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The scenario of a really integrated EU’s defence capabilities

Black Blade 2016, under the EU’s Helicopter Exercise Programme [European Defence Agency, Fisher Maximilian]

▲ Black Blade 2016, under the EU’s Helicopter Exercise Programme [European Defence Agency, Fisher Maximilian]

ESSAYAlbert Vidal

The purpose of this paper is to project a potential scenario in the European Union (EU) security and defence field around 2030. The European Commission has already developed a three-legged projection (Mogherini & Katainen, 2017), which presents alternative scenarios, the accomplishment of which will depend on the decisions the European Union and its member states take from now on. Thus, as it makes no sense to describe again the three scenarios, I will be focusing on the most ambitious one: a common security and defence.

To do so, I will begin by briefly depicting where we are today, in terms of EU security and defence. Afterwards, I will introduce the core ideas outlined in the Reflection Paper[1] and develop the 3rd scenario. A variety of issues which include funding, industry capabilities and intelligence, among others, will be tackled. 

EU Security and Defence in 2019

As of 2019, the security and defence policies of the EU are embedded in the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) which, although having the astronomical combined budget[2] of more than $220 billion in 2016 (How much is spent on defence in the EU?, 2018), it is far from being the military superpower it ought to be. It is true that the EU Global Strategy[3] provides some guidelines for the development of EU’s policies, but for now it is just a vision and hasn’t yet had the time to deliver tangible results. The Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), on the other hand, offers the potential to work toward the achievement of those goals.

Meanwhile, we can appreciate a costly fragmentation of resources which is embodied in the multiplicity of weapons systems in the EU (up to 178) compared to the US, which has around 30 (Munich Security Report 2017, 2017). Duplication is quite pricey: since every EU Member State has to acquire a little bit of everything to cover its wide range of military necessities, we end up having repeated and useless systems and a lot of money is consequently wasted. The lack of interoperability[4] between different European armies complicates the deployments even more and brings equipment shortages. This gives a strong explanation to why less than 3% of European troops are actually deployed (Defending Europe Factsheet, 2017). Besides, the inexistence of a large fund for military operations and research in technology has hindered the development of European-made equipment and has also prevented large-scale operations. If the member states want to launch a military mission, they need to resort to different sources of funding, such as the Athena Mechanism, the African Peace Facility, the Instrument Contributing to Stability and Peace and several Trust Funds, which causes confusion and a loss of efficiency. The aforementioned examples are not thought to be exhaustive; they are just some examples of today’s chaos in the field of security and defence in the EU.

How ambitious is the EU?

The ‘Reflection Paper on the Future of European Defence’ presents three scenarios of incremental cooperation among the EU member states, with each projection having its own principles and reach (Mogherini & Katainen, 2017).

Scenario A is characterized by the lowest degree of cooperation, which would remain voluntary and member states wouldn’t be bound to a common security and defence. The EU would only be able to deploy civilian missions and small-scale military operations; and its defence industry would remain largely fragmented.

Scenario B depicts an EU defence policy with stronger financial resources and a greater ability to project its military power. Duplication would be reduced and cooperation with NATO would increase.

Scenario C is by far the most interesting one, where a real common security and defence policy would be developed, and it would effectively balance the contributions and competencies among the member states (Bierman, 2018). Such will be the main object of analysis of the present paper. 

Ten predictions

Being this section my contribution to the conversation, I hope to be creative enough without falling into vagueness and imprecision.

a) In regards to the structure, the CSDP[5] will remain as a part of the Foreign Affairs Configuration within the Council of the EU and will evolve into the communitarian decision-making-style; that is, intergovernmental decision making (which requires consensus) will become democratic (only requires majority). This inflection point will accelerate development of this field, since consensus will no longer be necessary. In regards to the material capabilities, national armies will begin their transition toward a unified European army. Right now, this may seem crazy. But Europe has taken similar steps before in other areas; and even if states have lost their national decision-making power on economic issues, no big disaster has happened.

Although member states are now fearful of transferring defence competences to the Union, I believe this will eventually occur. Many worry because member states will be losing sovereignty and control of their own army, and they will be at the mercy of the EU’s will. The problem is that defence is a very dear issue to states and there will be little progress toward efficiency and interoperability unless the EU takes complete control. Europe needs to continue advancing in its integration project to face increasingly challenging crisis; staying still will be synonymous with collapse.

b) Funding will be unified under a single European defence fund that will have a dual purpose. Firstly, it will be devoted to research and development; secondly, it will finance all kinds of operations and cover its costs, be it civilian or military ones[6] (a similar idea to the European Peace Facility). Existing funds such as the Athena Mechanism or the APF would obviously disappear. Ideally, all EU member states would devote the equivalent of a 0.4% of the GDP to such fund, which would account for more than $75 billion[7].

c) Apart from that, EU member states should spend a minimum of 1.1% of their GDP in defence, which accounted for $206 billion in 2018. A superior body will coordinate the efforts to ensure that duplication doesn’t take place, and that all materials that are produced, acquired and used are interoperable. Thus, member states will have to follow certain guidelines when investing their resources. If we want to avoid having too many radar stations or minesweepers, the superior body will draft a list with the quotas that each unit, vehicle or system will have and will distribute it among the member states. It will probably be the case that only certain countries will be spending on aircraft carriers, but that won’t mean that such carrier belongs to the country that built it. The novelty is that all the equipment and units will be controlled by a unified European Command Center. Defence will be a policy concerning the community of member states.

d) The multiplicity of systems will be drastically reduced and the EU will only produce a small amount of tanks, battleships and aircrafts models. Such specialization and the optimized production will lower the costs of manufacture[8]. This will bring competition among the different actors in the defence industry, which will definitely produce higher quality technology and equipment. The EU could enhance its cooperation with the industries by inviting such companies to the military exercises; so that they can see which gaps do they have and develop innovative ideas.

e) Relations with external actors will change profoundly. As the national external action will be subsumed under the CFSP, the EU will have an even stronger negotiating power when facing foreign threats, such as Russia. Its relationship with NATO will become awkward, since the EU will have its own army capable of performing high-end operations and will be perfectly fitted to deter Russia. At the same time, the EU will be able to pursue a foreign policy that might not suit the interests of the US, so NATO might become a parallel corpus which, although awkwardly separated from the EU, will maintain its ties with it. In some cases, certain countries will find themselves belonging simultaneously to both NATO and the EU CSDP. What will happen is that EU member states may change their membership status to NATO partners.

f) Other improvements will include a readjustment of the training areas and the recruitment processes[9], which will be brought to an EU scale; this will in turn improve the integration among European soldiers, since they will train jointly from the beginning. Language barriers will be broken and cultural differences will be easily overcome.

g) Nuclear weapons will also be crucial to the future of the CSDP: although it may sound naive that France will give its sovereignty over nuclear weapons to the EU, it still is a possibility that we should not ignore[10]. Maybe we could design a special mechanism on the usage of nuclear weapons by the EU, in which France would have a sort of veto. The UK, on its part, will not be included in the CSDP, and its nuclear weapons and conventional capabilities will continue under their sovereignty.

h) An emphasis will be put on cyber security, Artificial Intelligence systems, quantum technology, laser weapons and autonomous weapons. This is too wide of a topic to be developed here, but what is certain is the need to invest extensively in research. Once all funds come together, research labs and facilities should also start collaborating between them, and this should improve the return on investments.

i) A redesigned Battle Group (BG) concept will impact the way the EU understands its security. Since conflicts after the Cold War have tended to be very localized and asymmetric, it makes little sense to have only such big and numerous forces prepared for combat. What I propose is to create smaller high-readiness special operations forces, which can be deployed in less than 3 days, instead of the 15 days that it takes for Battle Groups[11]. Again, smaller units with cyber support and advanced technology will be a lot more efficient, silent and precise. War is evolving, the EU should as well.

j) Africa will change a lot in the coming years. Right now it is the EU’s primary foreign policy concern and it will probably continue to be in 2030. The EU has realized how dangerous another major crisis in Northern Africa might be, because if mixed with the massive population growth and poverty it may provoke colossal migration waves, as we have never seen. To avoid it, the EU should ideally adopt a double-pronged strategy: on the one hand, it should focus on the development of the region. On the other hand, it should address one and for all the chaos present in certain Northern African countries. I am aware of how complex this is, since regional factions, terrorists and liberation groups are often mixed up. Training the police forces through capacity-building missions and strengthening the judicial system and other governmental institutions is a needed step, which should be followed by more development-focused approaches.

Conclusion

I have laid out in this paper where we are today in terms of EU Security and Defence, and I have then further developed the ideas proposed by the 3rd scenario of the Reflection Paper, the most ambitious one. But, what is the utility of projecting such scenario? Well, the EU is facing today multiple challenges that range from terrorism, to migration and a potential internal disintegration. Brexit means that the strongest European army is leaving and the EU now needs to rethink itself. This is a critical point for the future of Europe: crisis means a crucial time in which a decisive change is impending. We need to think extreme during onerous times and consider proposals that would have otherwise remained in the shade.


[1] The ‘Reflection Paper on the Future of European Defence’ sets the different scenarios for moving towards a security and defense union

[2] USD $220 billion is the aggregate amount that all countries participating in the CSDP spend in defense

[3] The European Union Global Strategy was adopted on 28 June 2016

[4] Interoperability is defined as the intellectual capacity of military professionals to come together in one formation, face one common problem and try to develop solutions for it. Its biggest challenges are logistics, communication systems and a common understanding of what ‘interoperability’ actually means (Piatt & Leed, 2014). Today, the lack of interoperability creates an opportunity cost of $27 billion a year (Europe is starting to get serious about defence, 2017)

[5] CSDP will continue to be subsumed to the Common Foreign Security Policy (CFSP). As part of Scenario C, I also envisage the community asserting its rule over the CFSP But this is a different topic that we will not tackle here

[6] The legal restrictions on financing military activities from the EU’s budget would disappear

[7] According to the GDP in 2018; in 2030 it will probably be a bigger amount.

[8] According to the European Parliament, joining up the EU defense market would save $27 billion a year (Europe is starting to get serious about defence, 2017).

[9] Another proposal is an EU military conscription, which would diminish the costs greatly

[10] Given that we are projecting Scenario C, we are aiming for a coherent CSDP

[11] Battle Groups would then be used as back-up forces for longer and bigger operations

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY 

Bierman, B. (2018). A Critical Analysis of the Future of the EU’s CFSDP. Global Affairs & Strategic StudiesRetrieved March 1, 2019, from

Crisis. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Defending Europe Factsheet. (2017). Retrieved from 

Europe is starting to get serious about defence. (2017). The EconomistRetrieved from

How much is spent on defence in the EU? (2018). Retrieved from

Mogherini, F., & Katainen, J. (2017). Reflection Paper on the Future of European Defence. Brussels. Retrieved from

Munich Security Report 2017. (2017). Munich. Retrieved from

Piatt, W., & Leed, M. (2014). The Future of European Collective Defense. Washington DC: Center for Strategic & International Studies. Retrieved from

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