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Two years ago, the EU Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy anticipated that the years ahead would be a time of “predictable unpredictability.” Indeed, the world has become more complex, uncertain and contested.
That is why the Global Strategy put an emphasis on the need for the EU to strengthen its role as a credible and reliable security provider, inside the EU and globally. The objective is to be able to respond effectively to crises while helping partner countries to develop their own security capacities and working closely with regional and international partner organisations, such as NATO.
EU Security and Defence 2016-2018: fast progress : A whole range of concrete and practical steps have been taken in the last two years to follow up on the commitments laid out in the Global Strategy in the area of security and defence (see defence timeline).
For effective results in security and defence it is crucial that all relevant EU actors are involved and contribute. Thus apart from the European External Action Service (EEAS) as the lead coordinator at EU level, the Council of the EU, European Commission, Parliament and European Defence Agency (EDA) need to be closely involved as well as in particular the EU Member States which remain in the driver seat on defence matters.
The EU has a significant value added when it comes to coordinating various European players to strengthen coherent and efficient cooperation on security and defence. Collectively, Europe is a very large military spender. But it is far from being a large military power. This is because of inefficiencies in spending and the so far largely untapped potential of working together on planning, procurement or research to name but a few of the issues. Apart from more effective security and military capabilities, increased cooperation can also lead to considerable savings of tax-payer money. According to estimations, savings between 25 and 100 billion Euros are possible depending on the degree of cooperation achieved.
EU partners and citizens have asked for the EU to play a larger role when it comes to collective security and defence and EU Heads of State and Government have committed to closer cooperation. Following the Global Strategy and the range of EU initiatives, existing instruments were strengthened and new ones created. EU Member States are now on a path towards more planning, acting and investing together.
For example, Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) provides for the first time a binding framework for Member States to work more closely together on concrete common defence projects such as establishing a rapid intervention force to counter cyber-attacks.
The Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD), allows Member States to share their defence spending plans for greater coherence, to identify shortfalls or overlaps and possible economies of scale to be realised by working together. The newly created European Defence Fund will finance joint military research and development.
Finally, the European Peace Facility, a new financing tool outside the EU–budget was also proposed to Member States. It will enable amongst other things the funding of operational actions under the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) that have military or defence implications.
The EU and its Member States continue to face threats, which are increasingly taking non-conventional or hybrid forms, such as terrorist attacks, chemical attacks, cyber-attacks or disinformation campaigns. The establishment of a Hybrid Fusion Cell at EU level is a major achievement in this regard. It allows to rapidly pull together relevant bits of information and intelligence from many sources to enable quick and well informed decision-making by the politicians. Cooperation with NATO is also an important and fast developing area of activity where both partners work together in a complementary way.