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Minister Zaorálek at DESCOP 2017: We Have to Move towards Security and Defence Union with Determination


Minister of Foreign Affairs Lubomír Zaorálek gave a speech on June 9, 2017, in the Žofín Palace at the international conference on defence and security (DESCOP). The conference focused on deepening the European defence cooperation.

The first observation I am offering is that the European Common Security and Defence Policy has not evolved in a straight line, there have been ups and downs, there have been achievements, be it in terms of institutional development but also, more importantly, in terms of missions, operations.

President Juncker usefully recalled history of past attempts at creating European defence. Jean-Yves reminded us of the size of our current operations and missions: 6000 men and women at 15 places on 3 continents.

The Global Strategy of 2016 has been the timely reflection on challenges, both traditional and most recent, we have been facing. It has provided the right framework for the EU which already is a global player, as Federica Mogherini emphasized. It is up to the EU, primarily for the Member States, to choose the course and — together with the institutions — to deliver on it if we want to develop capabilities that will match our declared policies and will efficiently cope with the threats we face – Jean-Yves, thank you for the typology of threats. Terrorism, the threat on the top of our list, requires only one response: eradication. I cannot agree more.

SECURITY and DEFENCE of our member states and their citizens have made it onto the top of our agenda and these deserve political debate and guidance at the highest political level on a regular basis. That is why the European Council in June will discuss European defence, that is why almost every Foreign Affairs Council meeting is in part dedicated to the review of implementation, that is why the FAC meets also in the format of Defence Ministers more frequently.

However, we have entered the decisive stage when we have to either move towards Security and Defence Union with determination or have more of the same that we have had hitherto. Here, I turn to Jean-Claude Juncker: indeed, soft power alone is not enough. Important choices have to be translated into scenarios that will be understood by our citizens, by all of us. That is why we look to the White Paper as the broadest reference for the fundamental choices we will have to make.

The new reflection paper by the Commission on the future of European Defence (published only 2 days ago on 7 June) is a useful input, and even more so prior to the up-coming European Council. The scenarios offered in the Commission’s paper seem to narrow our choices of the way forward. What we want to aim at and achieve in security and defence must be in keeping with what we want in the European integration overall. And as Jean-Yves pointed out: our choices also entail the one between stagnation and progress.

I am going to infer from the key note speeches and debates in both Panels I and II some elements which are both conceptual and operational as both types have been contained in presentations.

Firstly, we need the Security and Defence Union in order to be able to act, including through crisis management operations in our neighborhood and beyond; we do not pursue it just in order to deliver on a policy plan. We will need to muster all the political will and look for as much like-mindedness as possible, cannot afford to make divisive steps.

Let me note in this connection that the Lisbon Treaty has provided us with a framework for cooperation in DEFENCE that can be put in practice by those who are willing – the Permanent Structured Cooperation/PESCO, the Sleeping Beauty of the Lisbon Treaty, as Jean-Claude labelled the provision. And rightly have several speakers referred to it as potentially the most important step towards a Security Defence Union. It is too important to fail so we must get it right, also in terms of preparedness. Franco-German leadership will be essential in this regard and it is good our French colleagues have been able to speak here and assure us the Franco-German debate is intensive on this issue.

PESCO, the Sleeping Beauty, which we are waking up, will require us to establish parameters of the cooperation, i.e. to define common entry criteria and commitments, to strike the right balance between inclusiveness and ambition, in order to allow participation of all the willing Member States. At the same time, Member States must be able to participate in concrete projects for PESCO. Let us see whether the upcoming European Council marks sufficient will to launch PESCO by the end of the year.

Let me commend the useful presentations and debate of our colleagues in panel II for whom Vice-President Katainen set the scene.

Let’s spend a word on CAPABILITIES, as one of the lessons has it that capabilities have to be matched with the WILL to use them: More than 10 years we have been building a specific tool of rapid response – the EU Battle Groups. However, we have never been able to use the BGs, and NOT because of a lack of external demand for our military engagement but much rather due to a mix of both political and operational deficiencies. Better resourcing, including common financing, preparedness and modularity are to be addressed if the BGs are ever to be employed. Nevertheless, ultimately, the key prerequisite is the political will to resort to the tool which is available. And there is another issue (mentioned by my colleague, the Czech Defence Minister in Panel II) that hinges on the political will: the inevitable compromise between the national autonomy and greater efficiency of our forces – if we want more of the latter, we have to live with less of the former. However, as Jean-Claude rightly noted: sharing sovereignty does not mean foregoing it. We will retain our sovereignty, collectively, as the European Union of defence.

Secondly, greater CAPABILITIES, and even more so their maintenance and deployment, will have their COSTS, substantial costs… Certainly exceeding the current 1 % of GDP which some, including the Czech Republic, spend on defence nowadays. Security and defence will require more resources both on the national, as well as on the EU level. Broadening of common financing, as an enabling factor as well as that of solidarity, will have to be part of what we aim at, even under the least ambitious scenario.

When it comes to of planning and financing of defence, the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) will be of great help when it has been introduced and Federica mentioned it among the four key steps agreed. It is to increase the coherence of the inputs — spendings and forces by Member States and outputs — what the EU is able to plan for and do. We are ready to launch a pilot cycle of CARD already in autumn.

The cooperation in common defence we are aiming at has to be incentivised – that is where the European Commission has to deliver on its role: the European Defence Fund, which has just been officially launched (7 June), must provide sizeable and accessible funding for both the research and the capability window. 90 million EUR for collaborative defence research in 3 years is a good start. 500 million EUR for the European Defence Industrial Development Programme being launched to support joint development of defence technologies must be complemented by more resources. National defence industry must see an opportunity in EDF, there must be a room left for SMEs to benefit from the EDF as well.

It has been reminded here that the Common Security and Defence Policy should strengthen the European pillar of NATO. Developing a single set of forces through the NATO defence planning coordinated with the EU CARD process and links with PESCO in future must be part of the solution. And to borrow the words from Deputy Secretary General Gottemoeller: NATO alone cannot do it all; we have to share the burden. And that is why NATO and the EU cooperate better now than any time before.

Let me also note that there is one thing that will have to be taken into consideration in our next steps towards Security and Defence Union – BREXIT. It won’t be easy to compensate for the departure of British defence resources and expertise from the EU. That is why we will also have to be pragmatic and constructive on both sides in order to shape the future relationship of the UK with the EU in the realm of security and defence. I am glad that Sylvie Goulard emphasized the preparedness of France to work with the UK closely in the field of security and defence.

Thirdly, while developing our capabilities we must be better able to build those of our partners as well – building resilience thus goes hand in hand with investing in development of our partners both in South and East. Otherwise we will face more demand for more interventions in crisis-management and conflict-resolution.

Supporting our partners’ abilities to manage (or ideally to prevent) crises on their own, is one of the objectives of our CSDP activities. Our ambition may be global but our primary focus should be on stabilizing our closest neighborhood which keeps generating risks and threats.

Finally, let me state the ability of the European project to guarantee peace and security in Europe NOWADAYS depends more than before on our ability to address interlinked challenges to both the EU’s internal and external security. Prime Minister Sobotka has reminded the EU has provided for Europe’s post-war prosperity and internal security for more than 60 years. However, the future requires us to build a security and defence policy which will be able to effectively cope with the external challenges we face. And that is the concluding observation I am leaving you with today. Thank you and to all those who have made their contribution, most of all to President Juncker, HRVP Mogherini and DSG Gottemoeller, as well to all my colleagues who have addressed us. We hope to share the outcome of this conference with our partners in the EU and beyond. Thanks for being with us.

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Minister Zaorálek - Thesis 39 kB doc (Word document) Jun 14, 2017