A golden opportunity for more cooperation in security and defence

Economy is and will be a major factor in the development of Foreign, Security and Defence policies in the coming years. The hard economic times and recession force countries to look for savings where they can. European countries will have to rationalise. This is best done by pooling resources and sharing capabilities.

Most countries in Europe and elsewhere will have to cut back their budgets. The EU member states will decrease spending on defence unless they have already done so — and even if they have, they might have to cut more.

Germany is proposing cuts in its 2011 defence budget. Also UK, France and Sweden will have to cut back their defence spending. The scale of planned cuts is striking.

Europeans have become more critical with the costly war and peacekeeping in Afghanistan. Declining public support for the operations in Afghanistan might turn into growing support for defence cuts.

The total sum of the EU countries’ defence budgets is bigger than Russia’s. The EU countries put money on defence approximately 300 billion USD per year whereas Russia’s defence budget in year 2010 is 36 billion USD. In fact, both France and UK individually put more money on defence than Russia does. India’s defence budget is smaller than UK’s.

The economic crisis might, however, boost for more European level cooperation in defence equipment procurement, in research and in developing capabilities.

In fact, the economic and financial crisis might be a golden opportunity for the Europeans to rationalize their defence policies in general and equipment procurement in particular. 27 separate security and defence policies mean 27 separate defence budgets. In the current state duplication and waste is European reality.

There is EU level cooperation in procurement for the needs of EU crisis management. More cooperation is, however, desirable. More cooperation equals to stronger European footprint in the world. What is more — and if done wisely — more cooperation would save taxpayers money.

Security and defence policies are changing. Crisis management and peacekeeping tasks are becoming more important. Due to new priorities more coherence, compatibility and uniform practices would be welcome developments in European security and defence.

The Lisbon Treaty gives Europe an opportunity to think more strategically and build a more credible Foreign and Security Policy. In the course of the coming months the EU will have summits with China, United States, Russia and Ukraine as well as a climate summit in Cancun. The EU has a lot on riding yet it will be seen whether enough cohesion and political will can be found to set goals and achieve them.

Published in EP Today 28.9.2010