EU lawmakers call on Commission to preserve budget funding for military mobility

German and French soldiers are walking with the European flag in front of the 'Louise Weiss Building', seat of the European Parliament, in Strasbourg, France, 01 July 2019. [EPA-EFE/PATRICK SEEGER]

A cross-party group of 45 MEPs called on European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell and Budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn on Tuesday (9 June) to maintain the bloc’s ambition on military mobility in the next seven-year budget.

The EU executive’s latest budget proposal (the Multi-annual Financial Framework), presented in May, comes after EU leaders, MEPs and the Commission had argued over the total figure for the long-term budget, with MEPs calling for €2 trillion to be put aside to mitigate the economic fallout of the health crisis.

Recalling the Commission’s 2018 Action Plan for Military Mobility, which outlined EU priorities on the matter, signatories of the cross-party letter emphasised the need for the military mobility budget to maintain the level of the initial Commission proposal of 5.77 billion, which was in line with the European Parliament’s position.

Throughout the negotiation process, the proposed funding for military mobility has dropped from €6.5 billion under the initial Commission proposal, to €2.5 billion in the Finnish presidency negotiating box, and then to €1.5 billion under Council President Charles Michel’s proposal, only to end up with zero funding in the Commission’s technical document.

Under latest Commission budget proposal from May, the ‘Resilience, Defence and Security’ budget bracket is meant to receive €29.1 billion over the next seven years, with the EU’s flagship initiatives – the European Defence Fund and military mobility – receiving €8 billion and €1.5 billion respectively.

Defence and security win battle but not war, in EU budget plans

While the new EU budget proposal charts an improvement from the European Commission’s previously planned outlay for the bloc’s defence initiatives, it still remains far from original ambitions.

On Wednesday (27 May), the European Commission increased the total financial firepower of …

With this, funding levels still remained far below the originally proposed €13 billion for the EDF and €6.5 for military mobility.

Although the sum would still be only a fraction of the total MFF, “dedicated funding for military mobility would clearly demonstrate to the EU’s willingness to invest into its defence capabilities”, the letter signatories stressed.

They particularly stressed that “upgrading the relevant EU transport infrastructure to dual-use requirements would demonstrate the EU’s added value” in providing security to European citizens.

“The EU budget needs to mirror its strategic priorities by adequately financing military mobility,” MEPs wrote.

Given the current political climate in Europe, the numbers could easily fall again once the European Council starts discussing the MFF, Niklas Novaky, EU security and defence policy analyst at the Wilfried Martens Centre, told EURACTIV just after the proposal was announced.

MEP Riho Terras (EPP), a former commander of Estonia’s defence forces, commented on Twitter that “cutting the budget for military mobility budget is shooting oneself in the foot”.

Even though defence spending is set for an overall increase, EU officials have repeatedly expressed concerns that budget limitations would undermine EU ambitions to reduce its military reliance on the US, at a time when the bloc’s defence initiatives have started to show progress towards more European autonomy.

Europe's military mobility: latest casualty of EU budget battle

The Commission’s latest budget non-paper threatens to hamper flagship defence initiatives more than previous proposals. It was put forward on Friday (20 February) in an attempt to bridge the growing differences among EU leaders over the bloc’s next seven-year budget.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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