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Strasbourg, 12 December 2017
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Thank you Mr President,
Let me thank David MacAllister [Member of the European Parliament] and Michael Gahler [Member of the European Parliament] for their great work and the entire [European] Parliament for an excellent, longstanding work.
Looking at your reports, I see, first of all, a very strong consensus among us on how crucial our unity has become – for our European citizens and for the entire the world. There is a need for the European Union as a force for peace and security. There is a need for us to be a credible and reliable power on the global scene, a rational, wise, calm one. I am glad that your reports also demonstrate a great ambition: the ambition to make our Union even stronger, so that we can take up this role at full. Because this is exactly what the situation requires.
When we look at the world around us, we see not just uncertainty, not just unpredictability, but confusion, and sometimes a dangerous one. This is why we are becoming more and more a point of reference – for so many around the world. Because we are reliable, and our partners know where we stand. We are predictable, because we are open about our interests and values. We are cooperative, and our friends know that they can always count on us.
When others have put into question the United Nations and multilateralism, we have decided to invest even more strongly in them. Not only we have supported Antonio Gutteres [United Nation Secretary General] and his work for reforming the United Nations system. We have also worked with United Nations agencies all around the world, and particularly with the UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] and the International Organisation for migration [IOM].
When we set up our own initiative for the future of Syria in the region, with the Brussels process, we did it to support the Geneva talks led by the United Nations, with all possible means, and in strong coordination with them. We have stood by the nuclear deal with Iran, and we are working for a peaceful solution of the crisis with North Korea. We have invested in the United Nations Agenda for sustainable development. We have put our relationship with Africa on a more equal footing with so many joint initiatives – from our support to the G5 Sahel Joint military Force to the European External Investment Plan [EIP]. We have invested in resilience – for instance with our Eastern Partners, working on our youth, on the fight against corruption, on energy sector reform, on strategic communications. And, we have continued to be a force for peace and reconciliation – starting with our own region – Europe – with the Western Balkans and their credible path towards our European Union.
We have become an indispensable partner for peace and reconciliation, for a more effective multilateralism, for sustainable development. And we have also become an indispensable partner and power for international security, and a global security provider. In today's world, security and development go hand in hand. Hard and soft power must also go hand in hand.
Our work on security and defence is part of this broader picture. There is nothing to do with a militarisation of our Union. We are not turning our Union into a military alliance. But if we want to help our African partners whose growth is hampered by insecurity; or if you want to make sure that instability abroad does not affect our own citizens – then we also need to be a credible military actor, using all our tools, including the military ones, and using them in the European way, which means for peace, development, the people's rights, wisely and in a cooperative manner.
This year, our common defence has taken steps forward that seemed unthinkable just a few months ago. The Gahler Report is very ambitious, and I think these are the right times to be ambitious and daring. Today the main building blocks of a European Union of Security and Defence are finally there. We can now research and develop our defence capabilities together. We can buy together, to ensure that we have the capabilities we need and spending efficiently. We can act together, to manage or prevent crises, to strengthen our partners, to make our citizens more secure.
To get there, we have set up – in just one year, even if this is built on many long years of parliamentary work, and not only in Parliament – an impressive number of new tools and initiatives. All of them seemed impossible just a few months ago, just last year, when we were holding this very same in this hemicycle. And we have done that while bringing our cooperation with NATO to an unprecedented level. Last year we announced 42 joint actions with NATO. We have implemented them and I was reporting about that implementation with NATO Secretary General [Jens] Stoltenberg just last week. By the way, let me take this opportunity to congratulate him on the extension of his mandate to 2020. And last week, at the NATO Ministerial Meeting, we agreed together on 34 more actions. Our NATO partners know that a stronger European Union makes NATO stronger, because our Member States and NATO alliance have one set of forces that can be used in different environments, in different frameworks. And our organisations can only be complementary.
Coming to the tools we have put in place during this year of work: first we created the first ever command centre for our military training and advisory missions. I have the impression that the demand for our military and civilian missions can only grow in the future. And now we have the right structures to plan and command our missions. Second, with the European Commission, we have set up a European Defence Fund. For the first time ever, the European Commission is committing common resources to invest in defence – not to militarise our budget, but on the contrary, to help Member States spend better on defence by spending together. Third, we have established a Coordinated Annual Review of national defence budgets [CARD], for which a trial run has just been launched. And, the first progress report is planned for November next year .
And of course, the most historic step: just yesterday the Foreign Affairs Council activated a Permanent Structured Cooperation on defence[PESCO]. This was unimaginable just a few months ago – not to mention at the beginning of my mandate, when I mentioned during hearing in your joint committees in I think response to a question of Mr. [Arnaud] Danjean [Member of the European Parliament] that I would work to make possible the use of all instruments that the Lisbon Treaty gives us. And we did it. We did it in the most ambitious and inclusive manner, with 25 Member States, launching PESCO [Permanent Structured Cooperation] together. The 25 have taken binding commitments to improving their cooperation, and the progress on these commitments will be assessed regularly.
We will start with a first set of 17 projects. These are very practical programmes: they will facilitate cooperation between our armed forces, fill some gaps in our capabilities, and make our European defence spending much more efficient. I mentioned it several times: we have an investment gap across the Atlantic. The Europeans invest 50% of what the Americans invest on defence. But the output gap is much more impressive, because what we get out of our investment is 15% of what the Americans get. Here is where we can act, at the European Union level, to make our investment in defence more efficient. These projects span from a common military training, to new technologies for protecting our critical infrastructures, to providing medical support to our operations, and I could continue.
The possibilities of the Permanent Structured Cooperation are immense. And they will be even greater if we manage to make the Permanent Structured Cooperation work together with all our new defence tools. The Member States that have launched the Permanent Structured Cooperation have committed to fully participating in the Comprehensive Annual Review on Defence [CARD], and they will resort to the European Defence Fund whenever possible. The Defence Fund could be used to create a ‘bonus’ for projects undertaken in the Permanent Structured Cooperation framework. And the Coordinated Review will help us identify new fields for cooperation, so that Permanent Structured Cooperation can step in.
Obviously, these initiatives will have to be developed in coherence and using all possible synergies. But I believe that is exactly what the Lisbon Treaty had in mind when creating the actually not double but triple-hatted High Representative, Vice-President of the Commission and Head of the European Defence Agency [EDA]. Because I think that this work we have done this year has also an institutional value, to show that the different institutions we have can join forces in a coordinated manner towards one objective and delivering results that were considered to be impossible to achieve.
I must confess, in this moment, I am divided between two different personal feelings. On the one hand, I think "Habemus Papam", white smoke, "Mission accomplished". But on the other, no time to celebrate. It is true, we made it. It is historic. It is big. But at the same time, the real work is just about to begin. And I think, we have to be aware that this is a new chapter in the history of the European Union. But today we have the paper, we have the ink, and we have a good story to tell. So we have work to do. And I think we have to look immediately from today – the day after the decision on the Permanent Structured Cooperation was formally taken at the Council yesterday – at the next steps.
It is not only about the Permanent Structured Cooperation and its possibilities, the concrete projects, and many more others. It is also other fields of action that will be on our agenda in the year to come. The work on our Battlegroups, for instance, is not finalised yet – and I hope and I encourage Member States to be ambitious and to achieve progress in the Athena committee by the end of this year or early 2018. And on top of that, we are also working on new proposals on how to fund together our work on security and defence. Together with NATO we are also working to improve military mobility inside the European Union. And this project also fits very well within our defence cooperation agenda.
Last but not least at all, I would like to see in the next month progress on our civilian missions and capabilities too. Because security threats have changed, and this makes our civilian engagement even more important. Think of our new mission to support security sector reform and stabilisation in Iraq, or to our long-standing civilian commitment in the Balkans or in Eastern Europe. You all realised that these are key elements of our common security. The “European way” to security and defence lies precisely in the careful and wise mix between targeted military and civilian actions, that is what makes the European Union a unique security interlocutor and player in the world.
In three years of common work since the start of my mandate our European Union of Security and Defence has advanced enormously. I would say we have achieved more in these last three years, in this last year, than in the previous thirty or sixty years. And it makes me proud, even as an Italian, that this happens in the year of the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome. That was part of the dreams of our founding fathers and mothers.
But again, we have to look at the next sixty years. This should make us proud, and it should make us more aware of our potential and give us the energy, the determination, and the hope that we will need to continue strengthening the European Union as a global player. Because – let me finish with this – I have always been convinced, even more today, that the EU is what we make of it. We decided to change things together in this field, and we did it. And now, we are ready to work and shape our next steps towards a European Union of security and defence. And I am sure, we will continue to work together and do it also in the years to come.
Thank you very much.
Link to the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I148128