A Sight on European Defence

Many criticize the EU and its bureaucracy. However the EU have some positive aspects of which some are directly linked with democracy and the free access to information. This is what I did appreciate some days ago, while surfing, I got access to the conclusions of the General Affairs and External Relations Council (which gathers the EU ministers of foreign affairs) that took place in November 2001.Because of the institutional change initiated by the Treaty of Lisbon, the structure of those meetings has changed, but I will focus on the press release dated 19-20 November 2001 and have a look at the possible discrepancies between the intent and the final results, nine years after.

I have noticed some interesting quotes, which are a comment worth:

“Such a development also calls for a true strategic partnership between the EU and NATO in crisis management, with due regard for the decision- making autonomy of the two organisations”.

Assessment: 9 years after, we are still debating on the relations between EU and NATO, and France had to come backing the military structure, in order to have the issue go ahead. Debates marked time and did not lead to significant changes since 2001.

“The Ministers for Defence reaffirmed their responsibility for the development of the headline goal (being able to deploy 60 000 men in less than 60 days and to sustain them for at least one year). On that occasion, they emphasised their determination to seek solutions and new forms of cooperation in order to develop the necessary military capabilities and make good the shortcomings identified, while making optimum use of resources “.

Assessment: the painful deployment of Eufor Chad in 2007 proved that this goal was still far from being achieved. Today the situation does not seem much better.

“An assessment of the revised national contributions confirms that the EU should be able to carry out the whole range of Petersberg tasks by 2003”.

Assessment: as a consequence of the previous point, EU is unable to carry out the most demanding Petersberg tasks.

For the Non-EU people: in 1992, the Western European Union Members declared that their military units could be employed for:

-humanitarian and rescue tasks;

-peacekeeping tasks;

-tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking.

Point one and two can be considered as reached, however with much more limitations than expected before, while point three, is not. ISAF is under the NATO auspices and Atalanta, against piracy in Indian Ocean is closer to police tasks than combat ones.

“In quantitative terms, Member States’ voluntary contributions confirm the existence of a body of resources consisting of a pool of more than 100 000 men, around 400 combat aircraft and 100 ships, fully satisfying the requirements defined by the headline goal to conduct different types of crisis-management operations.”

Assessment: this pool would have had some credibility if the Eufor operation in Chad had not taken so much time to deploy. So many forces are useless if nobody wants to make use of it. As well when comparing the little number of EU soldiers deployed compared with the overall strength of armed forces lets us think that there are still some capabilities of optimization. By the way, this optimization is the motto of the current reforms of almost all armed forces in Europe.

“The air and sea transport available will enable an initial entry force to be deployed; strategic mobility has also been improved”.

Assessment: strategic mobility works only through the SALIS system and the use of hired Antonov aircraft and the purchase of some C17 by NATO. Regarding military capabilities, situation has even worsened due to the delays of A400M program.

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“As regards strategic mobility, the main shortcomings relate to wide-body aircraft and roll-on/roll-off ships. However, the impact of those shortcomings could be reduced by making more effective use of existing resources (coordinated or joint use of resources, planning of movements, etc.) and using commercial resources on a methodical basis”.

Assessment: this is exactly what the EU countries have done successfully to alleviate this shortfall.

“With regard to the overall objective, Member States have undertaken to provide 5,000 police officers by 2003. With regard to the objective of deploying police officers within thirty days, Member States have undertaken to provide up to 1,400 police officers by 2003”.

Assessment: this figure has never been reached, national security having precedence over multinational operations, which is a quite normal thing. EU is permanently fighting to find policemen for Kosovo, while Afghan police suffers a large lack of European police trainers, leaving the ground to US companies.

“As part of their commitments, some Member States have undertaken to provide rapidly deployable, integrated and interoperable police units”.

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Assessment: effectively, some countries have undertaken some efforts, while the other ones decided to stick to the principle of maintaining their police at home. Even if some progress has been accomplished, this is not the best example of EU cooperation, but regarding multi-lateral cooperation, it’s OK.

Then, 2010 headline goals are not a great achievement and this is easier to understand why some governments prefer multilateral cooperation, so that “a coalition of the willing” can go ahead if the others do not. Looking at the results, it is hard to remain optimistic.

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