Sunday

13th Jun 2021

EU to mull new defence post at commission

  • EU gearing up for greater defence and security cooperation (Photo: Finnish army)

The EU should have a commissioner dedicated to defence and security to ease the burden on foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, according to an MEP who has written a report on setting up a European defence union.

"I am clearly convinced that in the European Commission there should be a special commissioner on defence and security," Urmas Paet, an Estonian liberal MEP, told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday (15 November).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Paet said Mogherini was overstretched with too many portfolios.

"She is doing everything, the whole world, all the foreign policy, all the conflicts, all the defence, security and so on," he said.

His report, if adopted next week, will shape the European Parliament's political direction in terms of defence and security for years to come.

Paet, who is also Estonia's former minister of foreign affairs, says the new commissioner post is not explicit in his report but is rather understood in terms of the broader security context.

The ambition behind the report, he says, is to give "some content" to a European defence and security cooperation.

The idea is to boost defence spending, shore up research, and break down administrative barriers when it comes to things like moving troops across EU states.

That means opening future EU budgets to defence spending to pay for troop movements, accommodation, and industry research, he said.

The mood on security and defence is now warming up to ideas broadly disregarded only a few years ago.

Earlier this week, EU foreign and defence ministers laid the groundwork to create a mini military HQ and joint rapid-reaction forces.

Germany's defence minister Ursula von der Leyen in the wake of Trump's US presidential election victory had also urged for greater EU defence integration. Mogherini made similar comments.

The recent spate of terrorist attacks in Europe, Russian aggression in Ukraine, turmoil in Libya, war in Syria, have all factored into what Paet says is a major shift towards strengthening European defence.

The biggest obstacle to the defence plans, he said, will be the money.

"European cooperation defence with Europe should go hand in hand with budget,it should go hand in hand with the next multi-annual financial framework, otherwise not much will happen," Paet said.

EU states will also have to dig deep to budget at least 2 percent of their respective GDPs to Nato.

EU money for defence research

The defence industry was granted direct access to the EU budget, for the first time, as part of three pilot projects launched earlier this month.

The EU commission and the European Defence Agency in late October had signed the grant agreements to finance the projects overseen by the defence industry.

EDA chief Jorge Domecq described the agreement as "a new chapter in the way defence research can be funded in Europe”.

One of projects includes creating "unmanned heterogeneous swarm of sensor platforms", which could help develop future systems for border control.

Another project aims to improve a soldier's awareness and navigation in a building by using miniaturised sensors.

Current funding under the EU's Horizon 2020 programme is restricted to civilian or so-called dual-use research.

But the long term goal is set aside billions of euros from the EU budget for defence research.

Those plans had been initiated by the European Parliament in 2014, which along with the member states, then agreed to earmark expenditure for defence research in the annual EU budget for the pilot projects.

According to the Domecq, defence research across EU states shrunk by 32 percent, or around €1 billion, between 2006 and 2014.

And next year, the EU commission also plans to launch its preparatory action on defence research.

"It will be the real acid test for proving the relevance of defence research," said Domecq.

EU crafts defence plan in Trump's shadow

The EU aims to create a mini military HQ and to have joint rapid-reaction forces, but the UK says member states should react to Donald Trump’s victory by spending more on defence.

MEPs to declare EU an LGBTI 'freedom zone'

The symbolic move is an attempt to buttress against right-wing governments' increased scapegoating of LGBTI people, particularly in Poland and Hungary.

Analysis

Relief in EPP group, as Orbán's party finally leaves

The debate over Fidesz had become an unbearable political burden on EPP - but it also represented a core dilemma for many centre-right, mainstream parties struggling to deal with their populist challengers.

News in Brief

  1. EU top court fast-tracks rule-of-law case to October
  2. Hungary's Fidesz wants to ban LGBTIQ content for under-18s
  3. MEPs join EU citizens on farm-animal cage ban
  4. Council of Europe urges Russia to release Navalny 'immediately'
  5. China's anti-sanctions law alarms EU businesses
  6. Airlines seek to water down EU passengers' rights
  7. EU leaders join call for further probe into Covid origins
  8. Liberal MEPs under fire over Babiš abstention

EU adds new 'dark red' zone to travel-restrictions map

The European Commission has proposed additional measures to limit non-essential travel within and to the European Union - amid fears over more transmissible mutations triggering a new surge in cases across the bloc.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU urges Poland to step back from 'legal primacy' clash
  2. Pressure builds on EU to back WTO vaccine-patent waiver
  3. EU anti-fraud agency cracked down on fake pandemic supplies
  4. MEP office expenses kept secret on dubious evidence
  5. What the EU public think of EU pesticide regulation
  6. MEPs set to take EU Commission to court on rule-of-law
  7. EU takes legal action against Germany on bonds ruling
  8. MEPs demand new EU biodiversity law by next year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us