Wednesday, 18 September 2013

And NATO chips in!

The secretary-general of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has called on EU countries to step up co-operation on defence, arguing in favour of moves towards a borderless EU defence market and intensified integration on military matters. He joined EU defence ministers, including Alan Shatter, for an informal meeting in Lithuania two weeks ago, where defence co- operation featured high on the agenda.
“I intend to bring the issue of co-operation between NATO and the European Union on defence matters and the need for Europe to intensify its efforts in capability development and invest more in security,” Rasmussen said at the alliance’s monthly press briefing in Brussels. “It is important for Europe and it is important for the transatlantic alliance, because a strong Europe is also a strong Alliance.”
 In Lithuania the EU ministers discussed a policy paper tabled by the European Commission in July that called for a relaunching of industrial co-operation on defence, including co- operation on drones, where Europe lags behind the United States and Israel.
EU heads of state and heads of government will revisit the matter at their December summit in Brussels. But the Commission believes that deep cuts in national defence budgets following the financial and economic crisis make a case for pooling resources. From 2001 to 2010 EU defence spending declined from €251 billion to €194 billion, while defence budgets increased significantly in emerging markets, according to the Commission.
“In times of scarce resources, co-operation is the key,” said the president of the Commission, José Manuel Barroso, “and we need to match ambitions and resources to avoid duplication of programmes.”
Rasmussen echoed this sentiment, saying at his monthly address that, “for all of us, the key is co-operation: to work together to make us all strong, not to duplicate each other’s efforts and thereby make us weak.”
Rasmussen sketched a vision in which the EU had “effective and modern defence industries, where competition drives innovation, where national borders are no barrier to international co-operation, and where effective equipment is developed in a cost-effective way.” And he went further, saying that closer co-operation on defence “is a vital part of Europe’s ability to ensure its future security.”
On 19 November EU defence ministers will meet, and on 19 and 20 December the EU summit will discuss, and possibly endorse, the Commission’s communication. 

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Fine Gael and EPP beat the drums

Europe should create a civilian and military crisis operations HQ under EU command, according to a report by centre-right members of the EU Parliament.
The proposal, contained in a policy paper by deputies of the European People’s Party, of which Fine Gael is a member, says that “heads of state and government have to start building stand-by forces under Union command.” It calls for EU leaders to commit themselves to defining the union’s security interests, giving priority to its strategic objectives and linking these with operational deployments. This should include a definition of European defence interests and its geographical priority zones.
Launching the paper, Michael Gahler, Arnaud Danjean and Krzysztof Lisek stated that “deepening the EU’s security and defence co- operation will help slash procurement costs and allow the EU to react faster to international crises.”
Leaders will debate the idea of EU-level military integration at a summit in December.
Enda Kenny is a vice- president of the European People’s Party, and Fine Gael has been selected to host the congress to launch the election campaign of the EPP. The congress will take
place in Dublin on 6 and 7 March 2014 at the Dublin Convention Centre. Two thousand delegates are expected from member-parties throughout the EU.
The EPP is the largest political grouping at the EU level, with thirteen heads of government,
thirteen members of the EU Commission, the largest group in the EU Parliament, and seventy-three member-parties in forty countries.
Meanwhile a report by the European Commission in July warned that the bloc’s military strength was diluted by overlapping capacities and defence procurement at the national level. In a nod to this, the EPP described it as an “unacceptable situation to have 10 different versions of one European attack helicopter or to have six different versions of one European military transport aircraft.”
The Commission’s “ideas paper,” also designed to feed into the summit talks, called on member-states to review national defence capabilities and to identify the hardware needed for the protection of EU countries’ interests.
Between them, EU governments spent €194 billion on defence in 2011 (down from €251 billion in 2001). Defence R&D spending was €9 billion. 

Monday, 16 September 2013

EU military spending: the “elephant in the room”

At a time of harsh cuts in social services, it is morally unjustifiable to spend money on weapons instead of investing it to create jobs and tackle poverty, argues a new report by the Transnational Institute. High levels of military spending by EU states have played an important part in the unfolding EU debt crisis, continuing to undermine efforts to resolve that crisis.
The Transnational Institute was established in 1974 as a group of researchers committed to providing intellectual support to movements struggling for a more democratic, equitable and environmentally sustainable world.
The report, Guns, Debt and Corruption: MilitarySpending and the EU Crisis, demonstrates how military budgets throughout Europe have been largely protected, at a time of severe social cuts. Military expenditure totalled €194 billion in 2010, equivalent to the combined annual deficit of Greece, Italy, and Spain.
The latest data published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute suggests that there is little change in these trends. The report reveals how high levels of military spending in such countries as Greece, Cyprus and Spain, which are at the centre of the euro crisis, played a significant role in their debt crises. And much of the military spending was tied to arms sales by creditor-countries, including Germany and France.
In Portugal and Greece, several major arms deals are being investigated for serious irregularities. Yet creditor-countries continue to hawk new arms deals to debtor-countries while demanding ever more stringent cuts in social services.
The report argues that resolving the debt crisis will require cancellation of the debt tied to corrupt arms deals and a redirection of military spending towards social needs. It shows that spending on education and public transport creates twice as many jobs as investment in defence.
The author of the report, Frank Slijper, said:
“Global military spending was still at a record €1.3 trillion in 2011 despite the global economic crisis. Even in Europe most countries still spend more than ten years ago. The only austerity that Europe really needs is one imposed on the military and the arms industry.
“It is time for Brussels and EU member states to publicly acknowledge the ‘elephant in the room’ of the current EU debt crisis and that is the role of military spending. At a time of harsh cuts in social services, it is morally unjustifiable to spend money on weapons that should be invested in creating jobs and tackling poverty.”
 Frank Slijper will speak in Dublin in October at a conference on EU militarisation jointly sponsored by the People’s Movement and the Peace and Neutrality Alliance.