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I am particularly pleased to present, together with my colleagues, this part of the proposal on the next budget, on the next Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF).
You might have noticed, the world is living difficult times and this calls for the European Union's responsibility and role on the global scene as a peace and security provider that needs to be a credible, reliable and cooperative partner for the many out there, who are still strongly investing in multilateralism, conflict prevention and crisis management. Our citizens also attach great importance to security, and this is why both Europeans and our partners in the world expect the European Union to be more and more a security provider in our region and beyond.
In the last couple of years we have taken steps in the European Union's security and defence work that seemed completely impossible to achieve - even unthinkable before. I think the perfect sentence for the work we have done on defence, collectively, in these last years is a Nelson Mandela quote. He used to say "it always seems impossible until it is done". And we have done things that seemed, indeed, impossible to be put in place.
We have established the first permanent EU military command centre, we have launched the Permanent Structured Cooperation with 25 Member States, we set up a Defence Fund for our industry and our research and we are strengthening our civilian crisis management. In the meantime, we have increased - bringing it to a completely new level - our partnership with NATO and with the United Nations, but also with our regional partners, be it the African Union or forces in the Sahel. Now this intensity of work on security and defence can be, first of all, brought to a next level by the next Commission and the next High Representative, and it requires the financial means adequate to this kind of new ambition.
So today we present a package of proposals to reform our financial instruments and to create a new one. I will leave the floor to my colleagues on the content of the different proposals and on how we will reform our financial instruments. Let me underline that for the first time ever the Commission proposes an MFF that has a heading on Security and Defence that includes both the European Defence Fund, with significant allocations of money - €13 billion – and also work and financing for military mobility, in cooperation with Violeta Bulc [European Commissioner for Transport], who is not with us today.
On my side, I will present to you today a new instrument that I propose today, in my capacity as High Representative, in the form of a decision to be taken by the Council, but that the Commission supports – yesterday the College took the decision to support this proposal - showing for the first time ever again a great synergy across the institutions towards the same goal. I propose today the establishment of a European Peace Facility, an off-budget instrument that I first presented just two days after we launched the Permanent Structured Cooperation. At that time I said that it was not time for celebrations, it is time to look at the next steps. And only six months later – this was in December – I am honoured and happy to propose a concrete proposal to the Member States, which is what I do today.
This European Peace Facility first would cover the common costs of all EU military missions and operations. More costs should be founded in common, to facilitate deployment.
Second, it would let us contribute to military peace operations led by other international actors.
And third, it would allow us to support the armed forces of partner countries with infrastructure, equipment or military assistance, when the Council decides to do so. Obviously, the nature, scope and limits of these actions will be defined by the Council.
Today, such operational actions cannot be financed through the EU budget, we have limitations foreseen by the Treaties. The Facility is proposed as an off-budget Fund, and the proposed ceiling that I put on the table for Member States to discuss and decide is of 10.5 billion euros over seven years of the next Multiannual Financial Framework.
In terms of process, today, as the High Representative, I propose the European Peace Facility for a Council Decision, with the support of the Commission. The proposal will now be transmitted to the Council with the aim of adoption in the first half of next year, with practical preparations to be carried out so that it can be put in place and become operational on 1 January 2021.
We have done a lot on defence and I think we all share the sense that this is probably one of the strongest legacies of our mandate and we would like our successors to have even better tools to carry out this job.
I now leave the floor to my other colleagues that will present in detail the other parts of the MFF on Security and Defence. If I can finish with an advertisement, tomorrow, in Brussels, we will present with other Commissioners the budget proposals for the European Union's action on the neighbourhood and the world that is also complementary to the work we are presenting.
Q. Sur la Capacité Européenne de Paix, pouvez-vous nous préciser concrètement si elle va remplacer le Mécanisme Athéna, le système CBSD [Capacity building in support of security and developpement] et si dans l'équipement des forces des pays tiers, on pourra aller jusqu'à certains équipements à titre létaux et si dans le soutien aux opérations militaires de l'UE, on pourra augmenter ce qu'on appelle les coûts communs qui bloquent une partie des opérations?
Premièrement, oui, la proposition que j'ai faite aujourd'hui - si acceptée par le Conseil – substituerait le Mécanisme Athéna. Oui, il serait possible de décider de soutenir également nos partenaires avec des types d'armement suite à une décision du Conseil. Je propose également que les coûts communs puissent être augmentés et cela fera bien sûr toute la différence sur la facilité de déployer nos opérations et missions, ainsi que pour les battlegroups. Par contre, cela ne substituera pas la CBSD car c'est un instrument qui permet à l'UE de soutenir et financer des actions dans des contextes extrêmement spécifiques dans lesquels les militaires peuvent contribuer à des actions humanitaires ou de développement, donc c'est strictement lié à cela. De plus, la Capacité Européenne de Paix quant à elle nous permettrait de financer les militaires des partenaires dans différents secteurs en dehors des limites très strictes que nous avons maintenant. Donc les deux mécanismes pourraient tout à fait coexister car ils couvriraient deux types d'actions et de nécessités différentes.
Ce qui serait également possible avec la Capacité Européenne de Paix – qui substituerait aussi la Capacité Africaine de Paix – serait d'apporter du soutien aux forces de nos partenaires au-delà de l'Afrique. Je pense que, dans le futur, la majorité des actions de soutien que nous allons fournir se concentrera majoritairement en Afrique mais pour l'instant, nous avons des limites géographiques très strictes. Avec la Capacité Européenne de Paix, nous pourrions envisager dans le futur d'étendre ce soutien à nos partenaires en dehors du continent africain.
Q. Vous avez salué hier l'accord commun trouvé entre Mr Tsipras et Mr Zaev. De manière générale, pouvons-vous nous parler de l'impact que cela aurait au sein de l'UE? On peut présupposer que cet accord ouvrira la voie à l'intégration de fYRoM dans l'OTAN: quel sera l'impact de cet accord sur les relations UE-OTAN? Est-ce que cet accord ouvrirait la voie à l'intégration de fYRoM dans l'UE?
Je l'ai déjà dit hier, c'est une excellente nouvelle. Ce fut une bonne journée pour l'Europe, pas seulement pour les deux pays. Nous allons accompagner en tant qu'Union européenne l'implémentation de l'accord avec tous les efforts, instruments et moyens nécessaires. Pour être très synthétique, personnellement, je pense que oui, cela va ouvrir la porte. Du reste, je ne peux pas parler au nom de l'OTAN.
Q: In the light of what happened around the G7 meeting and what happened in Singapore, do you consider these steps as a good start? Where do we stand now? Is it enough? And do we have to prepare to be able to act alone, without the United States?
When we started this journey, I would say, to strengthen the European Union's defence, many were asking us - I think we all went through this experience - if this was determined by the results of the UK referendum, and then after a few months others asked if this was determined by the results of the US elections. The reality is that this was determined by the assumption that Europeans need to work more on their own capacity to be a security and defence provider. Inside the European Union – and this is covered by the internal work that Julian [King, Commissioner for the Security Union] has presented - and externally.
Obviously, there have been factors in these last years that have strengthened the need for an autonomous work of the European Union also in the field of security and defence. But I think one element is crucial to keep in mind. At the same time as we are strengthening and have strengthened more than ever before the European Union work on defence, in parallel we have strengthened as never before cooperation with NATO. The two things go in parallel and this is not by accident, or by chance. This is because we still believe in the vital role of the Trans-Atlantic Alliance, of the NATO alliance, that, by the way, is referred to in the Treaty on the European Union as the organisation responsible for collective defence for those Member States that are also NATO Allies. So, the two things go hand in hand.
The work that we are doing on defence is not a response, but is a very much needed and welcome work in the international context nowadays. It is not against anyone. It is not a reaction. But it is clear that there is a demand for the European Union to be more present, more active in the global scene in these days, both in diplomatic terms and in humanitarian and development issues, and also in security and defence. We see this all around the world and we are ready to fulfil our responsibilities.
Q: What would you say to officials from certain Member States who have already started saying that at a time when we are facing budget cuts for traditional programmes, like cohesion and agriculture, spending more on defence is not a good idea?
So far – and as you know I see both angles, the Commission and the Council - Member States have been extremely supportive of the work that we have done on defence. Actually, most of the work we have done on defence - think of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) or all the steps we have taken in terms of military work - has been done by Member States. And you mentioned some doubts or question marks in some capitals. If you remember when we started working on PESCO, people were saying "this is never going to fly". And we end up with 25 Member States launching PESCO in a record time. So, for the time being I am not seeing any question mark or any opposition in Member States' capitals on the work we are doing on defence.
On the contrary, I see a lot of support for increasing the work on European Union level on defence. And this is for one simple reason: we have a huge advantage in terms of economies of scale that we are not using at the moment. So Member States identify clearly the added-value of doing this at European Union level on top of the national level that is already there. Because we are at the moment under-exploiting a potential that we have in this field.
But let me correct one element. It is not about spending more on defence. It could be, but it could also not be. Because it is not up to the EU to determine how much of the national budgets will be dedicated to defence investments. This is for governments and parliaments in Member States. Some of them are also NATO allies and have committed to a certain amount of investments, some others are not. What we can do at EU level is to incentivise - especially with the European Defence Fund - cooperation and economies of scale. So that whatever is the decision on how much to spend and to invest, we can make sure that these investments are done in an efficient manner, multiplying the effects of the investments.
I would also like to add one point on third country participation – not to the fund, but to PESCO projects, also because there is a certain link between PESCO projects and the projects that will be financed under the EDF. Member States will decide in the coming months on the modalities of the possible extraordinary participation of third countries to PESCO projects.
Q. Quand Mr Trump a été élu, il a tout de suite dit que les Etats-Unis ne voulaient pas continuer à payer pour l'OTAN et que l'4europe devait s'investir plus. Il a déjà quitté l'accord sur le climat, l'accord sur l'Iran, craignez-vous qu'il quitte l'OTAN?
J'ai une réponse facile: je ne peux parler ni pour l'administration des Etats-Unis ni pour l'OTAN.
L'Union européenne et je vois les Etats Membres qui font partis de l'Alliance attachent une importance énorme à l'OTAN. J'étais vendredi dernier à la réunion ministérielle des Ministres de la Défense de l'OTAN - comme toujours, je participe à la réunion et [Jens] Stoltenberg [Secrétaire Général de l'OTAN] participe au Conseil Défense de l'Union européenne. Il y a un excellent niveau d'investissement des Européens dans l'Alliance et le travail que nous faisons en tant qu'Union européenne pour renforcer notre travail sur la défense européenne est une contribution très pratique et appréciée par l'Alliance qui renforce aussi l'OTAN.
Cela sera évident d'ici au Sommet de l'OTAN en juillet à Bruxelles.
A titre d'exemple, nous sommes en train de travailler sur la mobilité militaire ensemble avec l'OTAN et c'est un domaine où il est évident que quelque chose d'utile pour l'OTAN – pouvoir bouger non seulement le personnel mais aussi les équipements militaires en Europe pour des raisons d'efficacité et de sécurité – est quelque chose qui peut être mis en place seulement par un travail conjoint de l'OTAN mais surtout de l'Union européenne, qui a les compétences et aussi les ressources pour le faire. Ce travail, par exemple, est en train d'être bien développé et dans la proposition de budget, comme vous avez pu le voir, 6.5 milliards d'euros y seront dédiés.
C'est un exemple du fait que notre travail sur la défense bénéficie aussi l'Alliance et nous espérons toujours que le même niveau d'investissement et d'implication politique vienne également de tous les autres alliés au sein de l'OTAN.
Q: Have you heard in your contacts with NATO any concern from the United States about corporate access to non-EU-based companies to the programme?
I believe the United States understand perfectly well that European money goes to support European projects, there is no surprise in learning this. I have not detected any particular concern in this regard, also because, as [EU Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs] Elżbieta [Bieńkowska] said a number of times, criteria are very clear and we are dealing with a complex reality that will be taken into consideration properly. I would like to add one thing: investing on research in the field of security and defence, investing in the European industry in this field is, indeed, a long-term investment; it is the opposite of a panicked reaction, it is actually a long-term investment. It is a visionary investment in the future of our security and defence capabilities to guarantee that we are at the top of innovation in this sector in a European manner.
Q: C'è una crisi maggiore tra Francia, Italia, ma anche la Spagna ha criticato l'Italia perché ciò che ha fatto sarebbe illegale e volevo sapere qual è la sua opinione della questione.
Vorrei ricordare che sulle politiche migratorie il [Commissario europeo per le migrazioni, gli affari interni e la cittadinanza] Commissario Avramopolous ha abbondantemente risposto alle domande relative alla posizione della Commissione Europea sulla vicenda dell'Aquarius ieri. Contatti sono in corso a tutti i livelli da parte sua, da parte di altri esponenti della Commissione con le autorità italiane. Credo che sia evidente a tutti che la politica europea sull'immigrazione deve essere basata sul principio della solidarietà, solidarietà interna, all'interno dell'Unione Europea tra Stati Membri e tra diverse istituzioni, e solidarietà esterna, in cui la vita degli esseri umani viene prima di qualsiasi cosa.