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What future for European Defence: One size fits all?

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A reflection on the European Commission’s plans and a proposal for an alternative approach Written by: Angelo Delsen & Christiaan Meinen

 

This paper is a reaction to the June 2017 European Commission's (EC) 'Reflection Paper on the Future of European Defence'. In its reflection paper the EC sketches an European security context characterized by military, economic and energy related threats to Europe's east, next to vulnerable and ungoverned spaces of conflict in Europe's south. To counter these threats the EC describes three different 'European Defence Scenario's': the Security and Defence Cooperation scenario, the Shared Security and Defence scenario and the Common Defence and Security scenario.

According to our paper the used arguments of the EC make clear that the EC has a preference for the Common Defence and Security scenario. Therefore this paper focusses on one of the most comprehensive policies proposed by the paper: the creation of a single EU defence market.

This paper explains the cons we see of a single European market:

  • Firstly, if the EU wants to follow an 'economies of scale'-strategy this means that states will need to standardize their equipment, thereby ignore domestic military industrial interests. Thanks to the loss in national sovereignty it will bring with it, it is questionable if states will ever abandon their key strategic activities. The EU currently works according to a principle which is called: subsidiarity. All measures, agreements and working plans are to be seen from this perspective and will not just arise out of “practical” or “economical” arguments.
  • Secondly, this paper explains that a single defence market will probably not be effective in Europe, because it is not likely that there will ever be a level playing field between producers as (mainly) larger states will not agree with buying from foreign producers.

The EC's idea of cost-cutting will therefore lead to the closing of highly efficient and innovative smaller military hardware producers as their domestic will vanquish.  With several examples this paper exposes that the EC's idea of cost-cutting will not be successful. There have been many European defence development projects, but none of them delivered an affordable 'European' standard platform so far. This paper describes that 'economies of scale' are more complex than painted by the EC and benefits will only occur under 'ideal' circumstances. The current proposals of the EC (and the leaders of France and Germany) seem to benefit the interests of the industry (the so called Military Industrial Complex) more then they do benefit the interest of all: delivering to the security of the Continent of Europe. From a historical perspective it is interesting to note the words of Robert Schuman who wrote:

With regard to the Defence Community, it might perhaps be possible to set up and administer a joint army which was not a mere coalition of national armies without calling constitutional principles into question. Opinions on this may vary from country to country. But the use of such an army implies unity of purpose and determination in a sphere of fundamental importance, since it is a matter of peace or war, of involving the lives of men and the fate of nations.

In a coalition each State retains the right, de jure and even de facto, to withdraw the national troops which remain under its sovereign authority. In doing this it may perhaps break the promises it has made. But it remains master of its own decisions. 

A common de-nationalized army would, and could, no longer owe obedience to a national authority, either as a whole nor in respect of the units of which it is composed. It would have sworn loyalty to the Community. The Community alone would have power over it. If any of its units were to follow the orders of a national Government, they would be regarded as deserters or rebels. If, therefore, such an army is set up, the only valid orders will have to come from an authority recognised by all the participating States”.

Robert Schuman (1951)

Sallux will research this important topic in the near term more deeply and report on it.

 

Authors:

Christiaan Meinenworks for Sallux, the think tank of the European Christian Political Movement (ECPM). Christiaan has an interest in geopolitics, (EU) foreign
policies, sustainability, and military doctrine, technologies, and policies.


Angelo Alessandro Delsen is a corporal (R) in the Dutch Armed Forces. He studies International Relations at Leiden University together with Social Geography
and Planology at the University of Amsterdam. Angelo is also a board member of PINK! the youth movement of the Dutch Party for the Animals. Angelo has an interest in geopolitics, military doctrine, city planning and political economic science.

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