By Lt-Gal Jean Paul PERRUCHE

  1. Challenges:

Since its definition by the Nice Treaty of December 2000 and its following implementation, the CSDP (former ESDP) has been suffering three great ills whose effects interact in a vicious circle.

  • First ill: the ambivalence of EU Member-States political masters which generates ambiguity on the CSDP ambition and effectiveness; despite several surveys showing the inclination of European citizen in favour of a Defense managed at the European level, the European Defense building process has made little progress since the outset of CSDP even if the European Council has paid more attention to it since 2013. In fact, the main dilemma which undermines the building up of an European defense is political: EU/MS leaders are conscious that they have to add and join-up their strengths to reach the critical level of power in the world of the 21st century and protect their interests (they state it repeatedly) but they are not ready to share sovereignty to get it. This dilemma results in an intergovernmental cooperative organisation where the area of common interests results of the intersection of 27 circles of national interests, that delineate a very small common area due to political, geographical, historical and cultural differences. In addition such an organisation where the main focus is national interest doesn’t actually stimulate solidarity between MS as we could see during the recent crisis.


  • Second ill: a wrong approach of CSDP partnership with NATO; for the sake of allegedly non-duplication with NATO, the competence of CSDP was limited to management of external crises, which lead to separate external and territorial Defense while there is a continuum between internal and external threats. In addition, since the outset of CSDP, the EU has been deprived of a comprehensive and permanent military command structure affecting its credibility. Furthermore, the size of the EUMS (the only permanent integrated military structure of the EU) was severely minimised. (200 against 10 000 in NATO). From my perspective, this is a wrong approach which “de facto” consider the CSDP as a possible duplication or a competition to NATO while it should have been considered as the best and likely the only way to strengthen the European contribution to the Transatlantic Alliance.


  • Third ill: a worrying gap between official statements and deeds which makes CSDP incredible to European citizen and discourage them of sustaining it.

dec. 2012:” the EU Council remains determined to improve the efficiency of CSDP…”

Dec. 2013: “The EU Council asks its member-States (itself) to deepen defense cooperation by improving their ability to conduct missions and operations by taking advantages of full synergies.”

June 2015: “the CSDP must be given more efficiency and visibility and must be made to focus on results… The Eu Council remains determined to ensure the availability of essential capabilities and to remedy critical inadequacies through concrete projects…”

March 2017 (Rome): “We will make the EU more stronger and more resilient through even greater unity and solidarity amongst us and the respect of common rules. Unity is both a necessity and our free choice. Taken individually we will be side-lined by global dynamics. Standing together is our best chance to influence them, and to defend common interests and values. We will act together at different paces and intensity where necessary, while moving in the same direction, as we have done in the past in line with the treaties and keeping the door open to those who want to join later. Our Union is undivided and indivisible…

…. We as leaders, working together within the European Council and among our institutions, will ensure that todays agenda is implemented, so as to become to-morrow’s reality. We have united for the better. Europe is our common future.” 

But unfortunately reality is different: lack of commitment and solidarity in managing crises in Lybia, Mali and CAR, weak reaction to Russian annexing of Crimea, no commonly agreed response to the Migrants issue…No common response to capability shortfalls… This gap between Statements and deeds is very detrimental to the adhesion of citizen to CSDP and divert them about the European project.

On the other side, many measures included in the Lisbon Treaty have still not yet been implemented (PESCO, Art 44, strengthen cooperation, EDA budget , solidarity clause never activated …)

  1. What future for European Defense?

Let’s start in taking stock of CSDP improvements since 2015 and highlighting progress made and limits

A new global strategy for the EU foreign and security policy (A stronger Europe) has been approved by the EU council in December 2016 including the ambition of strategic autonomy:” As Europeans we must take greater responsibility for our security. We must be ready and able to deter, respond to, and protect ourselves against external threats. While NATO exists to defend its members – most of which are European – from external attack, Europeans must be better equipped, trained and organised to contribute decisively to such collective efforts, as well as to act autonomously if and when necessary. An appropriate level of ambition and strategic autonomy is important for Europe’s ability to foster peace and safeguard security within and beyond its borders…

The European Union will promote peace and guarantee the security of its citizens and territory The EU will therefore pursue an integrated (multi-dimensional, multi-phased, multi-level and multilateral) approach, acting at all stages of the conflict cycle”.

Then, a roadmap has been proposed by the HR/VP to implement the new Global Strategy with seven items to be dealt with: improvement of civilian capabilities (headlines goal and set up of a reservoir of qualified experts earmarked by nations); parameters of a Coordination Annual Review on Defense; military capability development process taking account of R&T and industrial requirements; standing operational structure to plan and conduct operation at strategic level (MPCC first and only important step forward agreed at this stage); improvement of the rapid response capacity; PESCO; CBSD Requirements

Concurrently, the involvement of the EU Commission in Defense has increased, namely through an Action Plan focused on:

  • Strategic autonomy in technological and industrial arenas (namely Space and Com.)
  • Preparatory action to fund R&T 50 Mions € (2017,18,19)
  • Proposal for an EU Defense Fund and a joined capability development plan in accordance with agreement of MS possibly sustained by the European Investment Bank (EIB) entailing a modification of internal rules in order to sustain investments in Defense R and D projects. (has to be further discussed)
  • Provision envisaged of 500 Mions €/year in the Horizon Program (2020-2025) to fund R&D of European Projects
  • Possible funding of development projects of Partners in the framework of Capacity Building in Security and Defense (CBSD)

These measures are important steps forward for CSDP in increasing its level of ambition and offering ways to make progress. However a lack of precision stays on concrete measures to be implemented to overcome the dilemma between national sovereignty and European power. In particular there is a blurred definition of what integration means. Thierry Tardy (IESS) raises the point in his last publication: “In essence, the integrated approach to conflicts and crises aims to consolidate the coherence and impact of the EU response to instability and to operationalize the comprehensive approach more than it changes the terms of the EU’s external action debate”. That means that the IA is something to set various components of the EU response under a single authority, a sort of reinforcement to the comprehensive approach, not more.

The involvement of the Commission in defense capabilities might be decisive but clarification is still needed by European defense industry on the implementation of the expected measures, role sharing between the European Defense Agency and the Commission; important lessons will have to be learned of the first execution of the preparatory action for further contribution.

In addition to things moving forward, should be pointed out NATO/EU cooperation boosted by the Bratislava summit and joint declaration of July 2016 whose main items are: working together on hybrid threats (analysis, prevention, early detection, info. Sharing, strategic communication, coordinated procedures) and on cyber, in developing capabilities; in coordinating exercises planning and cooperatiing at sea (situational awareness) on migration.

But there is no further clarification neither about the role sharing between the 2 organizations nor the definition of their complementarity. It would be wiser however to recognize that the EU should be prepared to operate against whatever threat when the US are not ready to engage or to participate. This would be the right delineation.

  1. Solutions and way ahead

All of us know that a European Army will stay an utopia as long as a European government has not been created, but the key questions are to know:

– if it may or must stay a long term objective as stated by M. Juncker and approved by the german minister of defense last year?

– how to go from the current situation to this objective?

– if we should envisage variable formats within the EU between those MS who want to go for it and those who are not ready (as for the EURO)? Should it be done through PESCO?

– what must be done to deliver what is awaited by citizen during the transition period?

EU/MS will have to find the way to manage the dilemma pointed out earlier: stay with intergovernmental cooperation and limited power at the EU level or go for more power at the EU level what implies more integration and sovereignty-sharing? Linked to that question is the issue of a credible European leadership.

From my perspective more European integration requires to strengthen the political reality of the EU namely through a global approach of its defense needs ( in conformity with the EUGS ) addressing the analysis of threats and risks at the EU level in an EU defense and security white book (considering the EU as a united entity); this would allow steps forward in 3 directions:

– make the national security interests of EU/MS closer, more consistent and converging). Highlighting the main risks against the common interests of our continent and also of individual EU/MS, should open the way to more complementarity and cooperation between MS on regional and transverse basis. The EU white paper is not to supersede national analyses but offer them a framework for consistency and complementarity. In parallel of this work a further reflection on the implementation of concrete solidarity between MS should be seriously engaged in order to show to our citizen what the EU is expected and able to do for their security. (and not what MS expect of the EU without giving to it the appropriate assets and tools).

Create and develop a European common operational culture inspired by the EU strategic autonomy goal namely in addressing together comprehensive response to the requirements expressed in the EU white book. Train gradually operational people (civil and military) to think from a European pesrpective and shared perception of threats and response overcoming and extending the national ones. Create a European Defense consciousness.

– Improve the leadership at the EU level, in making it more visible, effective and credible. This requires more anticipation of MS about their possible commitment in EU missions and operations. The European white paper should highlight the main possible scenarios to be addressed by the EU to defend and protect, on which potential MS contribution could be anticipated. This should pave the way to improving the EU responsiveness thanks to a quicker political decision making, supported by a full fledged civ-mil command structure (permanent and qualified). So far the lack of responsiveness of the EU in crisis situation is not due to operational shortfalls but to political failure.


There are 3 possible scenarios for the future of the European defense:

  • the way promoted by the sovereign-nationalist parties which is a come back to the situation of the 30thies, with a juxtaposition of Nations in competition in Europe and a resurgence of the risk of war.
  • The continuation of a full dependency on the USA within the current NATO, ignoring the risk issued by the re-evaluation of their strategic priorities and exposing the European to lack of security
  • The increase of the European strategic autonomy as required by the European Council which implies the appropriate development of structures and capabilities to act together.

The creation of an European Army is an utopia in the current state of the EU, but the need to mutualise Capabilities stay urgent and vital for our countries to protect their Interests and keep influence in the 21st century world. This is only possible in considering the defense of our continent as a whole in which national requirements take place as in a puzzle. Only such an approach may lead to transform the intersection of national security interests into an addition of EU/MS strengths. This is the way toward an effective CSDP supported by citizen.

Lt-Gal Jean Paul PERRUCHE

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