Published on 06/26/2008
Article published in "Revue de défense nationale et sécurité collective", Juillet 2008
1998-2008: ten years have passed since the signature of the St-Malo agreement between Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac, which gave rise to European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). Within a decade the strategic situation has changed radically: it has seen a rise in violence in the Middle East, an increase in tension with Russia and an erosion of the United States’s prestige and power, not to mention more transverse threats such as nuclear proliferation, global warming and threats to energy supplies. Europeans have to face the rapid deterioration in their collective security.
Given this situation, it is all the more necessary for European Union (EU) member states to have a joint vision of the world at large, and that they move towards the establishment of a true European foreign, security and defence policy. This is one of the priorities of the French presidency of the EU in the second half of 2008. President Sarkozy has said that he wants France to rejoin NATO command structures and to draw closer to the Atlantic Alliance and ESDP. According to a Eurobarometer survey published in September 2007, 75 per cent of Europeans interviewed are in favour of European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) whilst 68 per cent of them favour the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).
Nicolas Sarkozy has to take advantage of this rise in Europeans’ interest in defence issues and of favourable public opinion to bring European governments towards assuming their responsibilities clearly: Europe cannot simply be an economic power, it also has to be able to ensure its own defence and protection—if only to defend its place in the world and its values.
The rebirth of European defence that has been facilitated by the institutional measures included in the Lisbon Treaty does, however, face some financial and technological challenges. Finally, we should look into the role that France might play in the revival of this policy during its EU presidency.
The Lisbon Treaty, a new institutional framework for European defence
While foreign and defence policies are usually the focus of sovereign prerogatives, they have been developing on a European level for the past few years and were institutionalised by the Maastricht Treaty in the ‘second intergovernmental pillar’. Since the St-Malo summit in 1998 significant innovations have been achieved: the creation of European forces, Headline Goals, EU military operations, the creation of battlegroups, the European Defence Agency, etc. However, in spite of this ‘Europeanisation’ the national framework still prevails when it comes to forming defence policies.
What the Lisbon Treaty adds
The adoption of the Lisbon Treaty may, however, provide new institutional resources to favour the creation of a consensus between EU states on issues related to foreign and defence policies.
On the one hand the treaty plans for the creation of the post of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, which would be a merger of the present positions of European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (Javier Solana) and the European Commissioner for External Relations (Benita Ferrero-Waldner). Hence the European Union will have a single, external representative in the international arena who will have at his/her disposal a European diplomatic service, together with the Commission’s administrative and financial resources. The Lisbon Treaty also introduces two clauses, one of mutual defence and the other of solidarity; in particular, it extends the EU’s potential to act in the fight against terrorism, in conflict prevention missions and post-conflict stabilisation missions. It introduces ‘permanent structured cooperation’, open to states which commit to participating in the main European military equipment programmes and to providing combat units immediately available to the EU. Finally, it confirms the existence of the European Defence Agency with a view to developing a real European arms policy and to coordinating the equipping of the various national armies.
Although these new tools will probably foster the ‘Europeanisation’ of defence policies, it should be stressed that the unanimous vote is still required in foreign and security policy matters, and this may raise obstacles. To get round these the Lisbon Treaty facilitates resort to ‘enhanced cooperation’ measures included in the constitutional treaty (and in the Amsterdam Treaty but never implemented). This mechanism enables countries that want to work together on a joint action in a specific area to do so—others can join them at a later date if they so wish. The Lisbon Treaty acknowledges the heterogeneous nature of interests in a Union of 27 but it offers the means to undertake joint action: this is the principle of differentiation, which now applies to defence—as it does with the euro or the Schengen zone.
Although these institutional tools today look promising, European defence faces a certain number of financial and technological challenges.
What type of challenge does European defence have to face?
European arms market
Firstly, European defence implies the creation of a European defence industrial market by federating industrial interests rather than by imposing them from above via institutional cooperation. If there is an area in which Community preference makes sense it is defence: we should therefore protect the internal European arms market by reserving the opening of national defence markets to intra-Community trade only. The primary role of the European Defence Agency (EDA) is to stimulate cooperation between industrialists by supporting them financially; it will therefore be able to lay down the foundations of a true European arms policy.
Europe also has to accept a new type of reality: the increase in all military budgets the world over, which is related in part to the increasing cost of military equipment. Given the present strategic context and the speed with which technologies are developing, it cannot afford to be overtaken, since it will be impossible to make up for lost time technologically. Europe must make up its mind to increase investment in military research and continue to finance longer-term structuring industrial programmes for European defence. If it does not want to increase its military spending, which is already somewhat dangerous, it must at least merge and amplify the effort it puts into research.
Europe cannot simply content itself with the idea that its military capacities are sufficient to deal with present strategic challenges. Its research policy, including in the military domain, must be part of a wider plan. Strength and economic success depend on the vitality of research, of technological inventions and their industrialisation: this is true not only in the civilian area but also in the military sphere. In addition, since present technologies are nearly all dual-use, interaction between military and civilian research is ongoing and two-way.
Finally, it would seem appropriate to form operational military capabilities ad hoc, if member states accept this, rather than create a single European defence system. Institutional differentiation also applies to funding. The financial and technological stakes, together with the changes brought about by the Lisbon Treaty, should be taken on board for the relaunching of European defence.
New impetus for ESDP?
Nicolas Sarkozy believes that ‘given the size of the threats and the crises, the development of an efficient European defence is a strategic necessity’. It is therefore logical that France is making the development of European defence one of its priorities during its presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of 2008. This is all the more logical since France is well placed to give new impetus to this policy.
France enjoys many features which give it credibility in the field of defence. On the one hand it has a tradition of power: for a long time it was a major world economic power; after the Second World War it was considered to be amongst the first five ‘major’ powers and its culture gave it influence internationally. France also has major military capabilities and is present in many operations undertaken by the UN, NATO and also the EU. Finally, France has nuclear weapons and has a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
Since the start of the construction of Europe France has always tried to foster the rise of a fully independent Europe in the international arena—a Europe that can take its place next to the other great powers. Generally it has succeeded in combining two different views of Europe: a Europe of the ‘founding fathers’, that aims to pool member states’ interests to create a European interest and a ‘power-multiplier’ Europe—an idea very dear to General de Gaulle. As Europe has enlarged and matured, and with the end of the Cold War, we have witnessed erosion of the transatlantic relationship; matters inevitably are now addressed on a global scale. However, the new EU member states have continued to consider the United States, via NATO, as the guarantor of their collective security. Several countries also believe that NATO plays a political role, maintaining the equilibrium between European states. The difference of view between European states with regard to security became clear during the Iraq war in 2003: it revealed the divergence of European positions in terms of foreign policy and the clash between the project for the unification of the continent and that of ‘a European power’. However, European governments are slowly becoming aware that they must provide themselves with their own means of defence to protect their interests in the international area and to enhance their political influence over international issues. We are now witnessing a positive development in relations between NATO and ESDP.
Nicolas Sarkozy is convinced that drawing closer to NATO is the condition sine qua non to provide new impetus in the drive for a common defence policy: ‘I want to move forwards over the next few months towards the strengthening of European defence and towards the revival of NATO and with it the relationship with France. The two go hand in hand. An independent European defence policy and an Atlantic organisation where we all have a place.’ He has multiplied the number of meetings with his American counterpart to show him that European defence is not seen as a counterbalance to American power, and he has promoted the complementary strategic aspects, both functional and operational, of the EU and NATO. The Atlantic Alliance must be maintained for the most demanding types of interventions which extend beyond the European geographical framework. The EU, however, must be the preferred choice in terms of operations on the European continent, where its job is to replace NATO; this also applies to civilian-military operations, in which it has greater experience. European governments also have to be aware that Europe is no longer a strategic priority for the United States: our security can no longer rely simply on an American presence and on a passive strategy. NATO and the EU’s rapprochement must be undertaken in parallel with France drawing closer to NATO: at present Nicolas Sarkozy is negotiating France’s reintegration into the integrated command structure in time for the 60th NATO summit in 2009.
European defence budgets
To take European defence forward, Nicolas Sarkozy will have to address a second obstacle, that of capabilities, which will not be easy to surmount: Europeans do not spend enough on their security. As he said, ‘our two defence budgets [British and French] represent two-thirds of the total of the other 25 EU countries together and our defence research budget, twice as much . . . We cannot continue with four countries [France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom], paying for the security of everyone else.’ One way to encourage member states to increase their defence budgets would be to fix specific objectives, as was the case with Economic and Monetary Union, as part of ‘permanent structured cooperation’. However, these objectives would be rather on an ad hoc basis than a set menu, so that the smallest or the most modest countries can find their place.
President Sarkozy may also take the opportunity presented by France’s EU presidency to update the 2003 European Security Strategy so that current developments in the international situation can be taken into account, and to improve European planning capabilities.
We are expecting the French presidency to overcome the traditional opposition of some and the indifference of others thanks to Nicolas Sarkozy’s enthusiasm and power of conviction—we are hoping that he will bring on board those who are looking for a progressive increase in European military capabilities that are its own and are more involved in world affairs.
Although the Lisbon Treaty offers European defence policy new instruments, it does not provide the answers to all the financial and technological challenges faced by European defence. The countries of Europe must be aware how much effort they have to put in—notably in terms of investment and research.
Whilst for many years we thought that the renaissance of European defence would be launched by the United Kingdom, it seems that the situation has changed, and that the United States may now play a greater role by supporting the Europeans’ drive for autonomy.
The French presidency of the Council of the European Union has made this policy one of its priorities. However, Nicolas Sarkozy will have to find a balance between the member states’ various interests if he wants to reach a consensus that is acceptable to all in this eminently political area.
 European Commission, Eurobarometer 66, ‘Public Opinion in the European Union’, September 2007.
For more details on this point, see T. Chopin, in T. de Montbrial and P. Moreau-Defarges (eds.), ‘Traité modificatif. La relance institutionnelle de l’Union européenne’, Ramses 2008 (Paris: Dunod-IFRI, 2007).
 See J.-D. Giuliani, ‘Comment relancer l’Europe de la Défense ?’, in T. Chopin and M. Foucher (eds.), L’état de l’Union 2008. Rapport Schuman sur l’Europe (Paris: Éditions Lignes de Repères, 2008).
 See T. Chopin and Q. Perret, ‘Le retour de la France en Europe . . . pour quelle vision de l’Europe dans le monde?’, European Issue no. 62, Robert Schuman Foundation, 21 May 2007