The European Defence of Europe?


6 February 2017


Egmont Palace, Place du Petit Sablon 8bis, 1000 Brussels

In view of Donald Trump’s statement during the US election campaign that “NATO may be obsolete”, it seems that High Representative Federica Mogherini was prescient when writing the objective of strategic autonomy into the EU Global Strategy, which she presented to the European Council in June 2016. That, however, was just a few days after Britain voted for Brexit, which at a stroke made strategic autonomy that more difficult to achieve.

About half a year later, this international expert seminar aims to take stock. Is Europe on the way to becoming an autonomous strategic actor, including in defence? Europe: that includes the EU, NATO, and the various multinational clusters in which states engage in defence cooperation. The institutions should be instruments, not obstacles to achieving strategic actorness.

Following a keynote speech, four questions will be addressed:

  1. Does Europe have a strategy? The obvious answer would be yes: the EU Global Strategy. But do European states really have a clear and collective view of their level of ambition in implementing the tasks that it sets for Europe’s armed forces? Have Europeans fully integrated the implications of a Trump Presidency and of Brexit in their overall strategic analysis?
  1. Can Europe defend itself? Think the US out of NATO, and not much remains of the credibility of Article 5 – if anything. How can Europe reinforce its contribution to conventional deterrence? At the same time, a whole range of “hybrid” threats and challenges at the nexus of internal and external security, which fall below the Article 5 threshold, must be addressed too. Are Europeans organized to this end?
  1. Can Europe project power? Already since President Obama announced the “pivot” to Asia do we know that Europeans will have to assume more responsibility in stabilizing their own neighbourhood. Simultaneously, maintaining the freedom of the global commons, and contributing to collective security under the UN, demand a global outlook. What are Europeans really prepared to do?
  1. Can Europe arm itself? The answer to the fragmentation of Europe’ defence effort is integration. Europeans keep saying it, but are they really willing to do it? Whether through Permanent Structured Cooperation under the EU or a Framework Nations Group under NATO: is defence integration progressing. Will France and/or Germany be the engine? And is the defence industrial dimension a driver or a hindrance?

View the programme.

Working language English.