The economic crisis has led to cuts in defence budgets and "uncoordinated defence budget cuts could result in the complete loss of certain military capabilities in Europe", warns Polish Christian Democrat Krzysztof Lisek, who has drafted a report on the impact of the crisis on the defence sector. He sees the crisis as an opportunity for more integration, pooling and sharing of capabilities. Ahead of a discussion with High Representative Catherine Ashton Tuesday afternoon he told us more.
The financial crisis is hitting everything why do you want to draw attention to the impact on the defence sector?
Defence and security remain essential and you have to remember that the vast majority of activities in this area are strategic and executed over long periods - it is not possible to build a strong global player with a good strategy in a couple of years. We are highlighting many issues that need to be addressed as soon as possible but for which the outcome will be seen in the long term.
Your report suggests the crisis is an opportunity for the integration of EU defence policies. Where do you see opportunities for pooling and sharing?
I think that the crisis might be a wake up call for Europe so it can finally start using its potential and acting as a global player, speaking with one voice.
When talking about pooling and sharing I am thinking in particular of areas such as strategic and tactical transportation, logistical support, maintenance, space capabilities, cyber defence; also medical support, education and training. I would be happy to see more of the "pooling and sharing" initiatives related to transport helicopters, air-to-air refuelling, maritime surveillance, unmanned vehicles, protection against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear risks, satellite communication.... The list could be even longer - it shows how very many areas there are in which we can optimise resources.
Member states spend about €200 billion a year on defence (about a third of the US defence budget). How this money could be used more efficiently?
We would like to see more cooperation between the EU and NATO in terms of standardisation and interoperability. I believe that the European Defence Agency should play a more important role and I hope more importance will be given to standardisation of defence equipment and the establishment of a single European defence market.
I am a little bit disappointed by the outcome of the last Defence Ministers Council on 30 November. They did not support the creation of the European HQ that would enable Europe to act quickly in cases like the Libyan crisis and I cannot understand the reluctance to increase the EDA budget.