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Thank you Madam Chair, thank you to the rapporteurs, and thanks to all of you. This is the result – I think – of a common work that needs now to be continued. So, let me start by saying that I count on this common work to continue in the months and the years ahead.
Some of you were asking if we can be optimistic today. I know that we are not used to that. I think, it is about realism and pragmatism today, more than optimism. Because, to quote a great figure of the last century and partially also of this one, Nelson Mandela, said that ‘it always seems impossible until it’s done’. This is exactly such a case, where everybody was predicting that this would have been impossible for different reasons. The work on the European defence would be impossible because the political conditions were not there, and because of this and that. And we proved that political conditions can be created when there is determination and when there is the support of our citizens.
Because, as some of you mentioned – I think it was David McAllister [Member of European Parliament] – our citizens strongly support our common work at European Union level on security and defence and also on foreign policy. And this creates the political conditions for us to deliver. On this, there is a top priority for our citizens. I believe, this has also been possible, and this will continue to be possible, which is even more important, because we decided at a certain moment to move from the theoretical, ideological approach, and debate on European defence and security work, to a practical, useful and concrete approach, consisting of single actions that could improve our work on security and defence, delivering on the needs of our citizens.
Let me say, and actually, Madam Chair, I will address most of the concerns and questions of Members of Parliament who are not there anymore, which probably means that their concerns were not so urgent. But, I know It is more difficult to work with facts and practical decisions to be taken, rather than to stick with stereotypes. But, if you look at the facts, we are not talking about creating a European Union army: all 25 Member States that are launching the permanent structured cooperation [PESCO] are going to continue to keep their national forces.
And, they are going to continue to use their capabilities, either in European Union missions and operations or in NATO, if they are NATO allies, or in UN peace-keeping missions or in other ways. What we are doing is not a militarisation; we are not working on the militarisation of our Union. We are not turning our Union, which is and stays a political union and a force mixing hard and soft power, as most of you remember. We are not turning this into a militarisation approach; on the contrary, when I say that our missions and operations will be even more needed in the months and the years to come, it is exactly because the world needs more and more missions and operations like the European Union ones, which are working for peace, in a cooperative manner, on the ground.
This is what is required. This is a different approach – the European way – and this is what is needed in the world of today. The force for peace sometimes also requires hard force and military means, but always used at the service of peace.
We are not and we have not weakened, or duplicated or entered into competition with NATO. And, when I say proudly that we have never worked so well and so much together with NATO in the fields where NATO does not have the instruments to work on some threats, and that we have a useful cooperation with NATO as a military alliance, I find it a bit strange to hear that this would mean that the European Union would be subordinate to the United States.
The following two debates are going to be on the Iran nuclear deal [JCPOA] and on Jerusalem. I have the impression that we are putting strategic autonomy quite in practice in these times, so maybe we might face the contrary problem down the road. But I think we have to get out of the pre-cooked ideological arguments that we are sometimes used to using in the political debate and look at the reality. Reality changes, and this reality has changed in the European Union, thanks also to the work of this Parliament, and thanks to a lot of determination and sometimes to stubbornness we have put in this.
And, the last myth that we have to overcome is that it is about spending. How much Member States spend on defence is up to national governments and national parliaments. It is not even up to this [European] parliament, but how these investments are done, whether it’s an efficient or inefficient way of investing which means together or not together, in a fragmented or in a coordinated manner. For example, investing in a European manner or buying in a European manner.
Again, strategic autonomy also in the field of industry is an area in which the European Union can make a difference. So, there are national decisions, but the European Union is the only one – and NATO and our American friends have understood this perfectly well – that can change the fundamental factor of spending better on the European Union side.
My last two points are very concrete ones. One is to answer Ms Alliot Marie [Member of the European Parliament]: I am doing already an annual report on the CSDP [Common Security and Defence Policy], and I would be very pleased to use this opportunity to the European Parliament to include a report on progress on this specific issue. I think it is going to be very useful to carry on the work in a practical, concrete and punctual manner, including on the resources that we will have to allocate in the future to sustain the ambitions which we are defining.
The very last point, Madam Chair – and I am sorry to raise this – but this is a debate about European foreign security and defence policy. It is about the comprehensive approach bringing together different tools and instruments. And I believe the work of the Parliament is extremely valuable in this field – unique, I would say. I would not have made it without the work of the [European] parliament. It is a bit sad for me to see that in one afternoon this plenary has eight points on the agenda on foreign policy. I think this is fragmentation that is a waste of visibility and working capacity of the plenary itself. Obviously, it is your autonomous choice, but if you could streamline a bit the focus of foreign policy debates, I think this would be added value for the work of the [European] Parliament.