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Procedure : 2012/2319(INI)
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Document selected : A7-0205/2013

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PV 11/09/2013 - 13
CRE 11/09/2013 - 13

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PV 12/09/2013 - 13.14
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Thursday, 12 September 2013 - Strasbourg
EU's military structures: state of play and future prospects

European Parliament resolution of 12 September 2013 on EU’s military structures: state of play and future prospects (2012/2319(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Title V of the Treaty on European Union (TEU),

–  having regard to the conclusions of the European Council of 13-14 December 2012,

–  having regard to the conclusions of the Council of 19 November 2012 on military capability development,

–  having regard to the Headline Goal 2010 endorsed by the European Council of 17-18 June 2004,

–   having regard to the mutual defence and solidarity clauses in the Lisbon Treaty, which require Member States to provide aid and assistance if one of them is the victim of a disaster, a terrorist attack or an armed attack,

–  having regard to the European Security Strategy, adopted by the European Council on 12 December 2003, and to the report on its implementation, endorsed by the European Council on 11-12 December 2008,

–  having regard to Council Decision 2011/871/CFSP of 19 December 2011 establishing a mechanism to administer the financing of the common costs of European Union operations having military or defence implications (Athena)(1),

–  having regard to Council Decision 2011/411/CFSP of 12 July 2011 defining the statute, seat and operational rules of the European Defence Agency and repealing Joint Action 2004/551/CFSP(2),

–   having regard to the discussion of defence ministers in the Foreign Affairs Council meeting of 23 April 2013 on the preparations for the European Council on defence in December 2013,

–  having regard to its resolutions of 22 November 2012 on the implementation of the Common Security and Defence Policy(3), of 22 November 2012 on the EU’s mutual defence and solidarity clauses: political and operational dimensions(4), of 12 September 2012 on the annual report from the Council to the European Parliament on the Common Foreign and Security Policy(5), and of 14 December 2011 on the impact of the financial crisis on the defence sector in the EU Member States(6),

–  having regard to Rule 48 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (A7-0205/2013),

General considerations

1.  Notes with increasing urgency the EU’s insufficient capacity to respond to international crises in a timely and efficient manner, in spite of its long-standing commitment to preserving peace, safeguarding human rights, preventing conflicts and strengthening international security in accordance with the principles of the UN Charter; stresses that it is in the interest of the EU and the Member States to act coherently as a security provider, not only within Europe, but also in the rest of the world and especially in its own neighbourhood;

2.  Recalls its firm attachment to a comprehensive approach to crisis management, integrating a wide spectrum of diplomatic, economic, development and, in the last resort, military means, as expressed notably in its resolutions on the annual reports on the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP); stresses that military structures and capabilities form an integral part of such a comprehensive approach, underpinning the EU’s ability to respond to threats, conflicts and crises, including humanitarian crises and natural disasters, should all other means fail;

3.  Notes with regret that recent military operations in both Libya and Mali have demonstrated the lack of progress toward a truly Common Security and Defence Policy and stresses the need for more coordination and cooperation at the European level, if the EU is to be taken seriously as an effective and credible world actor;

4.  Recalls that the EU is called upon in the Treaty to work on the progressive framing of a common Union defence policy, which could lead to a common defence; further recalls the Member States’ obligations under the mutual defence clause;

5.  Reiterates its grave concern at the continuing and uncoordinated cuts in national defence budgets, hampering efforts to close capability gaps and undermining the credibility of the CSDP; urges the Member States to stop and reverse this irresponsible trend, as well as to step up efforts at national and EU levels to limit its consequences through increased cooperation and pooling and sharing;

6.  Recalls its resolution on the impact of the financial crisis on the defence sector in the EU Member States, and reaffirms its recommendations to counter the negative effects of the crisis on military capabilities at EU level through better coordination of defence planning, pooling and sharing of capabilities, supporting defence research and technological development, building a more integrated, sustainable, innovative and competitive European defence technological and industrial base, establishing a European defence equipment market, and finding new forms of EU-level funding;

7.  Urges the EU Member States and the Commission to take the necessary measures to facilitate the restructuring and consolidation of defence industrial capacities, in order to reduce existing overcapacities which are not sustainable;

8.  Welcomes the work of the European Commission Task Force on Defence Industries and Markets and the Commission communication of 24 July 2013 entitled ‘Towards a more competitive and efficient defence and security sector’ (COM(2013)0542), and calls on the Commission to develop proposals on how, with a flexible approach, wider EU policies and tools could be used in support of defence and security objectives, especially in areas of transversal nature such as dual-use technologies;

9.  Stresses that existing military structures within the EU, at Union, multinational and national level, must continue in the transformation process to build modular, interoperable and deployable armed forces adapted to multinational operations;

10.  Welcomes the renewed impulse given by the European Council in December 2012 to increasing the operational effectiveness and efficiency of CSDP operations, enhancing European cooperation in order to provide future-oriented capabilities and fill critical gaps, as well as to strengthening the European defence industry;

11.  Calls on the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR) to present proposals, in view of the December 2013 European Council meeting, which will reflect the recommendations of this resolution, and will include options for advancing European cooperation in security and defence among the Member States willing to do so, based on the Treaty provisions on permanent structured cooperation, in case that no agreement on an ambitious agenda is possible among all Member States;

12.  Resolves to prepare, as part of its own agenda for the next constitutional Convention, proposals to strengthen the Treaties with respect to developing the CSDP;

Improving EU capability to plan and conduct military operations

13.  Notes with regret that, ten years after the first autonomous EU-led military operation, the EU still does not possess a permanent military planning and conduct capability, and deplores the inhibiting effect this is having on the EU’s ability to respond to acute crises; recalls that the current arrangements, which require ad hoc activation of a national headquarters, constitute a purely reactive approach and do not provide resources for the necessary advance planning;

14.  Takes the view that the activated Operations Centre, although welcomed for its role in coordinating missions in the Horn of Africa, represents a largely insufficient step towards such a permanent capability, owing to its limited resources and its strictly support-related functions; deplores the fact that the initiative of the five ‘Weimar Plus’ countries has not led to any more significant result; urges the Member States to agree, as a first step, on tasking the Operations Centre with the operational planning of non-executive missions, such as EU training missions for Mali and Somalia;

15.  Calls again for the creation of a fully-fledged EU Operational Headquarters within the European External Action Service (EEAS), if necessary through permanent structured cooperation; stresses that it should be a civilian-military structure, responsible for the planning and conduct of both EU civilian missions and military operations, with separate civilian and military chains of command;

16.  Points out that the creation of an EU Operational Headquarters would greatly enhance the EU’s institutional memory in crisis management, contribute to the development of a common strategic culture through the secondment of national personnel, maximise the benefits of civilian-military coordination, allow for the pooling of certain functions, reduce costs in the longer term, and facilitate political oversight by Parliament and the Council;

17.  Underlines the need for a permanent military planning and conduct capability also with regard to the obligations resulting from the mutual defence clause and the solidarity clause, and stresses the necessity to ensure an adequate level of preparedness and rapidity of response should any of the two clauses be invoked; calls on the VP/HR to propose practical arrangements for the mutual defence clause to define response at EU level;

Enhancing the EU battlegroups: the Union's rapid reaction and stabilisation instrument

18.  Recognises the contribution of the EU battlegroups to the transformation of Member States’ armed forces, driving military interoperability and promoting multinational cooperation; deplores the fact that the concept has not yet proven its utility as a rapid reaction instrument in operations, and that without substantial modifications any agreement on deployment appears unlikely; considers that the situation in Mali is a missed opportunity for the first use of EU battlegroups;

19.  Considers that, in order to increase the effectiveness of the battlegroups, proper attention should be paid to their composition, knowing that, in general, states from the same region share similar perception of threats, thus facilitating the necessary response to them;

20.  Takes the view that the reviewed ATHENA mechanism for common costs of military operations still does not take adequately into account the specificities of the battlegroup concept, and calls for a significant expansion of the common costs for rapid reaction operations, up to a full coverage of costs when battlegroups are used; considers that applying the ‘costs lie where they fall’ principle to the battlegroups, put on stand-by on a voluntary and rotational basis, is contrary to the principle of fair burden-sharing;

21.  Calls on the VP/HR to make proposals with the view to adjusting the ATHENA mechanism to the specificities of the battlegroups, if necessary through permanent structured cooperation, created in parallel with a permanent Operational Headquarters; at the same time, urges the VP/HR to present a proposal on the setting up and financing of the start-up fund for preparatory activities for EU military operations, as required by the Treaty;

22.  Notes the efforts within the Council and EEAS to increase the flexibility and usability of the battlegroups, which have, however, produced little tangible result to date; points out that a high degree of interoperability is needed, not only at technical level but also at procedural and conceptual levels, in particular to align rules of engagement and transfer of authority and to remove national caveats;

23.  Invites the European Council to explore ways of streamlining the political decision-making process at EU and national level to make rapid reaction a reality; insists that the necessary political will be shown to address the challenges; encourages reflection on possible simplified procedures regarding deployments of battlegroups for limited periods of time, provided that certain, clearly defined and agreed pre-conditions are met, such as a specific request from the United Nations;

24.  Welcomes the renewed commitment of the Member States to the level of ambition of the battlegroups concept and the pledge to plan contributions on the basis of regularly recurring commitments in order to avoid gaps in the battlegroup roster in the future; encourages the development of battlegroups as longer-term partnerships lasting beyond the stand-by period to maximise the military and economic benefits of joint procurement of equipment and services and of pooling and sharing; notes that the framework contract on basic logistic services for the EU battlegroup on stand-by in the second semester of 2012, concluded by the European Defence Agency (EDA), is a concrete example in this direction;

25.  Points out that any costs that are not linked to military operations, such as preparation and stand-by costs of battlegroups, could be charged to the EU budget;

26.  Stresses that the battlegroups provide a specific instrument of a limited size and sustainability that is adapted to a certain number of scenarios and cannot be considered a universal crisis management tool; recalls that the initial Helsinki Headline Goal of 1999, reconfirmed by the European Council in 2008, set the objective for the EU to be capable of deploying 60 000 men in 60 days for a major operation; notes that this objective, although not formally abandoned, has never been realistically achieved owing to persistent capability shortfalls; points out that, more than setting arbitrary goals that risk damaging the EU’s credibility, there is an urgent need for sustained effort to close capability gaps and improve force generation and projection with regard to EU military operations in general;

Building structures and capabilities to address key capability shortfalls

27.  Recalls the mission and tasks of the EDA as provided for in Articles 42(3) and 45 TEU, in particular its essential role in developing and implementing an EU capabilities and armaments policy, harmonising operational needs, proposing multilateral projects, coordinating Member States’ programmes, strengthening the European Defence Technological and Industrial Base and improving the effectiveness of military expenditure; urges the Member States, given the EDA’s strong cost-effectiveness focus, to provide it with adequate funding in order to exploit its full potential, and repeats its call on the VP/HR to present proposals to finance the Agency’s staffing and running costs from the Union budget;

28.  Deplores the absence of firm capability commitments by the Member States and calls on the Council to provide for the implementation of the related evaluation requirement set out in Articles 42(3) and 45(1) TEU; calls on the VP/HR to make appropriate proposals to that end; takes the view that Parliament should be informed regularly about the progress made in building military capabilities relevant for the implementation of the CSDP;

29.  Encourages further progress in the implementation of the EDA’s Capability Development Plan and urges, in the context of its review in 2013, that it be better integrated into national defence planning, which needs to be further harmonised; reiterates its call on the Member States to launch an institutionalised process of increased defence planning coordination both between themselves and within the EU Military Committee, based in particular on EDA advice; draws attention to the general need to step up cooperation between the EDA and the EU Military Committee/EU Military Staff; expects the Heads of State and Government to launch a European defence review during the European Council on defence in December 2013;

30.  Calls for a more structured approach to address key capability shortfalls at European level and in particular in the areas of key force enablers and force multipliers ­– such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets, strategic air lift, helicopters, medical support, air-to-air refuelling and precision-guided munitions – in close cooperation and full complementarity with NATO; welcomes the initial results of pooling and sharing initiatives managed by the EDA but stresses that further progress in these and other areas is a necessity; deplores the fact that, although European armed forces have repeatedly faced the lack of such force enablers and force multipliers in CSDP and other operations, none of the identified capability gaps have yet been filled in a satisfactory way;

31.  Calls for an evaluation of the establishment of a permanent CSDP warehouse (with functions similar to the NATO Support Agency) providing integrated multinational support for EU military structures and Member States, including essential equipment for all missions, without cumbersome procurement procedures;

32.  Highlights the need for the EU to develop the efficient and proportionate capabilities and strategies needed to face the growing cyber-threats to its security and strategic interests; stresses the need to cooperate with private actors in order to be successful, to fully respect digital freedoms and international law and to ensure sufficient democratic oversight;

33.  Highlights the example of the European Air Transport Command (EATC), which has proven its function and added value during operations, as a particularly useful model of pooling and sharing, based on the transfer of certain competencies to a common structure without giving up national ownership; calls for the replication of the EATC model to other areas of operational support, and in particular expects results of the EDA’s work on a possible Multinational Helicopter Wing to address another key capability shortfall;

34.  Reiterates its call on the Member States to consider joint ownership of certain expensive capabilities, notably space capabilities, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or strategic lift assets; welcomes the work of the Commission exploring the options for developing EU-owned capabilities, exploiting the potential of synergies between defence and civilian security needs, such as in the areas of civil protection or border surveillance;

35.  Underlines the need to create a common approach in Europe towards developing a medium-altitude long-endurance remotely piloted air system (MALE RPAS) and encourages the Commission and the Member States to develop an innovative approach for achieving this ambition;

36.  Emphasises the key importance of satellite assets for modern-day operations, in particular with regard to ISR, communication and navigation capabilities and to the need to maximise the use of scarce resources based on a common approach and on the exploitation of all possible civil-military synergies to avoid unnecessary duplication; in this respect, encourages further cooperation between the European Space Agency, the EDA and the Commission, and insists on continued EU funding of the Copernicus (GMES) and Galileo programmes;

37.  Encourages further progress of the MUSIS programme in order to facilitate sharing of satellite imagery from the next generation of Earth observation satellites, and calls for direct EU financial participation in the programme, and for the association of the EU Satellite Centre, in order to assure access to imagery tailored to the needs of the EU, and in particular the CSDP;

38.  Welcomes the adoption of the code of conduct on pooling and sharing as an important step towards more cooperation in Europe and stresses the need to establish a first strategic assessment of its implementation by the end of the year; expects the European Council in December 2013 to be a significant milestone in terms of giving a political impulse to pooling and sharing and of giving clear guidance about the implementation; draws attention to the need for the EU to step up information activities in order to further boost the role of pooling and sharing;

39.  Stresses the importance of ensuring the security of supply of the equipment needed by Member States armed forces in order for them to fulfil their commitments in international crises; is seriously concerned about the increasing dependencies on non-European technologies and sources of supply and its implications for European autonomy; underlines the strategic importance of the defence industry, and calls on the EDA and the Commission to advance their work on identifying key industrial capabilities to be preserved or developed in Europe and on reducing European supply dependency;

40.  Deplores the declining national budgets for defence research and the fact that it is mostly fragmented along national lines; points out the potential of the EU to bring substantial added value through the European Framework Cooperation and greater synergies between defence and civilian security research; highlights in particular the need to focus on investments in key enabling technologies such as robotics, nano- and microelectronics, and to make sure that EU funds spent in these areas benefit also the needs of defence;

Increasing coherence in permanent multinational structures of EU Member States

41.  Notes the existence of a number of bilateral/regional/multilateral partnership initiatives in Europe aimed at pooling resources and fostering interoperability, and capable of providing contributions to EU, UN, NATO or ad hoc coalition operations; while welcoming the benefits of cooperation and fully supporting the rationale of pooling, encourages some form of rationalisation of, and better coordination between, the numerous structures with a multinational dimension, which have grown without any global and coherent plan;

42.  Calls for the strengthening of links between Eurocorps and the EU Military Staff, and invites more Member States to join Eurocorps’ multinational structure, which could form the nucleus of a fully integrated element of the European armed forces;

43.  Notes the closing down of EUROFOR, recognising its past contribution to EU operations and the battlegroup roster; notes the specific contributions of EUROMARFOR, EUROGENDFOR, the Baltic Defence Cooperation, the Nordic Defence Cooperation, the UK-Dutch amphibious force, the Spanish-Italian amphibious force, the German-Dutch corps, the Belgian-Dutch naval cooperation, the Anglo-French initiatives to build a combined joint expeditionary force, an integrated carrier strike group and a combined joint force headquarters and other existing or budding regional and bilateral permanent structures;

44.  Reiterates the need to ensure overall coherence at EU level and invites the Member States to coordinate their initiatives more closely within the EU Military Committee, based on inputs from the EDA;

Strengthening the European dimension in education, training and exercises

45.  Reiterates its full support for European structures and projects in the area of education and training and stresses, in particular, the contribution of the European Security and Defence College (ESDC) to the promotion of a common security culture, as well as its potential in identifying and developing cost-saving collaborative projects between national institutions; welcomes the decision of the Council of 12 April 2013 to strengthen the College by providing it with legal capacity and with funding from the Union budget; considers that this could constitute a model for EU budget support to other CSDP structures such as the EDA and the EU Satellite Centre; encourages further development of the European initiative for the exchange of young officers, inspired by Erasmus, as well as the participation of European military officers’ education and training institutes in the Erasmus programme;

46.  Strongly supports pooling and sharing initiatives in education and training where significant savings can be made without affecting national sovereignty as regards operational deployments; highlights the success of the EDA’s Helicopter Training Programme and welcomes the launch of tactical air transport exercises by EDA, which should lead to the establishment of a permanent European airlift tactics training course; looks forward to more progress in developing a common integrated training system to train future fighter pilots; welcomes EDA’s work on more pooled and shared training in the areas of cyber defence, countering improvised explosive devices and naval operations; draws attention to the need for the EDA to take into account the training needs of Member States whose aircraft are produced by non-EU companies;

47.  Stresses the opportunity for common training and exercises provided by the EU battlegroups; encourages battlegroup framework nations to open battlegroup exercises to additional participants, such as potential strategic/operational enablers, as well as to partner organisations such as the UN;

48.  Draws attention to the need to avoid potential overlaps with NATO, e.g. in the area of cyber security training;

Increasing the benefits of EU-NATO cooperation

49.  Stresses that strengthening European military capabilities through enhanced EU structures also benefits NATO and contributes to fairer burden-sharing within the Alliance; commends the pragmatic cooperation aimed at avoiding duplications between the Pooling and Sharing and Smart Defence initiatives, notably through interaction between the EDA and NATO’s Allied Command Transformation (ACT);

50 Urges much closer and more regular collaboration at a political level between the VP/HR and the Secretary-General of NATO for the purposes of risk assessment, resource management, policy planning and the execution of operations, both civilian and military; stresses the need to develop existing EU‑NATO operational cooperation frameworks, starting from the Berlin Plus agreements, the implementation of which is still blocked by Turkey;

51.  Points out that national capabilities, whether developed in the EU or NATO framework, remain under national authority and can therefore be used for any operations decided upon at national level;

52.  Emphasises the importance of NATO standards for European defence cooperation and stresses the need for capabilities developed within the EU to ensure full interoperability with NATO;

53.  Notes that the NATO Response Force and EU battlegroups are complementary, mutually reinforcing initiatives, which, however, require similar efforts from the Member States, and calls for efforts to maximise synergies between them;

Moving the CSDP to a new level

54.  Invites the Member States to take a qualitative step forward in European defence by strengthening the EU’s military structures in line with this resolution; encourages the Member States willing to do so to proceed, if necessary, in accordance with Articles 42(6) and 46 TEU on permanent structured cooperation as well as Article 44 TEU; takes the view that should such forms of cooperation be launched, it should, above all, be based on the participating Member States’ willingness to assume their responsibilities within the international community and to make the Union better equipped for crisis management operations;

55.  Considers, therefore, that permanent structured cooperation should include, in particular, the following elements aimed at enhanced operational effectiveness:

   the establishment of a permanent EU Operational Headquarters,
   common funding of rapid reaction operations using EU battlegroups,
   a commitment to contribute to the battlegroup roster, with aligned rules of engagement and streamlined decision-making procedures;

56.  Points out that the Member States also need to strengthen their commitments with regard to capability building, notably through pooling and sharing, but that maximum flexibility and inclusiveness needs to be maintained in order to make the most of various bilateral, regional or multilateral synergies; considers, nevertheless, that an agreement on permanent structured cooperation should at least include commitments to:

   structured coordination of defence planning,
   common evaluation and review of capability building,
   increased funding for the EDA;

57.  Notes that the Treaty clearly states that permanent structured cooperation is to be established within the Union framework, observing that the vast majority of activities developed under it could therefore benefit from access to the EU budget under the same conditions as other EU activities, in line with Article 41 TEU;

58.  Considers that permanent structured cooperation should also facilitate increased coherence between European collaborative initiatives, in the spirit of inclusiveness and flexibility, by strengthening the links between the various islands of cooperation that emerge within an enhanced CSDP framework;

o   o

59.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the President of the European Council, the Council, the Commission, the VP/HR, the governments and parliaments of the EU Member States, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and the Secretary-General of NATO.

(1) OJ L 343, 23.12.2011, p. 35.
(2) OJ L 183, 13.7.2011, p. 16.
(3) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2012)0455.
(4) OJ C 168 E, 14.6.2013, p. 9.
(5) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2012)0334.
(6) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2011)0574.

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