Re-energizing Europe’s security and defense policy
On November 3, GMF, in cooperation with the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), organized a dinner on "Re-energizing Europe's security and defense policy" in Brussels. The event stemmed from the recent publication of an ECFR policy paper by Nick Witney on how to improve the ESDP.
Nick Witney made clear that his policy paper calls for a reinforcement in Europe's common security and defense policy. National commitments in the past have been lacking political enthusiasm in the EU. The current financial crisis might make member states to look for more effective ways of spending their national defense budgets, possibly increasing commitment to ESDP and its spending coordination. Despite the Lisbon Treaty waiting period, "pioneer groups of the willing" could move the ESDP forward independently, setting up a clear strategic agenda and integrate civilian and military operations more efficiently. With a new U.S. president elected this week, the time has passed for Europeans to hide behind an unpopular American administration in this process.
In his response, Ambassador Kurt Volker agreed that European leaders themselves need to step up in increasing ESDP relevance and its military and financial efficiency. The U.S. fully supports these efforts, but leaves the initiative to the EU member states. Finally, Volker pointed to a new climate in Europe showing that the U.S. conception of NATO and ESDP are interconnected and not separate, with each organization's success depending on the other's, is better perceived.
The main points emanating from the group discussion were that, despite Nick Witney's somewhat dark depiction of its recent history (the strategic vacuum, the participation deficit, the perverse financial incentives, a fragmented command, and a corporate amnesia), ESDP has actually been a relative success in its still young life. Specifically, in its day-to-day workings, international cooperation is strong. The perception of limited results is partly caused by a conscientious European agreement on a light coordination of ESDP. There lies however an important task of reaching out to the European media and public in explaining ESDP's significance for Europe's security.
Mr. Witney presented his findings to 21 guests, including several ambassadors, directors from the European Council and Commission, MEP's, and people from the think-thank community. H.E. Kurt Volker, permanent representative of the US to NATO, was the main respondent to the presentation.