Think Tank voices on the future of European Defence

Egmont Institute (Belgium)

Joe Coelmont, Brigadier General (retired), Senior Associate Fellow, Egmont Institute (Belgium):

The European Commission has proposed some daring initiatives to forge more union in European defence. A game changer? Yes, as it also testifies of a mind-set to arrive at a well-structured and permanent cooperation within the EU institutional setup. But what about our Member States? Will these initiatives act as a catalyst to forge a genuine European Defence Union? Timely as they are, they may very well have the potential to finally convince most — if not all – of our capitals to see the military, industrial, financial and political benefits of establishing Permanent Structured Cooperation and of holding Coordinated Annual reviews on defence.

Elcano Royal Institute (Spain)

Félix Arteaga, Senior Analyst, Security and Defence, Elcano Royal Institute (Spain):

EU priorities must be perceptions-driven; addressing key risks perceived by the EU population, rather than those listed in national or European security strategies. The former are related to security concerns about migration, terrorism and border control that affect the daily life of citizens, while the latter relate to defence threats whose immediate impact on the population is less clear. Therefore, priorities should focus on guaranteeing to EU citizens that their short-term security and safety will improve, and that, in the longer term, their defence will too.

Elcano Royal Institute

Luis Simón, Director, Brussels Office of the Elcano Royal Institute:

The recently announced Defence Package underscores the European Commission’s ability to make a real difference in the future of Europe’s defence technological and industrial base. However, the EU’s Member States continue to hold different views about fundamental strategic questions, such as the nature and purpose of military power. Only if the technological-industrial and politico-strategic aspects of European defence are brought together around a clear vision — shared by the Commission and the Member States — will European defence move forward.

Fondation pour la Recherche Sratégique (France)

Hélène Masson, Senior Research Fellow, Defence & Industries, Fondation pour la Recherche Sratégique:

With its Defence Package, the European Commission is on the way to becoming a pivotal institutional player at European level in the field of defence and security. More than two decades of small steps have been necessary to arrive to this point. But this new key step is also the consequence of the failure of intergovernmental cooperation. Mistrust is still there. The levers of action of the European Commission are numerous and powerful. The priority is to ensure overall coherence and to give meaning to these actions. A smart policy based on long-term strategic objectives, dialogue with Member States and industry, best practices and performance targets is needed.

Casimir Pulaski Foundation (Poland)

Kamil Mazurek, Security and Defence Programme Coordinator, Casimir Pulaski Foundation (Poland):

Encouraging more cooperative projects between companies from different Member States is very important, as this will make it easier for Member States to procure equipment developed via international collaboration: Governments will no longer be tied down by political costs when buying such products as they will be co-developed by their own companies. To achieve this, the EU should prioritise the creation of even more incentives for defence companies to cooperate in common European projects (such as tax exemptions, or technical assistance, etc.). SMEs in particular are in a difficult position when applying for funding as they often lack expertise in this field.

Aspen Romania Strategy Group (Romania)

Antonia Colibasanu, Senior Analyst, Aspen Romania Strategy Group:

While the European Defence Industrial Development Programme serves is a good starting point for further discussions on growing European security and building up the European pillar of NATO, it needs to cover both Eastern and Western security and industrial interests, taking into account what differentiates and what unites the two European regions. Defence industry excellence centres and research clusters are mostly located in the West and, considering the regional specificities of the security challenges that Europe faces, discussion and agreement are needed so that the Programme doesn’t divide EU more than it unites it.

French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (France)

Olivier de France, Research Director, French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs:

All the legal, financial and institutional tools are presently on the table. It is now time for EU Member States to take ownership of them. This should proceed from a grand political bargain in the autumn of 2017 between Macron and Merkel which spans economics, monetary, strategic and security issues. But though this is necessary, it will not be sufficient. Such a Macron/ Merkel plan should not be exclusive, but built to attract in its wake the countries which are willing and able to make progress on defence.

Smartlink Communications (Romania)

Radu Magdin, CEO, Smartlink Communications

While Europe may need more time to agree on a political concept for European defence, and to decide who commands shared assets and troops, the positive note is the intention to create a joint EU R&D programme and a single defence market, with a European Defence Fund that would be available to all Member States, irrespective of their participation in an Article 42 scenario. The envisaged creation of EU prosecution and systematic sharing of intelligence by Member States, foreseen as of the second scenario of the Reflection Paper, are two mechanisms currently not existing that would represent huge steps in terms of EU integration, but which would require considerably more than political will to achieve. Another plus is that the paper openly states that the EU should defend itself from external influences or aggression under the form of investments or buy-outs. The suggestion for a monitoring mechanism to prevent ‘hostile’ investments is a smart one.