A Sight on European Defence

Traditionally as founding member of the EU and seat of many European institutions, Belgium is very active in the fields of Defence and Security. To have a good insight of Belgian intend during the next six months, the best is still to have a look at their program. This document is of course available in different languages on the Belgian government website. For French language, you can click here, for the other ones, including English, click here.

Well, in such a document, one should not expect that more space than strictly necessary be given to defence. There are so many topics to deal with, that defence cannot be more than one paragraph long.

The integral text of this paragraph is the following one: ‘ The implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon in terms of a Common Security and Defence policy will also require special attention. Notwithstanding the progress made in recent years, the European Union still does not possess the civil or military capacity to match its ambitions. Permanent Structured Cooperation as the European architecture for the planning and command of crisis operations, the capacity for rapid and coherent reaction, including for relief operations, civil- military cooperation, the training of civil and military personnel for crisis management, the strengthening of the European Defence Agency, and the strategic relationship between the Union and NATO are among the key themes requiring special attention’.

What can we say about it?

The analysis on European Defence is pretty short, but clear: despite the progress, the EU is far from having reached it optimum. However, Belgium does not seem believing in significant progress with this issue. The best they can do is to convey a ‘special attention’ to European Defence. In the past years, this country has always been at the avant-garde of ideas, propositions and negotiations. Currently, the topic is to be handled with so carefully, that, may be for the very first time, Belgium has nothing concrete in its propose.

Some could be tempted to put shame on the current electoral situation of Belgium and the difficulty to form a government. I do not think so. If the political visibility is not here, traditionally, high ranking officials take over and make projects go forward, waiting for the new governments to endorse the ideas and proposals made by their administration. In the particular case of Belgium and its consensus on the development of European Defence, this is for sure what would happen if there were some opportunities to make steps forward. But all the recent presidencies remained stuck in the sand, meeting huge difficulties to reach any agreement in key issues, like a permanent OHQ or the permanent structured cooperation, foreseen by the Treaty of Lisbon.

In the current situation, where all the attention of European countries is focused on the financial and budgetary crisis, a strong and long-term political effort cannot be expected. Therefore the only way to go forward would be a bottom up approach, leaving some freedom of action to the military, or more precisely to the Chiefs of Defence willingly to wake up some interest among their colleagues. However, governments will never allow technicians take such arrangements on their own as such issues belong undoubtedly to national sovereignty, some of European leaders still nourishing the utopia or national independence in Defence.

To conclude on Belgian presidency, looking at their level of ambition, nothing new and essential is to be expected in the current international context.

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