"A geopolitical stabilizer in the neighbourhood" – MSC and WPL organize European Defence Roundtable in Malta
What has to happen for the new momentum in European defence cooperation to translate into a truly new level of collaboration? Which additional measures are needed to strengthen EU military cooperation in order to better cope with the crises in Europe's neighbourhood? How can EU and NATO work together, complementing each other, towards enhanced security in the Mediterranean? These were some of the key questions at the heart of the MSC European Defence Roundtable, which took place on April 25 in Malta.
Under the patronage of the President of Malta, Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, the Munich Security Conference (MSC) together with the Women in Parliament Global Forum (WPL) brought together around 20 female leaders from government, civil society and academia to debate the state and future of European Defence. The event was part of the MSC European Defence Series.
In his opening remarks, the Maltese Minister of National Security and Home Affairs Carmelo Abela pointed to the "sense of insecurity […] again topping our citizens list of concerns in Europe". In order to effectively respond and guarantee peace in Europe, particularly the Southern neighborhood would have to be part of the strategy, argued Maltese President Coleiro Preca: "There can be no long-term peace in Europe without an equal commitment to peace in the Mediterranean," she said in her opening speech. MSC Chairman Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger stressed the urgent need for an "effective EU foreign and security policy" in order for Europe to better defend its interests both regionally and globally.
In the following two sessions, which were held under "Chatham House Rule," debates focused on the state of military cooperation across Europe with a particular view to challenges to the East and South of the continent.
Participants widely agreed on the need for greater coherence and unity in European defence policies. One participant pointed to the trend reversal in defence spending as an example, which only applied to a small number of European countries, a total of four out of 28 NATO members. Another participant raised the question of how those countries unwilling to contribute to equal burden sharing can and should be sanctioned. While the need for better defense capabilities across the Union was evident to all participants, one discussant stressed that only through effective and quick political decisions these capabilities could actually be used in a meaningful way.
Regarding the European neighborhood, participants identified, in particular, terrorism, hybrid warfare, migration and the relationship with Russia as major current challenges. The European Union could and should enhance its role as a "geopolitical stabilizer" in the countries to its East and South, one discussant stressed. A key challenge, according to another participant of the Roundtable event, would therefore be for the EU to better use its tools to empower and transform societies along its borders. Overall, there was broad agreement that only through partnership and close cooperation across Europe and the neighborhood, regional stability could be significantly enhanced.