By: Philippe Errera, Director General for International Relations and Strategy, Ministry of Armed Forces, France
Europe faces a highly unstable and uncertain strategic environment, subject to sweeping changes. It has to deal with the greatest concentration of challenges since the end of the Cold War, including a persistent terrorist threat, continuing vulnerabilities in the SahelSahara region, enduring destabilisation in the Middle East, major migration crises, the resumption of open warfare on its doorstep and displays of force on its territory stemming from Russia’s intimidation strategy.
These destabilising factors need to be tackled to better protect our citizens. European nations must take on greater responsibility for their own security, hence the necessity to better coordinate our efforts and to foster our capacity to better anticipate, prepare, plan and act together when and where necessary
This is exactly what we have started building over the past years,
with historic progress in recent months. The increases in European
defence budgets and the successful adaptation of NATO’s deterrence
and defence posture, represent indispensable adjustments. In the
EU, the initiatives we launched, or helped launch, such as PESCO, the
EDF and CARD, form a consistent system of incentives for EU Member
States to increase their defence cooperation. Taken all together, they
will form the European Union’s contribution to developing greater
European strategic autonomy.
In particular, by launching PESCO, all 25 participating Member States agreed legally binding commitments and pledged to play a more active role in European defence. PESCO encourages a shared and common effort over the long run.
In 2017, we laid down the foundations for its framework. Thanks to the strong involvement of Member States as well as to the key support provided by EDA and EUMS, we were able to launch PESCO in a timely manner. But this was only the first step. We now need to give PESCO substance. Our primary concern is to ensure that it moves at the speed of relevance. In this perspective, France sees two priorities.
First, we must meet the commitments we have taken on. PESCO participants pledged to meet 20 legally binding and ambitious commitments. They embody our shared ambition for European defence. To this end, assessment mechanisms, such as those proposed by EDA, will play a critical role. PESCO must be a lever, not just a label.
Second, simultaneously, projects will be the real test of PESCO. The numerous proposals made by partners since last summer are a sign of their enthusiasm and dynamism. The first 17 projects are now being operationalised and we must ensure that they deliver concrete results. In the coming years, the key issue will be to avoid dispersing our strengths. To this end, we must ensure that we build a coherent set of projects.
PESCO is not an island, and it does not stand alone. It was designed in complementarity with the European Defence Fund and CARD. It is also reinforced by other endeavours developed on a bilateral and ad hoc basis.
The European intervention initiative (EI2), in particular, will help develop and promote shared assessments and joint action when European security interests are threatened, whatever the framework in which European nations choose to act. It will further our shared strategic culture, drawing on PESCO’s political momentum, potentially both supporting current PESCO projects and drawing on them.
These initiatives are also fully consistent with NATO. A strong European pillar within a strong transatlantic alliance is more necessary than ever.
We, as Europeans, have been hard at work. We have set new goals and launched new initiatives. By doing so, we created expectations from our citizens and international partners. Disappointing them will only reinforce those who think the EU only produces speeches and acronyms. The mantra for the coming year must be: “make it real”. We must turn the promises we made last year into action.