The common security response to government cuts

Written by Rosie on . Posted in Events

The euro zone crisis is the opportune time to transform European defence policy, according to a former defence minister of Portugal visiting the EUI.

Helicopter EDA-BAF Adjt Bart Roselle

The European Defence Agency aims to make more helicopters available to member states. Credit: EDA-BAF Adjt Bart Roselle

Nuno Severiano Teixeira, defence minister from 2006 to 2009 and now professor at the New University of Lisbon, was speaking at the Academy of Global Governance’s executive training on ‘The anatomy of EU foreign policy’ last week.

“The problem is that we are always looking at the negative impact [of the crisis] which is the cuts in military spending. We need at the European level to optimise our resources, to coordinate our budgetary cycles and defence policies – this could be an opportunity,” he said.

Although cooperation between states does exist, Severiano Teixeira argues that joint spending capabilities are “practically non-existent” and said a more permanent structure of resource-pooling is needed under the European Defence Agency.

The agency was launched in 2005 and its mission enshrined in the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, with all member states’ defence ministries represented. Last year the EDA set out its priorities, including increasing the availability of helicopters for member states and medical support.

In March the Council of the European Union met to discuss greater sharing of military means and concluded that a more sustainable policy was needed which “will require a change of mindset and continuous political momentum and commitment”.

For Severiano Teixeira the current approach is not only too disjointed from member states’ strategies, but equally from EU development plans: “We have to have on-the-ground coordination between both instruments, which is fundamental in new types of missions where military security, soft security, economic development and institution-building all exist. If we don’t have cross-pillar coordination between development aid and military missions, between Council and Commission, then the consistence of the external action of the EU will be very weak.”

While further deepening of cooperation will have a tangible impact on the ground, Severiano Teixeira said that it is also vital for the EU’s diplomatic clout: “In terms of the international presence of the European Union this could be an extraordinary asset. Economic power with a unified external diplomatic instrument – but without military credibility – is not able to affirm the values and norms [of the EU]; it’s fundamental for its credibility as an international player.”

The member states seem unsure of how to present a unified voice on the international stage in military terms, leading to inaction evident in the response to civil war in Syria. While the Council has actively imposed economic sanctions on the Syrian regime, most recently on Monday 15 October, the EDA has been quiet.

Severiano Teixeira attributes this, and the broader want of momentum in military cooperation, to a lack of political will: “The problem is not a technical or a military one; the problem is a political one – for consensus among the member states to have a common position. From the moment this common position exists the military instrument would work”.

The former defence minister’s seminar was one of seven which brought together practitioners and academics to explore EU foreign policy over three days, including regional sessions focusing on Asia and the Pacific, Brazil and India.

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