Bie?kowska launches high-level defence research group

El?bieta Bie?kowska

El?bieta Bie?kowska [European Commission]

On Monday (30 March), El?bieta Bie?kowska , Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, launched a new high-level group to advise the EU on how it can support research on a future defence union.

The group consists of 16 people, including EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, former Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt, a former defence minister of Poland, CEOs of companies in the defence sectors, parliamentarians and presidents of think tanks.

Elisabeth Guigou, President of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the French National Assembly, told EURACTIV that the group of which she is a member was set up following the conclusions of the December 2013 European Council, with the purpose of preparing proposals for the next long-term EU budget (2020-2027).

According to Guigou, who is a former European affairs minister, European defence industries have become “much more autonomous”. She said that the group would prepare concrete proposals in the field of research, which would benefit both the civil and defence industry. Another element would be to make proposals with regard to pooling and sharing of defence capacities.

The high-level group will submit its report by March 2016, Guigou said. She added that it was important to use EU budget opportunities in the context of shrinking national budgets for defence research, and thus avoid Europe losing the global technological competition battle.

Future projects could include technologies in the field of intelligence gathering and surveillance, such as maritime surveillance, as well as the aircraft and drones.

A Commission communiqué mentions that in the field of defence, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will also draw from the expertise of his Special Adviser on European Defence and Security Policy Michel Barnier, France’s former Internal Market and Services Commissioner.

Juncker recently said that the EU needed its own army to face up to Russia and other threats, as well as to restore the bloc’s standing around the world.

>> Read: Juncker: NATO is not enough, EU needs an army

However, most Central European countries, and the UK, insist that NATO should remain the guarantor of security on the European continent.

>> Read: UK, Central Europe frown at Juncker’s European army

The Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) replaces the former European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). The Treaty of Lisbon introduced this name change by dedicating a new section in the founding treaties to this policy. The Treaty of Lisbon emphasises the importance and specific nature of the CSDP, which still forms an integral part of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).

The Treaty of Lisbon introduces for the first time a mutual defence clause. If a member state is the victim of an armed attack on its territory, it can rely on the aid and assistance of the other member states, which are obliged to help.

Two restrictions moderate this clause:

  • The mutual defence clause does not affect the security and defence policy of certain Member States, specifically those which are traditionally neutral;
  • The mutual defence clause does not affect the commitments made under the framework of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

There is still no European expenditure or defence budget. The crisis in public spending induced cuts in national defence budgets. As in the preceding Treaties, the CSDP remains a fundamentally intergovernmental issue.

The challenges created by shrinking defence budgets are aggravated by the fragmentation which leads to unnecessary duplication of capabilities, organisations and expenditures. Studies on the added value of EU spending show that by integrating European land forces, EU countries would be able to save substantial resources. 

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