MEPs debate defence priorities with Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer  

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Defence and security policy will be marked by the COVID-19 crisis, says the German Defence Minister, presenting the priorities of the German Presidency.

When it comes to defence and security policy, the COVID-19 crisis will mark the German Presidency priorities, just as it will every other policy area, said German defence minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer to the Foreign Affairs Committee and Defence Subcommittee MEPs on Tuesday.

Presenting via video link the security and defence priorities of the EU for the next six months, she stressed that German presidency’s attention will be focused on European resilience - “where we as Europeans haven’t been resilient enough, above and beyond national borders”.

Europe has not been capable of action when it comes to hybrid threats, which includes the scenario of a pandemic, said the German minister. Europe needs capabilities and assets, as a genuinely common European approach and policy in this area was not planned for when COVID-19 started taking over.


European strategic compass and joint threat analysis


She announced that the Presidency wants to prepare a European strategic compass, starting with a joint threat analysis that should be finished by the end of the Presidency in 2020. This is the first time, in such context, that Europe will deal with the term hybrid threat, trying to find solutions to the problems of hacking and disinformation that it faces today, she pointed out. Recalling particularly her ongoing talks with Baltic and Višegrad countries, she said that the EU will examine how to perceive Russia, assessing what threats emanate from this country.

Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer talked about European sovereignty, stressing that the EU needs to have more capabilities and assets, especially in relations with NATO; not to supplement NATO, but to be able to take on its responsibility. She gave an example of European engagement in the Sahel region, where Europe must be able to continue its missions if the USA decides to withdraw from West Africa.

She stressed the importance of the European Peace Facility, when it comes to the participation of third countries, as well as to PESCO projects. During the COVID-19 crisis, it became clear that armies can play an important role in fighting the pandemic, such as through flights for medical transport from one country to another.

“A strong Europe in the world” has to be filled with substance


Expressing his concerns over cuts that defence projects such as military mobility are undergoing at the moment, the Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs David McAllister (EPP, DE) said: "Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer rightly stressed that the EU needs to strengthen its resilience and ability to act. The guiding principle of the German Presidency in security and defence matters is that “A strong Europe in the world” has to be filled with substance. It is about providing strategic orientation and setting the first key milestones for a post-COVID future in order to emerge stronger from the crisis."


The co-Chair of the meeting, and the Defence Subcommittee Chair Nathalie Loiseau (Renew, FR) added: “The German Presidency begins at a key moment in the strengthening of the European Union's strategic autonomy. The tools of the European defence policy exist: European Defence Fund, Military Mobility, Space... The European Parliament will ensure that the member states move from words to deeds by providing them with the necessary budgetary means, and share a genuine common vision of threats and actions to protect our citizens more effectively against any type of threat".


Background

Germany took over the six-month Presidency of the Council of the EU on 1 July from Croatia.

Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer, a member of the Christian Democratic Union, assumed her current office in July 2019, when she replaced the current President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen as German Federal Minister of Defence. She participated in the meeting remotely.

You can watch the MEPs interventions and the whole debate with Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer again here