Jo Coelmont_


Will the EU summit on 19 December 2013 be seen as a milestone in the development of our Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), similar to the St. Malo meeting in 1998? Or will it be judged a lost opportunity? That will depend on the political message delivered, on some key decisions to underpin its credibility, and, on how all this will be communicated.
By Jo Coelmont. Published 16 December 2013.

The political message: Defence matters because...

In our geopolitical environment Europe has no other option than to assume its responsibilities and become a security provider; in the first place in its neighbourhood but also in the broader world. 

Time has come for Heads of State and Government to provide impetus, i.e. to take a stand on how to forge security and defence capabilities that are effective and efficient (and budget neutral) in order to provide the Union with the necessary level of autonomy.
Time has come to answer to the expectations of our key partners and the international community at large.

Solidarity among Members States in all aspects of this endeavour is of the essence.Therefore the European Council should provide concrete guidance on actions and timelines to reach these objectives.

Process matters  

Therefore the European Council should decide to regularly return to these issues. 

A common vision matters  

As long as Member States "agree to disagree on a security and defence strategy” it is an illusion to expect a substantial  increase of the effectiveness, visibility and impact of CSDP, any enhancement of  capability development or any strengthening of Europe’s  defence industry. 

A truly shared common vision among Members States on the security challenges we face in Europe and consensus on the broad political objectives to pursue and how to balance aims and means within an identified timeframe are paramount requirements. While previously such concepts were considered counter-productive, they have now become sine qua non to obtain substantial progress.  

Therefore the High Representative is to be tasked  with presenting  a common strategic vision or concept to the Council , in close cooperation with all stakeholders.

Defence capabilities and Europe’s defence industry matter 

In these areas all of the required actions have already been identified by the Commission, the High Representative and the European Defence Agency in consultation with Member States. 

Therefore the European Council should express its full support to the implementation of the measures and projects put forward by the Commission and the High Representative. Heads of State and Government should ensure that the appropriate flanking measures will be taken at the national level.   

Effective public communication matters

The lack of an effective communication policy on CSDP is a strategic shortfall in its own right. All CSDP operations so far have achieved their objectives: quite unique on a world scale, but rather unknown to our public opinion. If defence matters, it matters first of all to our citizens. The ultimate goal of CSDP is to contribute to peace and stability and to enhance the security of our citizens, a message that addresses the older and younger generations alike.

Therefore the European Council should task the High Representative with setting up a specific communication policy on European security and defence.

It is far from realistic to hope that all of the above mentioned " expectations” will be met during a single European Council on Defence. However, some "acquis” has already been generated upfront: 

1)    Top-down steering on defence issues.
2)    Internal and external security is henceforth structurally linked.
3)    "Dual use” is well on its way to constitute a "structural enabler”, including for Defence.
4)    The Commission is on board.
5)    We are witnessing the start of a process.

Process matters, geopolitics as well.  Hopefully in due time "La méthode  Monnet”  will  take care of all other expectations. 

Jo Coelmont, Brigadier General Rdt, is Senior Associate Fellow at Egmont - The Royal Institute for International Relations.