Cameron waters down EU defence ambitions at summit

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For the first time in five years, EU leaders dedicated a European Council summit to defence policy, which had been kept under the rug during the economic crisis. The outcome was far less ambitious than some member states may have expected, and leaders said in their final conclusions that they would bring up the issue again in the coming year.

As experts expected, the gathering of European leaders at a summit dedicated to defence on Thursday in Brussels was not the "big night" for European defence but progress was made on greater cooperation.

Member states should develop capabilities and make them "available to the EU", they agreed. 

UK’s prime minister made it clear at the very start of the meeting that he would not commit for anything that resembles an EU army. At the doorstep of the Council, he said:

"It isn't right for the European Union to have capabilities, armies, air forces and the rest of it. And we need to keep that demarcation correct between cooperation, which is right, and EU capabilities, which is wrong. I'm confident we'll do so. We are making good progress and I look forward to the discussions."

Earlier in the week Cameron was quoted saying that NATO’s supremacy would not be put into question: "Any EU action should be complementary to that but not duplicating it.”

Eventually, the final conclusions said that EU leaders called for more cooperation and strengthening of the individual member states' military capacity. Governments will also focus on pooling investments in the defence industry, which has experienced severe cuts over the past ten years.

Hollande says British fears are unfounded

However, Hollande told reporters on Thursday night that Cameron had misunderstood the message and that an EU army was a "false concern".

“Nobody thought that it would be up to the EU to establish an army, it was not the aim, it was an unfounded fear, because nothing hinted at that. France has its own army which is sovereign [...] for example about the drone, it’s up to us to work on it so that each of our armies can use it.”

Hollande said it had never been the intention to create a European defense force, and the recent cooperation between France and Britain has gone in the opposite direction of a centralised force.

Strengthening NATO

Both approaches were backed by NATO secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who joined the summit at the request of the British prime minister.

“The plan is not to establish an EU army, but to strengthen the defence of the bloc and of its members, which "will make NATO and the EU stronger," Rasmussen told the British press after meeting with EU leaders.

But in a nod to Hollande, he also called EU member states to invest and acquire the capabilities they need, singling out in particular air to air refueling, drones and heavy transport.

"We need to recommit to security, otherwise we risk seeing the USA disengage and drift apart from Europe, it will not benefit the EU and it will not benefit the world," Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen is widely said to be eyeing the job of European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, whose mandate expires next year.


The president of the defence subcommittee of the European Parliament, Arnaud Danjean(France, European People's Party) tweeted: 

"Relaunching Europe's Defence, one of the (rare) promises on external policy of Hollande torpedoed tonight by Cameron."

  • 20 Dec.: Day 2 of EU Council summit
External links: 

European Commission



Baron Loïc du Bois de Chantraine 's picture

Il fallait s'y attendre, Cameron et Rasmussen, veulent torpiller cette initiative. C'est le principe d'une défense unie et européenne, qu'ils n'acceptent pas. En disant cela, ils se sont fait passer pour les défenseurs de l'OTAN (encore...). Leurs vision atlantiste, ne date pas d'hier. Mais, ils n'ont rien avancé de concret, pour construire une Europe militairement indépendante, et disposant un jour d'une Force de Réaction Rapide. Une "FRR", capable de réagir en quelques heures et agissant pour les besoins d'une Europe forte et unie.

Charles_M's picture

Mon lord baron, son altesse royal, seigneur, puis je affirmer que je compterez toujours plus sur l'OTAN et les Etats Unis que sur la France or l'EU. Je crois que l'ingrat supreme De Gaulle nous a bien appris ca.

glassfull's picture

We shall continue to look after ourselves and deploy our Military assets as our democratically elected Parliament decide. The UK's decision not intervene in the Syria conflict was a wise decision but did not preclude any other EU Country from that adventure. What is evident, is that they are conspicuous by their absence.
Each sovereign country is responsible for deploying its assets as seen fit.

uk-skeptic's picture

Why should France and Britain be the only ones paying (in public expenses as well as in soldier's lives) to defend European interests in the world?

Why is Germany benefiting from the French and British (very expensive) securing of strategic positions (like petrol supplies for example, which Germany needs for its industry to function), without contributing and even complaining French and British public expenses are to high and should be reduced..

Robert Christian's picture

United kingdom forces shall not be compromised by Eussr lack of guts to field its own troops,UK forces owe 'their" allegiance to "Queen and country" not a bunch of unelected beaurocrats in Belgium.

Robert Christian's picture

United kingdom forces shall not be compromised by Eussr lack of guts to field its own troops,UK forces owe 'their" allegiance to "Queen and country" not a bunch of unelected beaurocrats in Belgium.

un européen's picture

On est en train de gaspiller une enorme somme d'argent en fabrication des arsenales militaires d'une modèle incompatible à un autre partout dans l'Europe !
Quelle gachis !!
Les américains sont plus flexible et moins compliqués en ce qui concerne l'infrastructure militaire!

Et si nous le faisons aussi eh bien on est une puissance unis et forte ! C'est ça la logique !!

Nous tous on peut bien se defendre Tous unis sans être sous la "surveillance" de Rassmussen ou autres!

Il nous faut une armée européene !
Il nous faut une armée fédérale !

La peur des autres ne nous doit pas effrayer !!

Au fond de nous , nous tous le souhaitons !

Allez-Y et faites une défense unis pour notre Europe !!!

El Pluribus Unum

un européen's picture

@Robert Christian - Posted on :20/12/2013

UK is an Union of 4 countries !!

"compromised" ???

What's the problem when creating an United Europe forces?! What's your fear ?!

You get your Camoron Referendum and Brexit!
It's your mind which is compromised ! By the way open window and breathe fresh air and smell it !

Robert Christian's picture

We in the United kingdom have no fear,no axis troops marched through London in the second world war!!!