Concrete solutions for concrete challenges by Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Brussels
The urgency of the EU’s security and defence initiatives is not diminishing. On the contrary: recent events in Mali, Libya, Ukraine and Nagorno-Karabakh confirm how deeply unstable countries and regions in our direct vicinity are. At the same time, direct threats like terrorism, hybrid threats and cyber-attacks are growing as well. Moreover, we see more geopolitical competition between major powers at the global level, exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis. These challenges affect our security and strategic position and compel us to become more resilient and more effective in security and defence.
We have achieved a lot
From the beginning of my mandate, I have placed the strengthening of our Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) at the very heart of the EU’s work. Since then, we have already achieved a lot.
First, we have made progress in the implementation of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). PESCO is a decisive contribution for the development of Europe’s capacity to act autonomously. And it is key to allow us to react effectively to the most demanding circumstances. Member States are already working together on 47 projects to deepen and boost European defence cooperation, with 26 of them expected to become fully operational by 2025. With the first PESCO strategic review just concluded and the agreement recently reached on the conditions for the participation of third states in PESCO projects, we are consolidating PESCO as the key framework for defence cooperation at EU level.
Second, our CSDP missions and operations are contributing to build stable societies around the world, helping our partners abroad to plant the seeds of peace and stability. This, in turn, has a positive impact on the security of the European Union and its citizens. In 2020 the EU launched the military operation EUNAVFOR MED IRINI in the Mediterranean to contribute to enforce the UN arms embargo on Libya and work towards a peaceful solution of the conflict. We have also deployed a new civilian advisory mission, EUAM RCA, to support the reform of the internal security forces in Central African Republic.
Third, our global partnerships are developing too. Our cooperation with NATO constitutes an integral pillar of the EU’s CSDP. By reinforcing our capabilities in the area of security and defence, Europe is doing its homework in strengthening the transatlantic alliance. And we remain committed to further strengthening our cooperation with the United Nations.
Fourth, we are strengthening our tools to counter hybrid threats, including disinformation and cyber-attacks. With the imposition of the first targeted measures under the cyber sanctions regime on 30th July, the EU has shown its determination to prevent, deter and respond to continuing and increasing malicious behaviour in cyberspace. Before the end of the year, we will further strengthen our cybersecurity with the adoption of an ambitious cybersecurity package.
Improving the Union’s ability to act
To give new impetus to our security and defence agenda, we are now working on a Strategic Compass. The first step in the development of the Strategic Compass is a comprehensive analysis of threats and challenges. Based on input from EU national civilian and military intelligence, this analysis maps the key trends, challenges and vulnerabilities that the Union faces in the medium term. This intelligence-led document provided a substantive basis for the discussion defence ministers had in November to start elaborating the Compass.
Following the threat analysis, we will engage in a strategic dialogue with Member States to assess the implications for our policies. This dialogue should enable Member States to reinforce their common understanding of the security threats we collectively face, or, in other words, to enhance the European security and defence culture.
The role of the Strategic Compass
The Strategic Compass should address the growing need, in a volatile world, to be able to act as a security provider. Enhanced engagement through CSDP missions and operations, with more robust and flexible mandates, is key. We also need to have strong civilian and military command and control structures. The Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC) has already been mandated to become capable to plan and conduct an executive military operation (approximately 2500 troops), in addition to the training missions. The question is, however, whether this structure should be further strengthened to meet the EU’s level of ambition set in 2016.
Member States’ contributions, both to missions/operations and to the MPCC, are currently lagging behind. The Compass should address this issue and its underlying causes. We must ensure that our operational engagement is in line with our political decisions. The Compass could be used to work on incentives to make it easier and more attractive for Member States to contribute, for example by making the mandates of missions and operations more flexible, by extending the financing of common costs and further operationalising the integrated approach. The European Peace Facility, which should become operational at the beginning of next year, will already be a good step in the right direction.
Better protect the Union and its citizens
We also need to strengthen our resilience. This is why the Compass should help strengthen the EU’s position in strategic domains such as cyber, maritime security and space. It could also address disruptive technologies affecting security and defence, such as Artificial Intelligence or quantum technologies that support an innovative Europe’s Defence Technological and Industrial Base.
Strengthening our capabilities through cooperation
If we want to enhance our ability to act and protect ourselves better, we need the right capabilities. Defence cooperation has been on the agenda for many years and the European Defence Agency (EDA) plays a significant role in this regard. Yet, the EU still lacks critical military capabilities. This is why initiatives like PESCO, the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence and the European Defence Fund are so important. By enabling and supporting cooperation, they help Member States develop jointly and more efficiently the defence capabilities Europe needs. The Compass should further guide the existing EU capability planning and development instruments by setting clear goals and objectives that help overcome critical shortfalls. It is ultimately for Member States to embed these tools in their national defence planning and make defence cooperation the norm.
Working proactively with our partners
In a world of disorder, the EU needs partners. To cope with the evolving security context the Compass should help to promote a more strategic approach to partnerships. It should identify concrete ways in which the EU’s cooperation in peace, security and defence with partner countries and organisations, notably with the UN, NATO and the OSCE, as well as the African Union and ASEAN, can be reinforced. This should contribute to the overall aim of the EU to promote multilateralism, including in the area of security and defence.
I know that I am putting forward a very ambitious approach to the Strategic Compass, but we live in challenging times and we need to find common answers to the questions that I raised. Together with the Member States and the support of the EDA and the European Commission, we will address these challenges in the months to come with a focus on concrete solutions.