Saturday

21st Sep 2019

EU must improve military capabilities, UK says

  • "European countries have around 1,200 transport helicopters, yet only 35 are deployed in Afghanistan" (Photo: SHAPE)

UK foreign secretary David Miliband called for a strengthening of the EU's military capacities during his first major speech on EU policy on Thursday (15 November) - an idea that has also been recently raised by France.

"It's frankly embarrassing that when European nations - with almost two million men and women under arms - are only able, at a stretch, to deploy around 100,000 at any one time", Mr Miliband said during a speech at the College of Europe in the Belgian city of Bruges on Thursday.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"European countries have around 1,200 transport helicopters, yet only 35 are deployed in Afghanistan. And EU member states haven't provided any helicopters in Darfur despite the desperate need there", he went on.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy has also called for more efforts to build an independent European defence capability as well as to modernise NATO, while French defence minister Herve Morin told German newspaper FAZ earlier this week that Paris would put defence high on its EU presidency agenda during the second half of 2008.

So far France and the UK have been the main EU member states to touch upon the EU defence issue, but while their positions converge on some points – such as the need for stronger capabilities, they also diverge on others – such as the need to set up new institutional arrangements.

The 27-member bloc should rather "get on with using the institutions we have got to make progress" rather than set up new ones or "duplicate the work that is done either by NATO or nation states", Mr Miliband said.

However, according to British media, the initial version of the UK foreign secretary's speech was closer to Mr Sarkozy's positions.

According to The Times, shortly before he was to speak at the College of Europe, Mr Miliband was "forced" by prime minister Gordon Brown to abandon references to an "EU military capabilities charter", which would have contained some concrete ideas on beefing up the EU's defence by identifying targets for investment, research and training.

EU 'model' rather than a 'superpower'

During his speech in Bruges, the UK foreign secretary also insisted that the EU should be a "model" for the world rather than a "superpower".

"The truth is that the EU has enlarged, remodelled and opened up. It is not and is not going to become a superstate. But neither is it destined to become a superpower", the minister said.

It could instead be a "model power", notably as regards regional cooperation, free trade, the environment and tackling extremism, he added.

Clashing with French president Nicolas Sarkozy's vision on enlargement and particularly on a possible EU membership for Turkey, Mr Miliband said that the EU should keep its promises and eventually let Ankara in or face the consequences – "a deep and dangerous divide between east and west".

Another traditional point of discord between London and Paris was also highlighted during Mr Miliband's speech.

Only two days after Mr Sarkozy argued before EU parliamentarians that "the word protection should be not be outlawed" and that "we [EU] must be able to protect ourselves as much as others do", the British minister stressed that the bloc should remain open to "trade, ideas and investment".

"Protectionism seeks to stave off globalisation rather than manage it", Mr Miliband said.

"We need to put European agriculture on a sustainable and modern footing; reduce tariffs, open up energy markets and complete the creation of a single markets in services", he added.

Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs

European People's Party group leader Manfred Weber defended Ursula von der Leyen's decision to rename a commission portfolio, partly dealing with migration, "protecting the European way of life". He said it means rescuing people in the Mediterranean.

Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing

Hungary was quizzed by EU ministers over its domestic crackdown on media, judges, academia and NGOs. Hungary's minister responded by saying the country had defended "the European way of life" for centuries, and it should be respected.

EU divided on how to protect rule of law

Poland and Hungary have argued that rule of law is purely a domestic matter and the EU should respect legal traditions, but Dutch foreign minister warned backsliding was a worry for all.

Catalonia celebrates national day ahead of trial verdicts

Catalonia celebrated on Wednesday its national day - while awaiting the trial verdict on 12 Catalan separatists, former politicians of Carles Puigdemont's government. That decision is expected for early October.

News in Brief

  1. Ireland: right Brexit deal is 'not yet close'
  2. UK secrecy on Brexit holds back wider EU talks
  3. Feminist mass protest in Spain after 19 murders this summer
  4. Global climate strike starts ahead of UN summit
  5. UK Brexit minister to meet Barnier on Friday
  6. Russia-Ukraine gas deal talks show 'progress'
  7. Nobel economist: Ireland 'not good EU citizen' on taxes
  8. Germany takes carbon border tax on board

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Europe goes to New York This WEEK
  2. Nine EU 'commissioners' asked to clarify declarations
  3. Dismiss Italy's Salvini at your peril
  4. Malta PM accused of 'blackmail' over slain reporter
  5. Diplomats back Romania's Kovesi for EU top prosecutor
  6. Brexit raises questions for EU defence integration
  7. Low-carbon cities can unlock €21tn by 2050, report finds
  8. France, Italy want 'automatic' distribution of migrants

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us