On to Chicago: Enter the European Union


From Sven Biscop, the New Atlanticist:  At the NATO Summit in Chicago a first assessment of the Alliance’s Smart Defense initiative is expected. As the European Union is invited, the first results of its Pooling & Sharing Initiative will be discussed as well. On the NATO side in particular there is a search for “flagship projects” substantial enough to present to the Heads of State and Government. . . .

These projects are certainly promising. So promising in fact that the US has proposed to merge certain Pooling & Sharing and Smart Defense initiatives into a common flagship project. There could be no better proof of the EU projects’ potential– nor of the difficulties NATO is facing to arrive at equally promising proposals. For the time being, the projects listed under the heading of Smart Defense are all useful but none is consequential enough to merit the “flagship” label. As the capability problem NATO faces is a European one, it is probably logical that it proved more easy to find (the beginnings of) a solution among Europeans, through the EU’s Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP). There is no need for Schadenfreude or envy on the part of the respective bureaucracies though. What counts is that the European Member States, at the service of which both the CSDP and NATO are, have agreed on what could be the first step towards a major enhancement of Europe’s capabilities. . . .

Europe must ensure through quick and concrete follow-up that the momentum is not lost. This requires collective and top-down political decision-making. Only the top political leaders of the Member States have the authority to order their defense establishments to make this happen, by reorienting both investments and cuts in function of the need to participate in collective projects. Perhaps the time has come to lift defense up to the level of the European Council, i.e. the Heads of State and Government, which until now has never taken charge of the CSDP. Under its president, Herman Van Rompuy, the European Council has started the practice of preparing the key summits between the EU and the great powers. Is not the NATO Summit such an occasion? Putting Pooling & Sharing on the agenda of the European Council prior to Chicago would create the best chance of starting a political dynamic that would stimulate sufficient Member States to sign up to one or more of the key projects. Even if not all of the 27 would be able and willing to join in now, it could create the critical mass for each individual project to start for real.

Thus a unique opportunity would be created for Van Rompuy to deliver a strong message in Chicago on behalf of the EU: these are the strategic enablers which through these collective projects EU Member States have decided to acquire.

Prof. Dr. Sven Biscop is director of the Europe in the World Programme at Egmont – Royal Institute for International Relations (Brussels) and is a member of the Atlantic Council’s Strategic Advisors Group

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