When I started my term as High Representative in 2019, I regularly told hesitant EU leaders and lawmakers that the European Union needed to learn to speak the “language of power”. We need to be able to act on the world stage, not just express
concern. We are a bloc of 450 million people with an economic output nine times larger than Russia. Collectively we spend almost three times more than Moscow on defence but it was as if the EU had forgotten its collective power.
But, it is still by no means enough. Europe is in danger. Russia, which has common borders with five EU countries, is waging a brutal war of aggression against Ukraine, neighbour to four EU countries. The Russian leadership is openly seeking to divide
the EU, fight our democratic values and destroy Europe’s security. The post-Cold War order, with reduced defence spending and the United States taking the lead on Europe’s security, does not exist anymore. We must do more for our own defence.
However, we must not only do more, we must do it better: either we overcome longstanding national goals to collaborate in defence or we repeat the duplication of the past and waste our resources.
EDA and the European Commission have recently highlighted our defence investment gaps. The latest EDA data shows that, in 2021, Member States allocated 18% of their spending for new equipment to European collaborative procurement projects – still
below the benchmark of 35%. While defence expenditure rose 6% in 2021, there is still the temptation for Member States to protect national defence industries or simply purchase off-the-shelf products. Despite understandable differences between our
Member States, we must remain united where it really matters and not allow a string of carve-outs and projects at the national level to undermine our common defence industrial strategy.
The Strategic Compass, our overarching plan to define future threats and ambitions in defence, provides a common sense of purpose to our response. It sets out new ways to improve our collective ability to defend our citizens and specifies clear milestones
to measure progress. We need to reinforce our civilian and militar y missions and operations, develop an EU Rapid Deployment Capacity to be able to swiftly deploy up to 5,000 troops in times of crisis, to strengthen our command and control, to boost
our intelligence capacities, to develop our cyber defences and to fill our capability gaps.