European Parliament Study Calls for Defense Review

A study commissioned by the Security and Defence Committee of the European Parliament is calling for an European Strategic Defence and Security Review to help countries identify capability improvements and set a target for their cooperative or collective use.

“[It] would be a first step to review how member states’ efforts to meet the demands imposed on them by the financial crisis and the effect of cuts in military expenditures will influence their capabilities within the EU and NATO,” said the study, which was presented to MEPs in the Security and Defence Committee on June 14.

Study authors Christian Mölling and Sophie-Charlotte Brune, both researchers at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, argued that such a review would make it possible to draw up “a profile of each member state’s capability strengths and weakness in order to identify areas in which pooling and sharing would make particular sense.”

The authors also said the study would help identify which countries should maintain “full-spectrum forces” and which should “focus on role-specialization, niche capabilities.’

They point out that a review would be timely because several states, including Poland, Bulgaria, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, are currently drawing up national Strategic Security and Defense Reviews and drafting white papers to be released in 2011.

The study also noted that the most dramatic defense cuts of more than 30 percent have taken place among the small EU member states, while the majority of middle-sized states have implemented cuts on average of 10 percent.

“[E]nhancing cooperation in low-key areas such as maintenance, training and education may offer a feasible start to level the way for more in-depth cooperation in capabilities,” the study said. Later, it suggests that the “the full potential of the European Defence Agency (EDA) should be used as a forum and permanent secretariat for multinational projects.”

The report is highly critical of member states for implementing spending cuts without NATO or EU consideration, forgoing coordination when enacting reforms, and knowing little about other member states’ defense reforms and cuts. “Hence, they seem to be willing to accept and even actively work towards reduced levels of common security by cutting capabilities without informing one another of the consequences or gaps that are created by the alliance or EU as a whole,” the study concludes.

The authors see pooling and sharing initiatives such as the Franco-British Defence Pact, Nordic Defence Cooperation, the Visegrad Four, the Weimar Triangle or the Franco-German Cooperation as potentially being “the first sign of a new political momentum for bottom-up processes for capability development that draws first lessons from the financial crisis and more sensibly take into account the security repercussions of ill-conceived cuts in capabilities.”

But they add that whether these initiatives support or undermine the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy and general European capability development are yet to be determined.

In terms of defense cooperation, the study puts EU members into three categories:

■ Activists are looking for cooperation options or leading efforts in this domain. They include France, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, Finland, Greece, Hungary and Bulgaria.

■ The undecided have an ambiguous stance regarding closer defense cooperation within the EU and may favor, for example, the NATO framework or bilateral formats such as the Franco-British Treaty. These states include the U.K., Denmark, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Romania.

■ Specialists include several smaller states constrained by the proportionate burden a military imposes on a small national economy. They are interested in developing niche capabilities that would lead to some form of role specialization in the EU.

One of the study’s many specific recommendations encourages the Polish government during its EU presidency to expand the areas financed by the ATHENA mechanism, which funds joint EU operations, on the agenda of the regular revision meeting.  “It should include joint purchase of military equipment that is used on every operation, such as HQ infrastructure and accommodations,” the study said.

With regard
to Europe’s defense industry, the study notes: “In order to cushion the blow from increased competition due to stronger export strategies, firms that are not competitive or not part of competitive sectors should actively pursue portfolio diversification by increasing reliance on civil security or on dual use goods rather than solely on defence goods – this may represent the best preventive means to avoid uncoordinated dismantlement of industry and job-losses across the EU. Industry and government ought to consult to devise exit or diversification strategies to this end. Some degree of sector consolidation seems unavoidable, however.”


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