EU elections 2019: How to defend and represent Europe?

How to the parties imagine the bloc's future foreign and defence action? [Vladimir Gjorgiev/Shutterstock]

Europe’s foreign and defence policy has always been a very contentious matter with widely divergent views on how to pursue it. Ahead of this week’s vote, EURACTIV looks at proposals from the main European political parties on strategic autonomy, qualified majority voting in foreign policy matters and a stronger EU voice on the global stage.

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EPP: Stronger defence plus joint foreign policy voice

Eying “Russian hybrid warfare, China’s new military ambitions and insecurity increased by US President Trump”, the European People’s Party proposes more coherence in the bloc’s foreign and defence policy.

In foreign policy decisions, the EPP is in favour of Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) – used in all but the most sensitive issues – because “one member state alone should not be able to paralyse the European Union as a whole.”

The EPP focuses on jointly developing stronger defence capabilities, while at the same time respecting the security and defence policies of member states and rejecting the creation of a ‘European army’.

“By pooling EU member states’ military capacities, we will create a real defence capacity by 2030 — not to replace any national army but to bring our forces much closer together and make them stronger,” the party’s manifesto says.

National resources and research capacities should be pooled to support the European defence industry in order “to develop a European drone and to make sure the main combat systems of the future can still be produced in Europe,” the party states.

Despite a stronger European role, the EPP wants further European defence integration only in close cooperation transatlantic cooperation: “We remain committed to NATO and will do everything possible to preserve and further strengthen it.”

It also wants to establish a European Cyber Brigade within two years.

PES: Boosting Europe’s voice through international organisations

The Socialists commit in their election manifesto to further developing Europe’s common defence through pooling and sharing resources, in cooperation with NATO and other international organisations.

PES also proposes that the EU push for a reform of the United Nations, without specifying what this could entail.

The big powers, United States, Russia and China, are not referred to by name once in the four-page document.

The party, however, states that Europe “must be united in the face of unpredictable and isolationist partners and promote a different form of globalisation.”

“In an increasingly unstable world, Europe must be a beacon of democracy, peace and stability,” the party states. “We will stick to the promise of investing 0.7% of our GNI in official development assistance and strengthen our partnerships with developing countries,” the manifesto reads.

ACRE: Beware excluding allies, deter Russia

In their manifesto, the Conservatives argue that security of external borders should be accompanied with and complemented by “better-coordinated efforts in defence and military procurement among member states.”

“Nevertheless, such enhanced cooperation in security affairs, must not lead to duplication
of assets, discrimination of non-participating states, and most importantly it must not diminish the strategic importance of NATO,” the party states.

Moreover, as part of ACRE’s security understanding, the EU should put more effort into the coordination of its energy security and ensuring the diversity of supply, reducing the EU’s dependency on Russia.

“European solidarity will remain a vain word if some member states keep pursuing energy projects (Nord Stream II) that harm the strategic and economic stability of fellow member states,” according to the ACRE programme.

Greens: Stop arms exports, use foreign policy instruments instead

In order to maintain the European project as a peace project, the European Greens call for “a common security and defence policy by pooling and sharing resources as well as coordinating member states’ efforts at the European level.”

“Europe must not seek profits from unscrupulous exports of arms and surveillance technologies to dictators or warring parties,” their manifesto states. Instead, the Greens propose “stringent export guidelines which should be strictly imposed.”

The Greens, just like the Socialists, do not call out the United States, Russia and China in their manifesto.

Furthermore, they argue that stability and development cannot be guaranteed only through military means, which is why they propose to increase the EU’s development cooperation funding to reach at least 0.7% of GDP and raise the funding for civil conflict prevention, resolution and moderation.

“When human rights and environment are seriously threatened, Europe has to be able to defend its values by using its foreign policy instruments comprehensively,” the Greens conclude.

ALDE: More integration, more cooperation, more responsibilities

Compared to the other main political parties, the Liberals have by far the lengthiest section on the topic in their 12-page election manifesto.

ALDE “welcomes greater European cooperation in defence spending and the agreement on PESCO”. It encourages EU countries to further increase defence cooperation “in areas of mutual advantage” while complementing NATO, which “remains the backbone of military cooperation and guarantor of collective defence for Europe.”

The manifesto concludes that “in the long-term, we support more interlocking and inter-operable European forces.”

In foreign policy decisions, just like the EPP, ALDE calls for the introduction of Qualified Majority Voting (QMV).

They, however, go further in advocating a stronger role for the European External Action Services (EEAS) and the position of the High Representative in order for the EU to be “a strong actor on the international stage” and “speak with one voice.”

Furthermore, the Liberals call for the EU take the initiative to reform the United Nations Charter, lead the reform of the World Trade Organisation, and “establish a European seat in the UN Security Council and other organisations.”

ALDE also reaffirms its support for international treaties like the INF Treaty and the continuation of the Iran nuclear deal.

In the near neighbourhood, ALDE supports “greater strategic engagement of the EU in its neighbourhood and the future enlargement perspective for the countries of the Western Balkans… once these countries meet the accession criteria.”

The manifesto condemns the annexation of Crimea and the aggression in East Ukraine by Russia, calling for “greater EU support to the democratically-elected administration of Ukraine and the EU to continue its economic sanctions against Russia.”

Beyond Europe, ALDE calls for dialogue with emerging powers but “exercising zero-tolerance when the fundamental principles of democratic processes, law and human rights are not being respected.”

The party argues for the EU to play a leading role in development cooperation and “a greater focus on the quality of development projects and programmes” plus “better coordination within the EU and the EU and its member states.”

European Left: Autonomy and de-militarisation

The European Left argues in its manifesto for a Europe “autonomous from US hegemony, open to the south of the world” and “active against the growing militarisation and war.”

The leftist party traditionally rejects NATO, foreign military bases and “any model of a European army leading to increasing military competition and arms race in the world”. They also call for a Europe free from nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction.

Looking beyond EU boundaries, the European Left calls for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “according to the UN resolutions”  and for a “Europe that rejects war as an instrument to settle international conflicts.”

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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