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Security for Christmas (eng)

Security for Christmas (eng)

The challenge is not new. All major battles begin with the promise to bring the boys home for Christmas. Can we deliver on security on time?

Recently, a political scientist in the Irish Times (29/11/2013), John Coakley, reminded us that a security apparatus – complete with foreign policy – is a sine qua non of a federation. Whether we harbor of course a federal ambition is a question with less than a clear answer, likely to be dimmer come next European Elections.

Bottom line: we have as many “defense identities” as we have saints delivering presents to our youth: from St. Nicholas and St. Claus and all the way to St. Vasili. Nonetheless, security is the question of the month, perhaps the busiest in this respect for over a decade. NATO’s 28 Foreign Ministers recently conferred in Brussels against the backdrop of the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius, hailed as the “delivery summit” which, alas, did not deliver. On the 19th of December we have EU’s European Council, with the first item on the agenda being European Defense and Security. All this energy devoted to defense underlies broader concerns. Europe is a net “security consumer,” called upon to contemplate production, some degree of self-reliance and even provision. “How” and “to what end” is the question.

In Brussels, from NATO HQ to EU’s three main bodies, there are two broad views on what European Defense should be about. One view is traditional, focusing on protecting territory. Another is that European nations should develop “synergies:” pool together Research and Development (R&D), develop capability in space, cyberspace and crisis management, and optimize procurement procedures. To this end, we are told, there are “frame capabilities” that need to lock in with “niche capabilities,” but to what end is unclear.

Do we have “prime others” or can we go ahead with the premise of a relatively secure neighborhood? We do not share a common mental map that would allow for a straightforward answer. Our disagreements are framed by diverging national security and defense cultures, tested against the backdrop of a severe socioeconomic crisis and an expected dramatic reshuffle in key institutional players: in 2014 we will have a New NATO Secretary General, a new President of the Commission, a New High Representative for EU’s Foreign Affairs and a new President of the European Parliament. Each of these variables is as valid an excuse to lower the bar of expectations come December. It has happened before.

We have not held a serious high level discussion on European Security since 2003, with a brief and less than fulfilling interval in 2008. Nonetheless, expectations must be raised, precisely because “constant variables” are not in place, readying for substantive talk when substantive constants are in place. We are not ready.

I recently drafted the Common Security and Defense Policy Report on behalf of the European Parliament, which is to inform forthcoming EU Summit. The Report begins with the commonsensical observation that together we can do more than each one by ourselves. Easy to say, but let us be blunt. Some degree of security “self-reliance” in the vicinity of the Middle East, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, the Caucasus and New Eastern Europe might entail security “provision.” As we speak, we are little more than the sum of our parts. Moving fast is something resolutely un-European, especially prior to Christmas, but move we must. The Report suggests a rethink for CDSP on the basis of a White Paper, which should at the very least animate the mutual security guarantee foreseen by our Treaties. If not, the Baltics, Poland and Greece will not feel they share “a common European destiny.” To this end, we must begin to walk the talk with a common maritime policy, as well as a framework for the defense of strategic infrastructure, such as oil and gas. Or else each will fend for himself, a slope likely to become more slippery come next European elections.

These are things we need, but will not necessarily get. What can we realistically expect to get this December?

First, we must mandate the Commission to draw proposals for the development of joint capabilities and operational infrastructure. We would wish for strong SME engagement in this scheme, for the benefit of innovation and employment, in consonance with the 2020 agenda. Needed consolidation in the sector can’t happen and won’t happen if we do not manage the transition, using policy instruments such as the European Social Fund or the European Adjustment to Globalization Fund.

Second, the European Defense Agency (EDA) should be getting a clearer and stronger mandate. We must begin to scratch the surface of the fiscal dimension of this endeavor. Above all else, we need to think about a roadmap and a process of monitoring implementation; we cannot have a serious conversation on defense once a decade.

Too much to expect perhaps but… The world moves faster than our expectations, even before Christmas.

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