Defence: MEPs urge member states to show political will and join forces
Defence cooperation in the EU is now more dependent on political will than on legal considerations, say the Foreign Affairs and Constitutional Affairs committees in a joint resolution passed on Thursday.
MEPs suggest treating the European Defence Agency as a sui generis EU institution, funded by the EU budget, and advocate establishing a “defence ministers” meeting format within the EU Council of Ministers.
Co-rapporteur Esteban González Pons (EPP, ES), on behalf of the Constitutional Affairs Committee said: “This ambitious and strategic report comes at an extremely opportune time, when achieving a common defence has become a priority. The challenges that the EU faces call for more cooperation and solidarity in security and defence, in order to promote peace and progress inside and outside Europe”.
Co-rapporteur Michael Gahler (EPP, DE), for the Foreign Affairs Committee said: “In a time of external crises, the Lisbon Treaty offers us a huge potential for ameliorating our common security and defence policy and spending taxpayers' money better. We urgently need to link up the isolated islands of military cooperation and start Permanent Structured Cooperation. We should also start funding the operational and personnel budgets for PESCO and the European Defence Agency out of the EU budget”.
The resolution, approved by 48 votes to 21, with 1 abstentions, underlines that developing an EU common defence policy depends, above all, on the political will of member states, as the Lisbon Treaty already provides a sufficient framework for building a truly common defence policy.
Improved institutional framework
MEPs want the European Defence Agency (EDA) and the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) to be treated as sui generis EU institutions, like the EU External Action Service, and funded through a specific section in the Union budget. They call for the reinforcement of EDA’s political backing and resources, and encourage EU countries to join PESCO as soon as possible.
The resolution also argues that the EU Battlegroup system should be brought under PESCO, alongside the creation of a permanent civilian and military headquarters. This would enhance civil-military cooperation and the EU’s ability to react speedily to crises, MEPs say.
Increased defence expenditure
MEPs consider it essential to increase national defence expenditure to 2% of GDP, stressing that this would mean finding an extra €100 billion for defence by the end of the coming decade. Extra money should be channelled to research and development as well as to strategic cooperative programmes, where the EU could help, they add.
EU-UK future relations
The resolution finally underlines the need for further reflection on the future relations between the EU and UK, particularly in the field of military capabilities, should the country decide to leave the Union.
The resolution is to be put to a vote by Parliament as a whole in March.
This resolution aims to clarify the European Parliament’s position on the future of EU defence policies, in time for the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. It explores possibilities for deepening EU-wide defence cooperation within the framework of the current Lisbon Treaty.