By Juha Sipilä, Prime Minister of Finland
The security environment has changed and the European Union simply must do more to strengthen its security. Member States must now consider how the instruments available to the Union can be utilised more effectively in the changed security environment.
In this regard, European initiatives and activity in the field of defence are very welcome. The reflection paper published on 7 June by the Commission on the future of European defence is an extension of this European debate and development.
Can we do more together and less alone? Security issues have, in recent years, risen to the top of those concerns where people wish that the European Union would take concrete measures. These wishes must be answered.
The most important function and added value of the Commission’s reflection paper is the long-term perspective it offers. It complements the work already under way on strengthening EU defence cooperation. With the aid of defence initiatives currently under preparation, EU defence cooperation will be tightened and strengthened by, among other things, supporting European defence research, developing resources, increasing defence funding, tightening cooperation in defence planning and enhancing EU crisis management. I consider it important that the Commission urges Member States and citizens also to look further into the future.
When we speak of the EU’s future, the discussion often turns to the question of whether the Treaties need to be changed. Finland’s line has been clear on this point. We do not support, in principle, the opening up of the EU Treaties. The process would be too long and painful given the overall benefit. The necessary EU reforms can be done within the framework of the Treaties. Concerning defence cooperation, the Treaties do not present any barriers.
It is true that, until now, defence has, for various reasons, remained outside of common EU developments. But in 2013, the European Council initiated a change. The defence agenda has been developed in ways that bring it closer to entirely standard practices in other policy areas. This means that investments are being coordinated, legislation developed and the internal market tightened in the field of defence. Finland has been calling for this for a long time now.
Normalisation will also include expanding the use of the EU budget to support defence. Finland supports an increase in EU budget funding in the defence sector.
A significant change is the focusing of attention not only on global developments, but also on security threats that directly affect Europe. The Common Security and Defence Policy is no longer just a crisis management tool; the EU is also trying to invest more in combating terrorism and increasing general security. We must actively continue the discussion on solidarity, mutual assistance and enhancing national preparedness.
A key element for EU defence to be decided on in the coming months relates to permanent structured cooperation (PESCO). In the future, PESCO will be one concrete example of how multi-speed cooperation can be implemented within the Member States. Permanent structured cooperation will be jointly adopted, but, under it, the Member States will be able to advance at different speeds, depending on the project. Member States have proposed areas of cooperation based on their national priorities. Finland has proposed, among others, space cooperation, maritime defence, logistics forces and developing the EU’s cyber-defence capability. The objective is to find suitable cooperation groups to take each priority forward.
The June European Council will assess in detail the progress made on the initiatives launched last year.
Finland’s objective in developing defence cooperation is to advance via specific initiatives towards stronger defence cooperation. A strong stance on this is in both Finland’s and Europe’s interest.
Adapted from an article first published by MTV on 7 June 2017