beginning its conclusions with the words "defence matters".
The 2013 Council marked the beginning of renewed European debate over defence. A year later Federica Mogherini was appointed High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (1st November 2014), and she soon indicated her intention to focus on security and defence issues unlike her predecessor Catherine Ashton. From a conceptual point of view this investment took the shape of strategic thought about the security environment that the Union was facing,
prior to the European Council of June 2015 which mandated the High Representative to draft a "EU global strategy regarding foreign and security policy."
This was presented to the European Council of June 2016,
just days after the British referendum on the UK leaving the Union.
In the meantime, the attacks on Paris on 13th November 2015 led France to invoke for the first time ever the "defence clause" of the Lisbon Treaty (article 42.7) which provides that if a "Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power..."., in line with article 51 of the UN Charter. In practice the implementation of the clause did not give rise to any massive assistance by the Union's Member States to France. The UK and Germany did respond to requests for support by France in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. In reality though, the invocation of the clause was more symbolic, marking the revival of what is called in Paris "European Defence" and a clearer positioning of the Union on these issues than had previously been the case.
From this standpoint the implementation of the Union's Global Strategy as of autumn 2016 led to a series of notable steps forward. In November the European External Action Service (EEAS) delivered an "Implementation Plan on Security and Defence" which placed these issues at the heart of the implementation of the Global Strategy, concomitant with questions related to increasing resilience, the integrated approach to crises and conflicts and a better consideration of the internal/external security nexus.
The Implementation Plan defines a Level of ambition for the Union as well as three strategic priorities: the protection of Europe and its citizens, the management of crises and external conflicts, and the strengthening of partner States' capabilities.
Based on this, progress has occurred in at least three areas.
Firstly, in June 2016 a Military Planning and Conduct Capability was created within the EEAS to ensure the strategic command of the three EU training missions of local armed forces (EU Training Missions in Somalia, Mali and Central African Republic). The creation of this HQ is highly symbolic in that the UK was against the introduction of this kind of structure in the past.
Secondly, in December 2017 the Council of the Union created the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) in line with the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty (articles 42.6 and 46). PESCO aims at facilitating and incentivising cooperation in the field of capability development and operations. Twenty-five of the 28 Member States have joined PESCO with only the UK, Denmark and Malta not being part of it.
By joining PESCO the participating States promise to respect 20 "ambitious and more binding common commitments"
in three areas: defence expenditure, capability development and participation in the Union's military operations. The States have also committed to cooperate in 17 "capability projects" in the areas of inter alia training, armed forces' mobility, the establishment of crises response forces and the development of arms systems.
As it stands PESCO does not mirror the initial idea of the Lisbon Treaty, which provided for the establishment of an avant-garde comprising countries answering strict membership criteria, which would commit to participating in "the most demanding missions". In the end a more inclusive approach was preferred to differentiated integration in which binding commitments have replaced membership criteria.
Thirdly, the European Commission which traditionally had stayed away from defence affairs has adopted a decisive role in this domain through its financing capacity. Under the impetus of Jean-Claude Juncker the Commission produced a European Defence Action Plan in November 2016,
which introduced the idea a European Defence Fund (EDF). The EDF is to contribute to the financing of the development of defence capabilities through two "windows", one covering research, and the other capability development.
The defence research "window" is to finance (as part of the Union's budget) defence research to a total of 500 million € per year during the multi-annual financial framework 2021-2027, 90 million € by 2020. As for the capability development "window" it is to serve as a lever to facilitate the development and acquisition of military equipment by the Member States. In the long run the idea is to finance this development to a total of 1 billion € per year (as part of the Union's budget), matched by 4 billion € provided by the Member States. Projects bringing together at least three companies based in at least two Member States will be eligible for financing. Finally, capability projects that come under PESCO will receive a bonus of 10% in comparison with non-PESCO projects, the EDF thereby providing a 30% financing ratio against 70% for the Member States.
The fact that the Commission is becoming one of the actors in European defence is symptomatic of ongoing developments. But this also leads to some tensions, notably in the distribution of roles with the Member States on the one hand, with the European Defence Agency (EDA) on the other hand, whose prerogatives in this area were defined in the Lisbon Treaty.
In comparison with the previous period and the apathy that typified it, these various initiatives mark a certain change in State and institutional policies regarding defence. A year after the publication of the Global Strategy, the High Representative went as far as stating that "more [had] been achieved (in the area of security and defence) in the last ten months than in the last ten years."
The developments described above are unique in the construction of a defence policy for the European Union, at least since the first foundations of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) were set at the end of the last century.
Of course, recent initiatives still have to become a reality, and nothing can guarantee that the present dynamic will last, or survive the various changes of government, college of Commissioners and MEPs.
Generally, the claim made of the Union as a defence actor remains contingent and faces a series of political and cultural obstacles which are not certain to be overcome. At least two of these should be considered in the analysis of the ongoing process: one is related to the very meaning of the term "defence"; the other lies in divergence in the strategic cultures of the Union's Member States and the attachment some have to the centrality of NATO.
The meaning of defence
One of the paradoxes of the European Union's defence policy is the under-conceptualisation of the term defence. In 2015 the High Representative wrote in the strategic review that preceded the Global Strategy that the "European Union is not a military alliance" and that consequently the idea was not for the EU to cover collective or territorial defence, which incidentally is NATO's prerogative. At the same time, the High Representative added that the Union could not afford to ignore the "D" in "CSDP".
In this context, if one considers that on the one hand collective defence is not the Union's responsibility, and that on the other, military operations set in place by the latter since 2003 under the framework of the CSDP are more security- than defence-related, then the Union's defence policy must lie somewhere in the gap between the two.
In 2016, as it gave details of what the strategic priority "protecting Europe and its citizens" meant in security and defence terms, the Foreign Affairs Council mentioned the protection and resilience of its critical networks and infrastructures, the security of its external borders, guaranteeing access to and the use of common goods, the fight to counter hybrid threats, cyber-security, counter terrorism, the fight to counter human trafficking and organised crime. All of these activities are not necessarily linked to defence, but a typology of the possible fields of intervention is defined. To be more precise one can imagine that within the framework set the Union might be brought to undertake expeditionary military operations or openly coercive maritime operations, or to contribute to operations to strengthen partner States' military capabilities. Examples of this type of operation undertaken in other contexts other than that of the Union include NATO operations against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999, or against Libya in 2011 and in Afghanistan since 2003; the coalition against the Islamic State since 2014; and even French operations in Mali (Serval), then in the Sahel (Barkhane) since 2013.
The process concomitant to the drafting of the Global Strategy (2015-2016) and the invocation of the defence clause (November 2015) could have provided an opportunity to improve the definition of the idea of defence within a European framework. But this was not the case in either situation.
Thought about the Global Strategy allows a great deal of room for defence issues, but these are almost always addressed from the point of view of the capabilities to develop and almost never from the point of the view of the operations to undertake. Even the ideas of "strategic autonomy" and "the level of ambition" remain vague as to the outcome of these goals in terms of defence.
And regarding the defence clause, the fact is that the European Union, as an institution did not take part in its implementation. Not only is the Union not mentioned in article 42.7 (only the States are), but the invocation of the clause did not lead either to thought about the Union's position in a wider context of the defence of its Member States.
Finally, although negotiations regarding PESCO should have included debate about the meaning of "the most demanding missions" to which the Lisbon Treaty refer (article 42.6), in practice the States revealed a reluctance in committing to discussions about this, and the final document remains vague as to what military operations could be about as a result of PESCO. In the end, whether we refer to the 17 projects retained or the 20 binding commitments, the essence of the project is more about what the Union is already doing than about a more ambitious (and better accepted) design of the defence of Europe.
In his speech at the Sorbonne on 26th September 2017 French President Macron claimed that "what Europe, or European Defence, lacks most today is a common strategic culture."
Strategic culture implies the conception held by a State and/or a population about the conditions and virtues of the use of armed force in connection with the defence of so-called strategic interests. A country that has a strong strategic culture will establish a clear link between the expression of its foreign policy and the use of armed force, and conversely a country that is not really inclined to take part in military operations will have a weak strategic culture.
The observation that there are divergent strategic cultures amongst the countries of Europe is of course not new. In the 1990's already the idea that the new EU Member States would not necessarily share Western European ideas in terms of defence was there, whether this involved non-aligned States or Eastern European States. Beyond these States and in the context of Brexit, the striking division is the one between France and Germany. The development of a role for the Union in the area of defence will not be achieved without these two States and without convergence between them on the objective this is to have. Yet the gulf is still great between an extraverted conception of power on the one hand, in which defence plays a central role, and on the other, an approach that aims to be more inclusive and less enthusiastic about the virtues of military intervention. The two situations of responding to instability in the Sahel on the one hand, negotiating over the Permanent Structured Cooperation on the other, provide examples of such Franco-German divergence.
In this context, the revival witnessed over the last few years undoubtedly illustrates a slow convergence of views through which the Union is acquiring defence competences more than it did before. It remains however that the Union's Member States diverge at three levels in their perceptions of the threats they face, the nature of the response to give to these threats and the institutional channels to privilege in their management. In this complicated situation, the idea that defence (or rather security) policies should be the prerogatives of the European Union (rather than of NATO or the States) is not widely accepted. Many countries believe that the EU remains secondary in relation to NATO in the definition and implementation of their defence policy and the perspective that the roles can be reversed amid American reticence about the transatlantic solidarity, remains extremely distant. In fact, it is the equation whereby European defence should be the responsibility of the EU which does not match reality.
Even a country like France, which for a long time has pushed for a greater role on the part of the Union in defence, today develops a narrative that can be interpreted as "institutional agnosticism" by which the defence of Europe is the responsibility of various actors, including the States, either alone or in coalition, NATO and the Union, without the latter enjoying any type of precedence. This is what is covered by the idea of the European Intervention Initiative as proposed by France to its European partners and which is not a priori a part of any predefined institutional framework.
The last three or four years have undeniably modified the European view of defence and the Union has succeeded in attracting attention that it had not enjoyed previously.
The initiatives taken should be turned into reality and tested, notably from an operational point of view, i.e. in terms of the Europeans' ability to shape a defence identity through a presence in places where European interests are under threat. In the present context ,European states' passivity while being faced with a security challenge that would call for a collective response, in line with the commitments they have made as part of PESCO for example, would be detrimental to the dynamic observed more recently. The fact that ambitions are high is not new in itself, and progress observed goes beyond declared intentions. But the demonstration of a Europe that protects, including through defence, remains to be accomplished.