EU defence ministers met (last week) for an informal Council to discuss the EU’s Strategic Compass – the EU’s plan to strengthen its capabilities and ability to respond in the field of security and defence – among other issues. On his way into the meeting, EU High Representative Josep Borrell said that recent events in Afghanistan could act like a catalyst, leading to a breakthrough in this area, writes Catherine Feore in EU Reporter.
The ministers will meet again in November in order to present a complete paper. The ‘Strategic Compass’ has four elements: crisis management, resilience, capability development, and partnerships. There has always been a yawning gap between the rhetoric on the EU’s aspirations in this field and reality.
The UK when it was an EU member was reluctant to participate in earnest, preferring NATO as its focus. When Macron called NATO “brain dead” he was heavily criticized, more Eastern members have also had a NATO focus and Germany has always seemed reluctant to lead in this field.
After yesterday’s meeting (2 September), German Federal Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer published a long twitter thread which presented some “sober truths”. Kramp-Karrenbauer said that Europeans had to withdraw from Afghanistan because of Europe’s own lack of military capability. She described the situation as a severe blow, but framed it not as a choice between NATO and the US or both, but as the moment for Europe to work together in order to make the western alliance stronger and put it on an equal footing with the US. ·
The central problem is how the EU can use its military capabilities and make its decision-making processes more effective with joint exercises and joint missions. Kramp-Karrenbauer calls for the use of Article 44 of the Treaty which would allow “coalitions of the willing”. She would like the EU to define regional responsibilities for security, joint training of special forces and joint organisation of important skills such as strategic air transport and satellite reconnaissance. It remains to be seen if momentum following events in Afghanistan can be sustained.