"We have to share our military and industrial capabilities"

On 25 and 26 April, the Munich Security Conference, together with the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, held the first debut Future of European Defence Summit in Berlin under the patronage of Javier Solana. More than 100 leaders from politics, the military, industry and academia met in Berlin to discuss the future of European security and defence policy.

"The fruit is there for the plucking": Admiral James Stavridis about deeper European defence cooperation (Photo: Trenkel).

Are the European states ready to organize military procurement jointly? What are the essential core capabilities in defence, and what does this imply for the industry? These and other questions of prime importance for an enhanced European defence cooperation were debated at the summit.

At the opening dinner on 25 April, former French Prime Minister François Fillon laid out four conditions for a 'Europe de la défense'. Firstly, he said, political will to turn Europe into a strategic player was needed. Secondly, he urged the supporters of NATO and the supporters of a European security policy to finally stop their 'sterile debate'. What was needed was not competition but a strong Europe 'to complete' the Atlantic Alliance. Thirdly, Fillon advocated a pragmatic approach while enhancing defence cooperation in Europe: "You have to work, based on cooperations of variable geometry, with those states that are willing to". And the fourth requirement: "We have to share our military and industrial capabilities" – for capability and financial reasons.

NATO's outgoing Supreme Allied Commander Europe Admiral James Stavridis, too, prompted the Europeans to make more joint efforts. "The fruit is there for the plucking," the Admiral emphasized regarding an enhanced European defence union. UAVs, cyber security and transport capabilities, for instance, all offered potential for more cooperation. His worry list of important security issues included cyber security, ballistic missiles, Syria, and Afghanistan, among others.

In addition to Fillon and Stavridis, the meeting featured representatives of the German Government, members of the Bundestag and senior European decision makers such as Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Pieter de Crem. Looking towards the upcoming December, when the European heads of state and government will deal with European security and defence issues at the European Council, de Crem emphasized that in 2013 there had to be "concrete results" for joint cooperation projects. It was not enough to simply attempt to "survive austerity".

Among the participants of the meeting there were also several state secretaries from major European states along with NATO, EU and European Defence Agency (EDA) representatives. In addition, high-ranking German and foreign military officials joined the debate, among them Commander of the Allied Joint Force Command General Hans-Lothar Domröse, the highest military representative of the EU, General Patrick de Rousiers, as well as industry representatives such as EADS CEO Thomas Enders and leading academics and researchers from European think tanks and research institutes. Most of the conference was held under the Chatham House Rule.

"Despite important EU and NATO summit communiqués, we are still sustaining a particularly inefficient fragmentation in the military and the industry," Wolfgang Ischinger, Chairman of the Munich Security Conference, had stated in the run-up to the event. This fragmentation had to be paid for dearly. Ischinger: "Our capacity to act in defence matters is suffering. And from the European taxpayer's perspective, the lack of cooperation and harmonization is producing unnecessary costs. The European “Pooling & sharing” initiative is the right answer to shrinking defence budgets and Europe's growing responsibility."

03 May 2013, by MSC