2018 : The Year of European Defence?

Last year marked the revival of the long-standing idea of European Defence. Member States have taken decisive steps towards more efficiency and self-sufficiency in defense. In this context, and with more legislative proposals under way, 2018 will surely be busier, maybe more ambitious?

Defense initiatives will be given priority

2017 was already a busy year for European defence initiatives, with major turning points such as the launch of the Permanent Structured Cooperation in December 13, with 23 Member States agreeing to work together on common armament projects ranging from medical support to land, sea and cybersecurity projects, the adoption of a European Defense Fund of 5,5 trillion € in June, the ongoing reform of the European Defense Agency, etc.

2018 promises to be even busier : on December 14, the European Council approved the EU’s legislative priorities for 2018-2019 which have been agreed with the European Parliament and the Commission. Defense and security are presented as the number one priority:

“Better protecting the security of our citizens, by ensuring Member States’ authorities know who is crossing our common external borders, interoperable EU information systems for security, criminal records, border and migration management, by strengthening our instruments on the fight against terrorism and against money laundering, and by enhancing the competitiveness and innovation of the Union defence industry via a European Defence Fund.”

France wants to adopt a more pragmatic approach

In October 2017, France published its Strategic Review of Defence and National Security. The Director French MEP Arnaud Danjean advocated for a new approach for cooperation in defence and security, with pragmatism :

  • Reaching an optimal combination of the EU’s different cooperation approaches,
  • Fostering bilateral or multilateral partnerships – with a priority given to those Member States which are able and willing,
  • Maintaining close ties with the U.K in defence cooperation,
  • Improving interoperability,
  • Re-organising industrial and technological cooperations – maybe by establishing a « European preference mechanism »,
  • Multiplying PESCO projects.

Macron’s European Intervention Initiative might take shape

Whether France succeeds in convincing the other Member States of adopting a more pragmatic approach or not, it is likely that the country will be the driving force behind new Defense initiatives, under the leadership of President Emmanuel Macron. In his 26 September address on Europe and the Strategic Review of Defence and National Security, the latter suggested that by the next decade, Europe should develop a European Intervention Initiative, a common doctrine and common budgetary instruments. [1]

The initiative should supplement the European Defence Fund and Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). The objective is to enable Member States to better integrate their armed forces at every stage.

France is aiming for a “quick and operational force” that could undertake missions such as the one France has conducted in Mali, Minister for the Armed Forces Florence Parly specified in a speech at the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS) on 20 October.

As underlined by Alice Pannier, Professor of International Relations and European Studies at Johns Hopkins University, in a position paper published by the European Leadership Network : “It thus looks like France is pursuing the more demanding goal of strategic culture convergence necessary for quick multinational deployments in semi-permissive operational environments.”

Baltic defence cooperation will grow stronger

On December 8, Baltic Defence Ministers agreed on defence policy priorities for 2018 at a meeting in Liepaja (Latvia). The key points on their defence policy agenda are the following:

  • Further NATO adaptation – all three Baltic states will allocate 2 percent of GDP for defence as of 2018, and commit to the speedier implementation of concrete NATO decisions, in order to strengthen the defensive and deterrent posture of the Alliance.
  • Implementation of European defence and security initiatives,
  • Close cooperation with allies in ensuring security of Baltic region – notably by modernizing and upgrading the Baltic states armed forces.

Lithuania will take over the lead of the Baltic Security and Defence Cooperation as of January 2018. The country will notably ensure the proper preparation of theBaltic states for the NATO Summit of summer 2018, where the final decision on the new NATO Command Structure is expected to be made.

“Simplified movement of allied forces across borders is still important in the context of the region as well as of the entire Alliance and the European Union. Therefore, we will seek to achieve it by removing administrational, legal and physical barriers,” said Lithuanian Defense Minister, Raimundas Karoblis.


June 2018 NATO summit in Brussels
January 2019 Date at which the EDIDP should be fully operational

[1] For more information on Macron’s Sorbonne speech, please refer to our previous article : Integration of the European Defense market[retour au texte]

Photo credit : © Fotolia

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