In the following article, German State Secretary to the Federal Minister of Defence, Benedikt Zimmer, outlines the main challenges, key assumptions, and goals of the current German EU Presidency in the field of security and defence.
The current pandemic is probably only the discernible culmination of a development that has already posed great challenges to both the international and our European community. It will certainly continue to put permanent pressure on the rule-based international order and the global balance of power. The concentration of crises in the 21st century will also have far-reaching consequences for the EU. Now, more than ever, we need to stand together in the EU unified by a clear vision regarding our values, interests, and ambitions. Our citizens expect a strong EU. An EU that protects and defends them facing any kind of crisis. However, especially COVID-19Coronavirus Disease 2019 has the potential to serve as a catalyst and even aggravate current and future conflicts – we therefore have to take action to prevent the ongoing health crisis from turning into a security crisis.
Despite the progress in deepening the EU´s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDPCommon Security and Defence Policy ) over the past years, the ongoing crisis has revealed not only strong but also weak sides in our system.
The first lessons learnt illustrate the necessity to focus on two core issues: As a start, the EU needs the capacity to provide support and assist in the direct and immediate management of the crisis. In the long run, we have to be able to act in order to position ourselves in a post-COVID-19Coronavirus Disease 2019 order, especially in the domain of security and defence. Increasing resilience will empower the EU to be a capable and reliable partner in international crisis management by acting in a solidary, effective and cooperative manner. To achieve this a close cooperation and coordination is essential between Europeans as well as their transatlantic partners in NATO. To advocate these necessary improvements, the German Presidency of the Council of the EU has taken a slightly different course than initially planned.
Given these manifold challenges, a central goal of the German Council Presidency is to substantially enhance European resilience in the area of security and defence.
We will actively work towards consolidating and building the EU´s role as an anchor of stability with the ability to act as a global player in international crisis management.
To achieve this, we will intensify the close coordination with all stakeholders aiming for a new impetus of cooperation.
European cohesion and solidarity are the guiding principles of the German Council Presidency. Without them, even the best instruments remain ineffective. We believe that all EU ministers should continue to work hand in hand to further enhance CSDPCommon Security and Defence Policy and to stay in close coordination with our partners. First and foremost, we need to be clear about our intentions and objectives. With the strategic compass, we want to find the much-needed and commonly agreed basis between EU ministers on this overarching question. This increased strategic clarity will help us to plan more prudently and to act more decisively – if and when European action is required. This will also provide for more transparency to our partners. The initial step is the first common threat analysis at EU level.
At the same time, given the current challenges due to the COVID-19Coronavirus Disease 2019 pandemic, we are already increasing our responsiveness. With the PESCOPermanent Structured Cooperation project European Medical Command (EMC) at its core, European Medical Cooperation 2.0 will lead to higher resilience and closer cooperation among the Armed Forces of the EU. Going beyond the EU, the EMC and NATO’s Multinational Medical Coordination Centre (MMCC) will closely link up thus creating a vivid symbol of much-needed closer cooperation between NATO and the EU.
We are striving for an EU that is able to act – with partners or if necessary on its own – appropriately and decisively where its interests, values, and security are affected. As key instrument, PESCOPermanent Structured Cooperation must endeavour to meet ambitious objectives during the upcoming second initial phase 2021–2025. We will actively engage to make progress tangible in PESCOPermanent Structured Cooperation and its projects as well. This includes finalizing the provisions for Third-States’ participation. We are convinced that the participation of Third States in PESCOPermanent Structured Cooperation projects, especially of allied and close partners, will be in everyone’s interest. Furthermore, it is important that we continue to invest in defence and thereby substantiate our ambitions with the necessary funding.
For the first time, a defence title is integrated into the EU budget through the European Defence Fund (EDF) and Military Mobility. We want to make sure that we finalize the EDF regulation as quickly as possible in order to start funding concrete projects for common and interoperable capabilities, thus closing European capability gaps.
As coherent political coordination and decision-making in the Council are essential to progress in this matter, we will start a consideration process, ideally based on the strategic compass in order to explore ways to improve strategic capability planning in the EU. This planning should take into account the overall picture of the European capability landscape to ensure a more comprehensive planning and a more coordinated decision-making including coordination of capability contributions of EU member states. This should be based on existing procedures within council structures to ensure a clear political monitoring and guidance as well as close cooperation and coordination of all actors involved.
The success and credibility of our operational efforts also depend on our ability to not only train but also to sufficiently enable our partners in missions. We want to make sure that through the European peace facility, the EU will for the first time be able to provide security in every respect. To this end, we will be working towards an EU that has the necessary means at hand to plan, conduct and command its operations and missions effectively. Furthermore, we want to qualify for the capability of military planning and conduct. We intend to enhance cooperation between civilian and military structures in this area. The EU’s resilience also needs improvement in the digital field and through innovative digital solutions. This is why we strive to improve digital skills and cyber defence capabilities of the armed forces of the member states.
The current COVID-19Coronavirus Disease 2019 pandemic may only be one of several crises throughout the 21st century but it emphasizes the necessity to develop an EU that is more resilient and able to cope with a variety of different challenges. This will require more cooperation and coordination between all EU MS. Within its Presidency of the Council of the EU, Germany will contribute to strengthening this development through forward-looking projects, encouraging the following presidencies to continue pursuing this approach. Together we will take a significant step forward towards an EU that stands ready to defend and protect its citizens, and acts as an anchor of stability in an unstable world.
This article was first published in the 2020 issue #20 of the European Defence Matters magazine.