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Defence spending, a new outlook for Europe?

On 7th May the European Commission published a series of proposals to improve Europe's military capabilities.

The European budget could be used to finance some R&D spending on security equipment and partially supplement a fund designed for the States which are working towards acquiring certain types of equipment and this is a true novelty that we owe to Jean-Claude Juncker, its president and Federica Mogherini, his Foreign Affairs Minister, but especially Donald Trump, Theresa May and the terrorists! Europe's awareness of its vital strategic autonomy is becoming a reality at last, which we hope will be a first step towards real independence.

The Commission is within its remit as it proposes to "provide its help" in remedying the main difficulty that Europe's armies face: their under funding. States across the entire world are the defence industry's only clients and the former have increased their security spending. It is now up to the Europeans to catch-up financially in this domain. For example, France, which to date has the most complete and capable army, and which is present in several external theatres, should be devoting 2 billion euros more per year to maintain the pace of its commitments, which incidentally, benefit the whole of Europe.

Taking up this opportunity will require a great deal of realism and finesse. We shall probably have to change method and use our imagination so that we do not confuse goals and means: the aim being to ensure the defence of Europe, in the shape of alliances, but also in the most effective way possible. The name "European Defence" for its part refers to the means rather than the ends and must be handled with care.

We shall not integrate the European armies like we have the agricultural markets and the States will want to retain their freedom of action, the ultimate guarantee of security that they owe to their citizens. However, their cooperation, which is already effective in the field, can extend to a number of industrial sectors which define the credibility of their military tools. The opportunities provided by the Commission will facilitate this, if they are not submerged in complicated procedures or if they are diverted towards new institutions. The European Defence Agency could be the privileged vector for this. The commitment on the part of the Member States to increase their spending will be the true criteria. By acknowledging the specific nature of the provision of military equipment, by accepting, even tentatively, to exclude the investments that are made together from the public deficit accounts, by protecting the European military equipment market, the European institutions seem to have taken an important turning, which remains to be proven effectively. And as often, this depends on the political will of the Member States. We must also point to operational cooperation, the only true proof that the Europeans want to influence the international scene to the full by showing that they are determined to intervene everywhere where their interests and their values are being challenged. And from this point of view, there is still a great of work to do.