The European Union has shown significant progress in strengthening cooperation in the area of security and defence these last weeks. Macron’s willingness to push initiatives such as the European military intervention force, the Permanent Structured Cooperation on security and defence (PESCO), or the European defence fund with €13 billion are some examples of European defence further steps. Brexit makes it more difficult, but not impossible.
The establishment of the EU Military intervention force
Defence ministers from nine EU countries (France, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Estonia, Spain and Portugal), including the U.K, pledged to form a joint European military intervention force, in order to quickly be able to deploy troops in crisis scenarios near Europe’s borders.
The initiative will be distinct from the European defense pact known as PESCO — which includes all EU member countries except Britain, Malta and Denmark.
The European Intervention Initiative, spearheaded by French President Emmanuel Macron as part of plans for an autonomous European defense force will allow British support to last post Brexit.
“Thanks to exchanges between staff and joint exercises, we will create a European strategic culture. We will be ready to anticipate crises and respond quickly and effectively” French defence Minister Florence Parly
The European Council on June 25 adopted a decision establishing a common set of governance rules for 17 projects related to PESCO.
“Now the focus will be fully on the implementation of the 17 projects already existing, the preparation of the new set of projects to be adopted by November and the work we will start to prepare the conditions for third countries’ participation in PESCO projects.” EU’s High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini
The sequencing of the more binding commitments undertaken by member states participating in PESCO is expected to be defined through a Council recommendation, in principle in July 2018. An updated list of PESCO projects and their participants, including a second wave of projects, is expected by November 2018.
As an example of PESCO progress, six European Union states (Croatia, Estonia, the Netherlands, Romania and Spain, Lithuania) signed a Declaration of Intent to create rapid response teams to help countering cyber attacks under PESCO. Finland, France and Poland are expected to sign on later.
European defence fund
On 13th June, The European Commission proposed a 13 billion euro defence and security fund for the first time to help build up depleted militaries that are heavily reliant on the United States. The fund for the 2021-2027 period aims to support the European Union’s efforts to integrate militaries – plans that were long blocked by Britain because it feared the creation of an EU army – and defend against Islamic militants and a resurgent Russia.
Separately, the Commission also proposed a 10.5 billion euro “European Peace Facility” to fund EU military missions abroad.
Britain is still negotiating the terms of Brexit but at this stage, however, EU Industry Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska was clear: “The fund is open for companies based in the EU” she said.
UK, still involved in EU defence?
In the two years since British citizens voted to leave the European Union, Europe has increased the focus on developing its internal defense capabilities.
Meanwhile, Britain is seeking a security treaty with the EU by 2019, eager to retain access to EU databases, weapons contracts and share intelligence, and many EU countries support the idea.
“The U.K. has expressed very clearly an interest to remain plugged into European security and defense initiatives. And the exact modalities of how that will happen will depend on the general negotiation, which is taking place — so the withdrawal agreement and what will follow. I think the U.K. has, undoubtedly, capabilities that can contribute significantly to European defense.” Jorge Domecq, the chief executive of the European Defence Agency
To ensure its commitment to EU defence, Britain wants to cement its foreign policy and security ties with the European Union via the “closest possible cooperation agreement” for when it leaves the bloc, Britain’s Minister for the Cabinet Office David Lidington said.
But the industry is worried about Britain’s defence and security future role in the EU. Indeed, Airbus, which employs 14,000 people in the UK, warned it could leave, if the UK exits the single market and customs union with no transition deal. “It would lead to severe disruption and interruption of UK production », the company said.
Photo credit : ©French Defence Ministry