A Future for Europe

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

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The Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists (ACRE) is continuing its evolution into a more globally focused organization, enhancing its role beyond the EU to project stability abroad.

Key to continuing this evolution are important decisions such as how best to handle Brexit, advance EU-NATO cooperation, increase military mobility, support partner nations, and ensure that future EU military operations maintain their gains after our forces go home.

Handling Brexit

As we move closer to Brexit, efforts to ensure a high functioning relationship with security services in the UK are well underway. As the world’s 7th biggest defence spender, Europe’s biggest contributor to NATO in cash and capabilities, and the UK’s continued motivation to work closely with the EU for our common defence, goodwill and sophisticated capabilities should not be spoiled by Brexit hysteria.

With a highly developed set of security relationships such as Five Eyes and key capabilities such as nuclear deterrents and aircraft carriers, the UK remains at the forefront of protecting its European and transatlantic allies from threats ranging from Russian aggression, failed states, terrorism and organized crime. Strong cooperation in areas such as expedited extraditions, intelligence sharing and tactical support in the field will go a long way to ensuring our collective security. This can be accomplished via regular consultation and coordination on issues such as sanctions and counter-terrorism, continued intelligence sharing and logistical support in the field for ongoing operations, and the continued development of advanced capabilities such as the Galileo programme. All are key benchmarks that ACRE supports.

Advancing EU-NATO Cooperation

As ACRE recognizes that European security goes beyond the borders of the continent, continued efforts to ensure NATO’s role as our primary security guarantor are critical to better serving our overlapping interests.

Following the landmark Joint Declaration on EU-NATO cooperation made at the 2016 Warsaw Summit and the Technical Arrangement on Cyber Security that followed, EU-NATO cooperation is more than a catchphrase. We now have a team of first responders established in Europol’s Cyber Centre, shared intelligence and personnel acquisition between fusion cells is flowing to guarantee response to threats in real time, joint cyber training such as Exercise Locked Shields are becoming the norm, and a Cyber Diplomacy Toolbox (CDT) which permits imposing sanctions on attackers is in place. All of this has made a major dent in closing the gaps in our cyber security while modernizing the best assets of EU-NATO cooperation.

Military Mobility

Equally important to the motivation to tackle threats together, is the operational capability to do so. This is why ACRE has been keen to advance our military mobility so that available troops, equipment and fast decision making can move swiftly in the event of a crisis. However, calls for a ´European army´ or ‘military Schengen’ that sidestep the existing command and control structures of member states or NATO will only further complicate any response effort and cause confusion when it comes to ´who does what´, slowing down our capacity to respond.

Even more important than the need to move quickly, is the need to have troops that are able to fight when they arrive. This is why ACRE supports unified contingency planning and regular joint training exercises based on realistic scenarios to ensure both agility and proper preparation of our forces. Simply put, practice makes perfect.

Support to Partner Nations

Serving as a bridge to advance our strategic thinking beyond the EU, ACRE is working to ensure that our partners to the South and East such as Tunisia, Moldova or Bosnia and Herzegovina are politically, financially and operationally supported to aid their path towards democratic reform and military interoperability.

By supporting the modernization of partner nations we are able to show increased effectiveness of their capabilities and unification of standards. This is achieved by regular consultation to prevent emerging crises and tackle challenges together, removing barriers to export licensing and technology transfers to streamline industry and training, harmonizing standards and equipment to ensure compatibility between our forces, and sharing best practices in areas such as counter-terrorism and disaster relief.

Operational Gains

Upholding this bridge advancing our strategic thinking is the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), allowing EU Member States to engage in more flexible conditions that have been highly welcomed by local personnel and authorities.

Having created a very positive outcome for stabilizing different parts of Europe and Africa, EU’s military operations in countries like Mali or the Central African Republic contributed greatly to protecting at-risk populations from violence. Likewise, civilian operations in Ukraine and Moldova have helped reunite families, tackle corruption and increase access to goods and services for locals.

Maintaining the strategic success of these missions relies on routine engagement with local officials before dispatching any mission on the ground, responsiveness to our hosts needs and being proactive in cooperation with different partners. Continuing this approach ensures that the success of our missions remain long after our soldiers return home.

Join Us on March 22nd

Safeguarding the EU’s strategic autonomy depends on our capacity to add value to our allies in Europe and beyond. This requires shared intelligence and situational awareness of hybrid threats, coordinating strategic communications to inform our citizens of the facts on the ground, mobilizing maritime assets to thwart illegal migration, and sharing key capabilities in air, land, sea, space and cyber. All of which will be addressed on March 22 as ACRE and its partners look forward to working with anyone who wants to be part of the progressive and positive reform for Europe.

I look forward to welcoming those in attendance and will always work to enhance our movement of people who demand more of our leaders and the best value for our security.

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