The Future of EU Defense

Now that French President Nicolas Sarkozy has allegedly cleared the way for EU defense by reintegrating NATO’s command structure, what will the EU do with it? The common response to French calls for an autonomous EU defense capacity (ESDP) is that no one else in Europe wants one.

But Nicolas Gros-Verheyde reports that the defense ministers of Sweden and Spain — the next two countries to exercise the EU presidency after the hiatus known as the Czech EU presidency mercifully comes to an end in June — have agreed on an ambitious list of priorities. In addition to what Gros-Verheyde calls “the classic” stuff, such as operations and capacity, the two will use the combined year they have in office to improve the EU battlegroups’ rapid reaction capacity, increase political and military interagency coordination for crisis management, and reinforce coordination with strategic partners such as the African Union. (The latter is significant for enabling France to multilateralize its African deployments, thereby freeing up its operational capacity for the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean region.)

With Belgium and Hungary following up as the next two EU presidents, that makes a full two years that ESDP-friendly countries will be building on the gains made during France’s ambitious six-month stint last year. If the Czech EU presidency has broken the momentum since then, it’s also been too impotent to do any serious damage. In the evolutionary scheme of things, the Czech Republic’s EU presidency will be remembered for the impact it will have on the Treaty of Lisbon, which remains to be seen.

So a lot of moving parts, both within NATO and the EU, with regards to European security architecture. Which means a lot of options for proponents of ESDP.

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