French MPs seek to outline European defence strategy

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The president of the foreign affairs committee of the French Parliament has drafted a report urging the EU members states to pool resources for military capacities and help build a single EU defence policy.

The French MP Elisabeth Guigou, who drafted a report 'Europe of defence', called on the European Union to launch a European defence industry. Her report was examined on 27 November in the French Parliament.

“It is illusory to think that we can tackle the industrial challenges individually: the budgetary constraints and the rising international competition call for partnerships, groupings, and a division of tasks," reads the text.

Creating a genuine European industry would mean redefining the industrial and technological basis of defence (ITBD), which is the group of companies that provide sensitive equipment to the army.

The European Commission proposed in a document last July to create to that end networks of excellence which regroup contractors, SMEs and research institutes. During the parliamentary debate, MP Gerard Charasse (Radical Party of the Left) called for the establishment of large European groups and a European Defence Agency.

The report further stresses the need to increase the pooling of military capacities, through purchasing of equipment, common trainings and shared infrastructure or logistics.

This can be done via the European Air Transport Command (EATC), which brings together the transport and air supplies of five states (France, Luxembourg, Germany, Netherlands and Belgium). For France this would mean transferring to the EATC the control of its aerial refueling fleet.

The French defence minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, who was auditioned by the committee, supported the change.

“We need to have the reflex to share the capacities … including the conception of future armament programmes," he said.

But it is also possible to create new exchange and pooling structures. Last November, several European countries, including France and Germany, put in place a “club of drone users” to share their experiences and then develop a European drone.

A common fund?

Beyond the technical and logistical aspects, the report also suggests that countries continue to share expenses for military operations, which contributes to Europe's military security. Currently, the EU’s military operations are financed 90% by the individual member states.

In an annex to the report, MP Pierre Lellouche (UMP, centre-right) even suggests the creation of a European fund supplied by each state in proportion to its GDP. “Every time there is a crisis, it is France that deals with it even though it becomes more and more difficult for us to finance those operations, it would be good to share the burden through a joint fund," the MP explained during the debates.

Finally, a roadmap to strengthen the place of Europe in the world will have to be drafted. It will have to review what has been done until now, deepen the Euro-American partnership and clarify the role of the European Commission. The Commission is competent on some defence areas: industry, security and humanitarian aid.

This roadmap will be meant to help elaborate a new European security strategy. The last report on the European strategy dates back to 2003 and has never been reviewed since 2008.

MP Guy-Michel Chauveau told the committee during the auditions to make this strategy a “document of foreign and security policy”, which would take into account the economic role of the EU and its conflict prevention actions.

  • 19-20 December 2013 : European Council dedicated to European Defence Policy
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