Michel Barnier, Jean-Claude Juncker’s special advisor on European defence, on Friday (15 October) called for the EU to establish a €3-4 billion defence budget. EURACTIV France reports.
“We have run up an enormous investment gap,” France’s former European Commissioner said at a conference organised by the think-tank Europanova. He insisted that Europe urgently needed to use all the tools at its disposal to develop a real defence policy. A view broadly supported in France, where six out of ten people believe the EU can provide the answer to the question of security.
For Barnier, funding is the crucial issue. His vision would see the creation of a European defence fund, established along similar lines to the Juncker Plan. “We could have a budget of between €3 billion and €4 billion in the next budgetary package. That would allow us to guarantee around a million highly-qualified jobs.”
The United States spends around €18 billion per year on defence research. Barnier said he did not expect Europe to reach such dizzying heights, but that the bloc could at least become independent in the key areas.
“Today, we have six European countries that build military frigates and 23 models of helicopter. We need to pool and concentrate our budgetary efforts,” the former Commissioner said. He bemoaned the fact that 55% of military spending in Europe goes on human resources, compared to just one third in the US.
The special advisor sees the creation of joint brigades as a possible solution to the problems raised by Europe’s fragmented military capacity.
On the subject of Brexit, Barnier, who is also a member of the Commission’s Brexit taskforce, said his team’s preparation was going ahead “without aggression, without the desire for revenge, without ideology or naivety”.
The specialist recalled that the United Kingdom had always been firmly against EU defence integration and the establishment of a European military HQ, a question that resurfaced in September after Juncker’s State of the Union speech.
The UK is a member of the European Defence Agency, which is an intergovernmental organisation, rather than an EU one.
On the subject of the European army, raised by Juncker in his September speech, Barnier said the Commission President had just been testing the water and that there were no current plans for an army.
Defence is still a matter of national sovereignty, and the creation of an EU army would require treaty change. Barnier believes that Eurocorps, a Strasbourg-based force made up of soldiers from France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain, which regularly cooperates with NATO, provides the right framework on which to base the EU’s future military cooperation.
He concluded his intervention by referring to the Saint-Malo declaration, signed by Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac in 1998, which mentioned a military strategy of “autonomy and solidarity”.
“If we do not stick together, we are doomed,” Barnier said.