The EU has made slow progress towards the development of a common security and defence policy. Despite the creation of a number of EU battlegroups, none have been deployed operationally. The Council has yet to entrust the implementation of a military task to a smaller group of its member states [114].  Recently, however, Russia’s military aggressions in Eastern Europe and the EU’s relative helplessness in Middle East conflict zones have triggered a revival of the concept of a European security and defence union. American equivocation as to the future of NATO as evinced by President Trump adds urgency to Europe’s internal debate. Much work of a strategic and operational nature has still to be undertaken before the EU can move forward with confidence towards credible common defence. But first steps have been taken and more are welcome. 

The Lisbon treaty already provides for the deepening of military integration in the form of permanent structured cooperation in defence (PESCO) among those member states who combine political will, financial capacity and military capability [115].  The decision of the European Council in December 2017 to trigger PESCO is welcome and should lead to a gradual pooling and sharing of military capabilities. A big step would be to expose the defence industries to the normal competition and public procurement disciplines of the single market, subject to security guarantees [116].  The Commission proposes to lift the prohibition on charging military and security operations to the EU budget [117].  The normalisation of the financing arrangements for common security and defence policy will result in a commensurate strengthening of the budgetary powers of the European Parliament.

A strong and accountable executive authority is a prerequisite for the development of common defence policy within the framework of the European Union. This poses questions not only about the setting up of an operational HQ for EU security and defence but also about the role of the Commission and Parliament. The European Defence Agency is destined to play a central role in the evolution of PESCO in terms of advancing military capability and the integration of the defence industries. In the longer term the constitutional status of the EDA as being merely “subject to the authority of the Council” will be insufficient for the purpose of democratic and financial scrutiny [118].  Likewise, the eventual intervention of EU forces in combat must be subject to votes of consent in the European Parliament as a supplement to but not as a substitute for the concomitant rights of national parliaments [119].  

Lastly, the Spinelli Group welcomes the recent French proposal to launch a vanguard of European states in a military European Intervention Initiative which may also involve armed forces from Britain and Denmark [120]. 

[114] Article 44 TEU. 
[115] Article 46 TEU.
[116] Article 346 TFEU. 
[117] Article 41(2) TEU.
[118] Article 45 TEU. 
[119] Article 46(6) TEU. 
[120] Article 5 of Protocol No. 22 on the position of Denmark.


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