The European Union must significantly increase its capacity to deter wars, its foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told EU lawmakers on Tuesday (1 March), addressing the second ‘taboo’ in a few days, after the bloc approved supplying arms to Ukraine.
Speaking at an emergency session of the European Parliament prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Borrell said “one of the lessons that we have to learn is that more than ever Europe must think strategically about itself, its environment and the world.”
“We need to increase our deterrence capacity in order to prevent war,” Borrell said, adding that it had become clear the EU’s current options have not been enough to deter Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Because all we need to understand is that to make peace we need to be two, but to make war is enough to be one – this is exactly what Mr Putin is telling us,” he added.
“We need to think about the instrument of coercion, retaliation, and counterattack in the face of reckless adversaries,” the EU’s chief diplomat said.
“This is a moment in which geopolitical Europe is being born.”
Over the past week, the EU had moved to impose a series of sanctions on Russia for invading Ukraine, in what was seen as the bloc’s biggest set of punitive measures against a third country so far.
“Three days ago, it was impossible, and now it’s possible, and they [Russians] start feeling the consequences in terms of inflation and the fall of their currency,” Borrell said.
“This is the coercion capacity,” he added.
Furthermore, in what was described as a “watershed moment” for its defence policy, the EU agreed on Sunday (27 February) to unblock some €500 million for members states to buy arms for Ukraine’s armed forces, hoping to stop Russia’s invasion.
EU treaties prohibit the bloc from using its regular multiannual budget to fund operations with military or defence implications.
That is why, under the unveiled plans, the EU will use an off-budget tool, the European Peace Facility (EPF) financing instrument with a ceiling of €5 billion, which can be used to provide military aid.
The recently created intergovernmental fund had opened the door for the bloc to deliver military aid to partner countries and finance the deployment of its military missions abroad.
Addressing EU lawmakers specifically, Borrell pointed out the fund would not be part of the bloc’s current budget approved by the European Parliament, “because we claim that the EU is a peace force and cannot provide arms to anyone else”, but then added:
“Yes, we can. Yes, we have done – in the next budget, think about it,” he said forcefully.
“When you vote for the next budget, use your budgetary capacity to put the weights and means in order to face the next crisis and the next Russian aggression.”
Negotiations for the current EU budget saw EU flagship defence initiatives radically downscaled from their initial ambitions due to inter-institutional fights over numbers, including among member states themselves.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]