EU is taking the first steps on the way to geostrategy

Military exercise by French soldiers

On Friday, the EU defense ministers held a video conference to discuss security threats to Europe.

(Photo: dpa)

Berlin Who and what threatens the security of Europeans? Opinions differ in the member states: for the Eastern Europeans it is Russia, for France it is Islamist extremists around the Mediterranean, for the Scandinavians enemies could cross the Arctic, and Germany fears migration, cyber attacks – and all the other threats mentioned.

This Friday, the EU defense ministers discussed the issues in a video conference chaired by Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU).

They officially agreed on a threat analysis: the list, compiled by the secret services, contains all the risks to security that are foreseeable in the next five to ten years – with a focus on new technologies and artificial intelligence.

China’s ambition to win wars in the near future is now officially a security risk in the EU. The details should remain secret, however. The document is classified as an “EU Secret”.

The defense ministers only published a memo on Friday. According to this, the threat analysis is divided into three parts:

  1. Globally it can be observed that globalization is slowing down and economic rivalries between world powers are increasing. Climate change could also trigger conflicts over resources such as water, food and energy supply. Migration remains a problem.
  2. Regional powers would try to expand their power geographically and to destabilize their neighbors. Although Russia is not mentioned in the statement, it should be primarily meant.
  3. New threats emerged from hacker attacks and conspiracy theories on social media. Terrorism will also continue to threaten Europe’s security.

The long road to European defense

Since the Brexit referendum in 2016, the European Union has wanted to act together on defense policy. Up until the EU parliamentary elections in May 2019, the states made good progress. The permanent common defense policy was institutionalized under the English abbreviation Pesco.

Projects by groups of countries – for example for cooperation between the medical departments – have been started, and a rapid reaction force has been put through by France. Military operations in the Sahel are run as European projects. And there is a fund for the development of new weapon systems.

Since last year, however, European defense cooperation has lacked momentum. It took a while for the new EU Commission to take office, and the corona pandemic in particular has been paralyzing since this year.

During the German Council Presidency, the EU states agreed that since the beginning of November third countries – such as Great Britain and Norway – have also been able to participate in Pesco projects.

Now, based on the threat analysis, Kramp-Karrenbauer and her French colleague Florence Parly want to develop a military strategy for Europe – from the German EU Council Presidency this year to the French one in 2022.

The aim of the strategic compass to be developed is to formulate the tasks of defense policy and to develop military capabilities jointly and based on the division of labor. “The central question is: What does the EU want to be able to do?” It says in the Federal Ministry of Defense.

The Pesco projects are already more geared towards the “operational added value for operations”, it was said after the meeting. The Pesco project “Network of LogHub”, in which the logistics centers of the armies work together, achieved its goals. Projects that do not do this in the foreseeable future would be terminated.

Josep Borrell, European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, speaks during the video conference of EU Defense Ministers.

The EU defense ministers officially agreed on a threat analysis.

(Photo: Reuters)

Are the British left out?

However, it is unclear how the future cooperation with Great Britain will be shaped. The Common Defense project failed because of the British before the Brexit referendum. From a British and European point of view, defense does not work without them: Alongside France, the no longer EU country is the strongest military in Europe.

The British want to stay that way: Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Wednesday that the defense budget of 41.5 billion pounds (47.8 billion euros) would generally grow annually by 0.5 percent adjusted for inflation and also for armaments projects over the next four years to spend an additional 16.5 billion pounds (18.45 billion euros). More money than before should flow into innovative military technology.

Since the Brexit decision, the British have increased their involvement in NATO – and they are pushing for bilateral cooperation – especially with France and Germany. However, the British continue to reject military cooperation controlled by the EU.

As it is said in expert circles, they are not primarily interested in participating in peso projects as a third country. It is better to cooperate with Germany on armaments projects, for example – for the further development of the Eurofighter.

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