Last week, French Defense Minister Hervé Morin told an informal meeting of European Union defense ministers in Ghent that if they did not pool their defense capabilities more effectively, Europe risked becoming a protectorate. "Fifty years from now we'll become a pawn in the balance between the new powers," Morin said, "and we'll be under a Sino-America condominium."
Morin's provocative remarks were triggered by recent cuts in European defense budgets, which reinforce longstanding downward trends in military spending on the continent. The question facing the EU is whether the cuts will finally impel European governments to cooperate more closely in the sensitive defense sector.
Morin has long been pressing EU governments to make collective defense a more important priority, telling one interviewer in 2007 that having a common defense policy was at least as important to the EU as having a common currency. At the Ghent meeting, he insisted that European governments simply had to spend more to exert global influence commensurate with the EU's standing. He also argued that the best way to enhance their overall military capabilities was by deepening their defense cooperation.