The EU’s foreign and defence policy should proceed with closer EU defence ties and a strong response to international threats, said MEPs on Wednesday.
MEPs welcome the fact that, following their repeated appeals, EU defence integration is getting under way with the launch of a European Defence Fund, an EU operational headquarters, a Permanent Structured Cooperation and an annual review of member states’ defence plans.
They want the European Commission to set up a Directorate-General for Defence (DG Defence), which would coordinate defence initiatives and also facilitate, amongst others, the free movement of troops and equipment within the EU.
MEPs also urge the member states to devote 2% of their GDP to defence within the decade, set up a start-up fund for a fast deployment of operations and suggest establishing an EU defence budget under the next EU long-term budget.
Stronger EU diplomatic response needed
In another resolution reviewing key EU foreign policy choices, MEPs list major challenges that threaten the EU’s security: proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, conflicts in the Eastern and Southern neighbourhood, proxy wars, and hybrid and information warfare.
They deplore Russia’s multiple violations of international law and its hybrid warfare (a combination of conventional, irregular and cyber warfare), hinting that, only once this aggression has ceased and agreements already committed to have been complied with, can doors for deeper EU-Russia ties be opened.
All these challenges should be met with a strong EU diplomatic response and swifter action in the face of developing crises, MEPs add. To this end, they also advocate speeding up Council decision-making on common foreign and security policy, by switching from unanimity to qualified majority voting.
The resolution on Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) was adopted by 408 votes to 132, and 102 abstentions.
The resolution on Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) was adopted by 368 votes to 237, and 61 abstention.
Parliament’s rapporteur on CSDP Michael Gahler (EPP, DE) said: “We have ‘white smoke’ on EU defence after eight years. The launch of the Permanent Structured Cooperation is a major step in the EU’s policy. This is a clear sign to citizens that the EU is willing and able to act in the area of security and defence policies.”
EP rapporteur on CFSP David McAllister (EPP, DE) said: “65 percent of Europeans are in favour of a common European foreign policy, while 75 percent are in favour of a common security and defence policy. The EU has to deliver on the expectations of its citizens and to focus its actions on the ‘three Cs’: coordination of threat assessment, consolidation of the European project and cooperation within coalitions and institutions delivering security.”