The EU should tackle deteriorating security in and around Europe by helping its armed forces to work together better, as a first step in building a common defence policy, say Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs in two resolutions voted on Monday. Ideas include establishing an EU operational headquarters to plan, command and manage crisis management operations, setting a defence spending target of 2% of GDP and launching Common Defence and Security Policy training operation in Iraq.
In recent years the security situation in and around Europe has worsened significantly, due to challenges, like terrorism, hybrid threats or cyber and energy insecurity, that no country is able to tackle alone, says a resolution on the European Defence Union, drafted by Urmas Paet (ALDE, EE).
Foreign affairs MEPs want the EU to respond faster and more robustly to real threats, which they say requires European armed forces to work together better. “Two thirds of EU citizens would like to see greater EU engagement in matters of security and defence,” says the text, referring to June 2016 Eurobarometer survey.
Call for common EU defence policy
The resolution asks the European Council to lead the creation of “common Union defence policy and to provide additional financial resources ensuring its implementation”.
It also advocates setting up an EU operational headquarters to plan, command and control crisis management operations. MEPs urge EU member states to aim to spend 2% of GDP on defence and to establish “multinational forces within the Permanent Structured Cooperation and make these forces available to the common security and defence policy”.
MEPs call for the European defence market to be made fair, accessible and transparent. They also back the proposed EU investment in defence-related research projects “of at least 90 million euro during next three years”, suggesting that this should be followed up by a separate European Defence Research Programme with an annual budget of €500 million.
The Common Security and Defence policy (CSDP) should be radically overhauled in order to assert the EU’s strategic autonomy and to strengthen its resilience, says a separate resolution, prepared by Ioan Mircea Pascu (S&D, RO).
The EU “should be able to intervene across the whole spectrum of crisis management, including crisis prevention and crisis resolution”, while “all Council decisions on future missions and operations should prioritise engagements in conflicts directly affecting EU security”, says the text.
The resolution suggests launching CSDP training operation in Iraq to support member states involved in the coalition against Daesh. MEPs also urge the Council to set up a start-up fund to provide urgent funding for the initial phases of military operations and to make the EU Battlegroups, a rapid response force created in 2007, into a more readily employable military instrument.
Finally, MEPs welcome further steps taken to strengthen EU-NATO relations, including stepping up cooperation, in particular to counter hybrid and cyber threats, and to avoid wasteful competition.
The resolution on the European Defence Union was approved by 37 votes to 20, with 1 abstention, while the resolution on CSDP - by 36 votes to 18, with 5 abstentions. The full House will vote on them during the November plenary session in Strasbourg.