Karl-Erik Goffinet, Paris
Cop-out policies are no longer an option The CSDP – a new role for Berlin and Paris
by Karl-Erik Goffinet, General Manager K.E.G. Stratégie Conseil, Paris
The Heads of State and Government of the EU Member States will be holding a Defence Council meeting in December 2013. This recent initiative promoted by many European leaders is to be welcomed: the defence sector faces tough strategic challenges in all areas – operations, capabilities and industry – as well as in terms of political vision. At the same time Europe’s defence community is showing signs of disillusionment. Europe undoubtedly stands at a crossroads and major political decisions are now urgently required.
Common trends, national solutions Most European countries face the same challenges, but national responses continue to be the main driver for strategic and defence policy. Firstly, there is a general trend in Europe towards a reduction of public deficits. Never before has the defence sector been under such extreme budget pressure, with significant reductions in most EU countries. Strategic reviews and restructuring actions are under way, essentially at national level. Up until now no joint policies or even common consultations have been organised at European level for the purpose of coordinating, on the basis of adapted global roadmaps, the different national adaptation processes in the field of defence. Secondly, the scarcity of resources is leading increasingly to national solutions. In particular, public opinion in the different EU countries is stepping up the pressure with regard to jobs and the use of public funds. While such a trend is easy to understand in a depreciated economic environment, the consequence might be to cancel out the huge political investment made over a period of decades in the field of European cooperation. Thirdly, as regards the lack of prospects at European level,
Karl-Erik Goffinet Karl-Erik Goffinet is the founder of the K.E.G Stratégie Conseil company of which he has been General Manager since January 2010. He was born in Paris in 1966 and started his professional experience in 1988 at the office of the French Prime Minister as a strategic analyst involved in German and Russian affairs. From 1992–2008 he was Director General of the French land defence industry association (GICAT). K.E.G. Stratégie Conseil company is specialised in international, strategic and public affairs. The key positioning of K.E.G. Stratégie Conseil is to support both governments and the strategic industries in the effort to establish dialogue and cooperation, in particular at European level. On the 50th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty, the German Chancellor and the French President promised to further the European project
particularly in the field of new capabilities, programmes and projects, the natural trend for defence industries is either to refocus on the national market or to expand their activities to potential non-EU growth markets. The current situation is all the more unsatisfactory in view of the need for EU countries to adapt their capabilities to the new threats and risks.
Growing threats, lack of vision All decision-makers agree on one point: the current strategic environment is more dangerous than ever, with emerging threats overlapping and interacting with the negative consequences of the international financial and economic crisis. There can be no doubt that the political authorities face key challenges on both fronts. The Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) has been a crucial part of the EU political project from the moment of the Union’s creation. Since then there has been progress in a number of areas, including common operations, specialised defence institutions (creation of the European Defence Agency), cooperative armaments programmes and mergers between European industries (creation of EADS). Although all these are positive steps, the European Union has unfortunately not yet attained its objective of becoming a respected and influential political power at international level. Fragmented policies and diverging interests at national level are well-known key factors in this situation, but the solution has yet to be found. Even more worrying are the resignation with which some member states contemplate the feasibility of a strategic future for Europe and the risk of an internal decoupling of member states’ views and policies with regard to the development of the European security landscape.
Conceiving a common strategic future Most European countries continue to be hard hit by the huge financial and economic crisis. This situation clearly continues to be a major impediment to progress by the EU member states on defence issues. It is nonetheless urgent to overcome the current fears and difficulties: 1. the United States’ strategic shift towards Asia and its decreased focus on world leadership represent a strong signal that it is time for Europe to come into its own. The move towards a more responsible Europe is encouraged by the US and the EU member states must rapidly and accurately measure the importance of this development. 2. while the recent development of bilateral and trilateral defence agreements among European countries may be a pragmatic response on the part of some EU member states to the need to move faster, close attention must be paid to preserving the coherence and autonomy of the overall EU political project. 3. the political framework for Europe’s security and defence architecture is changing and the desire of countries such as Turkey or Russia to be more involved in certain areas of EU policy will need to be taken on board in future EU strategic reviews. Last but not least, new approaches to the development of the European technological and industrial base should be identified; they should entail not only further progress with regard to the European market but also a better and more balanced access to and control of non-EU markets.
Paris and Berlin are called upon to play their role French-German relations have been particularly affected by the financial and economic crisis. In particular, the amplitude of the crisis has so far led France and Germany to focus more on solving their internal problems than on identifying new common goals for Europe. In the strategic and defence areas the relations between the two countries are in a slow-down phase: a number of differences of approach are perceptible at the strategic level and it has been a long time since any major joint progress was achieved in the fields of capabilities, programmes and relations at industry level. However, although an exclusive approach is no longer valid, France and Germany are more than ever called upon to play their traditional role in preserving European unity. In order to achieve this goal, national survival strategies should be rapidly replaced by a common will on the part of the two countries to rally the support of motivated EU partners for a confidence-building process coupled with a new strategic ambition. Time is running out fast and it is urgent to move quickly in order to give a new European direction to future choices in the areas of strategies, capabilities and industry. A failure on the part of France and Germany to launch new, substantive and open initiatives could call into question the future of Europe. Cop-out policies are no longer an option.