Defence: MEPs urge member states to show political will and join forces

Increasing defence cooperation in the EU now depends more upon the political will to make it happen than upon legal considerations, say MEPs in a resolution approved by Parliament on Thursday. They stress that member states can and should use the treaty tools in place to build a truly common defence policy.

MEPs want the European Defence Agency (EDA) and the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) to be treated as sui generis EU institutions, like the EU External Action Service, and funded through a specific section in the Union budget.

Co-rapporteur Esteban González Pons (EPP, ES), on behalf of the Constitutional Affairs Committee, said “This is an ambitious and strategic report that comes at an opportune time, as the Security and Defence Union will be one of the top priorities in the Rome Declaration next week. There is also a general agreement that achieving a common defence is now more necessary than ever. In an unpredictable international climate, we need a common defence policy which reinforces unity, strategic autonomy and integration in order to promote peace and security inside the Union and in the world”.

Co-rapporteur Michael Gahler (EPP, DE), for the Foreign Affairs Committee, said “Member states permanently ignore the fact that the funding of the administrative and operating expenditures for EDA and PESCO from the Union budget is the only option under the Treaties. The decision of 6 March to start the Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC) was, however, a milestone on the way towards the European Defence Union. By establishing this new military capability, the member states have finally acted upon one of parliament’s longstanding demands, which we repeated in our report”.

The resolution, approved by 360 votes to 212, with 48 abstentions, underlines that developing an EU common defence policy depends, above all, on the political will of member states, given that the Lisbon Treaty already provides a sufficient framework for building a truly common defence policy.

Improved institutional framework

MEPs advocate establishing a “defence ministers” meeting format within the EU Council of Ministers. They also call for the EDA’s political backing and resources to be strengthened, and encourage EU countries to join PESCO as soon as possible.

The resolution argues that the EU Battlegroup system should be brought under PESCO, alongside the creation of a permanent civilian and military headquarters. This would enhance civil-military cooperation and the EU’s ability to react speedily to crises, MEPs say.

Increased defence expenditure

Parliament also considers it essential to increase national defence expenditure to 2% of GDP, stressing that this would mean finding an extra €100 billion for defence by the end of the coming decade. Extra money should be channelled to research and development as well as to strategic cooperative programmes, where the EU could help, the text adds.

Future EU-UK relations

Finally, the resolution underlines the need for further reflection on future relations between the EU and UK, particularly in the field of military capabilities, should the UK decide to leave the Union.