The European Union’s raison d’être is to enhance Member States capacity to be efficient and capable actors, delivering functioning policies and opening up the full potential of the EU’s collective strength. This has been the integration process’ leitmotiv from the start. In an interconnected world undergoing profound changes, with the certainties of yesterday becoming the liabilities of tomorrow many politicians, and, most of all, voters see the future of our European edifice closely linked to the problem-solving abilities of the EU.

In the area of security and defence the EU and its Member States have not been sufficiently committed for far too long. The world has, regrettably, changed in ways which many of us would not have thought imaginable only a few years ago. It has become a much more dangerous and volatile place. Systemic competition is back on the menu. We are faced with hybrid war tactics, and much worse, on a daily basis. The time when the EU could be content to focus mainly on its role as a civilian power and to go for the easy policy choices is over. The holidays from history are over.

The EU’s progress in the area of security and defence, achieved since the European Council of December 2013 and the endorsement of the EU’s Global Strategy has been staggering. More has been achieved during these years than inov many decades before. But let’s face it: much more still needs to be achieved in the coming years in order to make the EU as relevant in security and defence matters as the rapidly changing international environment requires.

In many ways the European Parliament and its Subcommittee on Security and Defence (SEDE) have been the heralds of the developments we can now finally see picking up in the EU’s security and defence policy. Since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty SEDE has been constantly hammering on the other EU institutions’ doors urging them to make use of the Treaty’s full potential. In this context, SEDE has always been supportive of the European Defence Agency (EDA), its role in the field of defence capability development and its institutional function.

The pilot project on EU defence research of 2014 was the precursor for a dynamic development that led to the European Defence Fund. Parliament, as budgetary authority of the EU, took the lead and gave the green light to use EU funds in the area of defence. This was a real paradigm shift!

The EU’s progress in the area of security and defence, achieved since the European Council of December 2013 and the endorsement of the EU’s Global Strategy has been staggering

Since then we have seen a plethora of activities and actions aiming at strengthening the defence capabilities of the EU Member States. PESCO, for which the third wave of projects has just been endorsed, the CDP and CARD, EDIDP and, hopefully soon, the EDF are the core building blocks of a complex process the likes of which we have never seen before within the EU context. The manner in which these different but complementary elements connect with each other and create the desired synergies will be crucial to the success of the overall policy. There will be trial and error, for sure. This is part of any newly emerging policy. Adaptations and course corrections will be necessary. However, failure is not an option! Too much is at stake. If the EU and its Member States want to remain relevant in international security and defence matters, if we want to shape our destiny instead of being shaped by others, we must maintain technological sovereignty as the foundation of a vivid technological and defence industrial base which ultimately is the key for strategic autonomy.

Therefore, Parliament and in particular SEDE, will very closely follow and scrutinise the implementation of the agreed measures in the coming years. For that, we will cooperate with the other relevant committees in Parliament and with all EU actors concerned. This will be one of our main priorities for the new legislative term. We will encourage progress as much as we can, but we will also clearly point at all those actions, which fail to deliver the envisaged results. We will use, in a constructive manner, all instruments at our disposal, political, procedural and budgetary to ensure that taxpayers’ money is spent the way it should.

However, we cannot simply limit ourselves to be content with the implementation of the agreed measures, as important as this is. We need to systematically develop the EU’s security and defence policy further so that we come closer to the goal of establishing a European Defence Union. In this perspective the EDF will be only the first, though important step, towards a fully-fledged EU security and defence policy.

Progress in the EU security and defence policy should be pragmatic and incremental. That is what many interlocutors keep telling the European Parliament. It has worked very well during the last three years or so. So, let us continue and not rock the boat. Really? Parliament has taken a quite different view during the previous legislature. It has demanded, on several occasions, to create a European defence Whitebook.

Developing defence capabilities without having a strategic understanding of what these capabilities are good for, what they will be used for, what our priorities are, is risky, even dangerous. This is where we stand today. Just take a look at the latest report of the European Court of Auditors.

In the EU we cannot escape a serious reflection about our future security and defence strategy. If we fail to put our EU defence efforts into the perspective of a strategy worthy of its name we will ultimately fail to deliver the results we need and which citizens are looking for. Therefore, strategy will be a key priority of my work as chair of SEDE.

Everybody – EDA, the new Commission with its DG Defence Industry and Space and the other relevant EU actors – needs to think strategically. There is no time to lose.
 

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