The Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty has cast doubt over institutional reform within the European Union, but EU governments cannot afford to move at the speed of the slowest on defence, and should push for a ‘multi-speed’ Europe – according to a new report by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).
Nick Witney, former Chief Executive of the European Defence Agency, issues a stark warning about the state of European defence, arguing that “inertia and resistance in the defence machinery” are thwarting the European Union’s declared aim to make a real contribution to global security.
The report argues that Europeans will punch their weight – and be worthwhile partners for the US – only if they pool their resources and cooperate more closely. Reviewing the widely differing performances of the Member States (on defence spending, investment per soldier, participation record in operations), the report urges the formation of “pioneer groups” of the most willing and able.
The idea could be operationalised within the European Defence Agency through the creation of a number of overlapping pioneer groups, which each specialize in areas such as research and technology, armaments cooperation, defence industry cooperation, and the pooling of civilian and military capabilities.
The countries most active in various pioneer groups would constitute a European “core group” on defence – similarly to the “permanent structured cooperation” mechanism, envisaged by the Lisbon Treaty. Countries that do not meet some basic qualifying criteria (such as a minimum 1% of GDP spending on defence, and a 1% minimum level of personnel deployments in operations) should either commit to catch up, or leave the Agency altogether.