The EU must learn from the abrupt end of the US-led mission in Afghanistan and acquire the "political will" to build up its own military force to deploy in future crises, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen , said.
In her annual State of Union speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Von der Leyen, former German defense minister, said the withdrawal of the US-led mission in Afghanistan, and the subsequent collapse of President Ashraf Ghani's administration, raised troubling questions.
"Over the past few weeks there has been a lot of discussion about exped forces What kind and how much do we need: battle groups or EU entry forces, "said Von der Leyen. " This is definitely part of the debate - and I think that that will be part of the solution. "
But she said there was a more " fundamental "problem in the capitals of the EU. "You can have the most advanced forces in the world - but if you're never ready touse them - what are they for? " she said. “What has held us back so far is not just a lack of capacity, it is the lack of political will. And if we develop this political will, we can do a lot at EU level. "
A lack of investment in defense by EU governments and concerns about the risk of undermining the NATO, held in particular by the Eastern EU Member States have been among the main obstacles to the establishment of a united European military wing. Defense spending by the general government of the 27 EU Member States amounted to 1.2% of GDP in 2019, up from 3.4% in 2019. United States.
Von der Leyen said she was working with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on the release of a "new statement" on EU-NATO relations by the end of the year. Six EEU member states are not part of the military alliance: Austria, Cyprus, Finland, Ireland, Malta and Sweden.
Von der Leyen said there would be crises where the EU's own military force would have to operate independently of both the UN and NATO. “On the ground, our soldiers are working side by side with police officers, lawyers and doctors, with aid workers and human rights defenders, with teachers and engineers,” she said. >
The idea of common defense, attacked by some critics of the EU as evidence of nation building, has a long and tortured history.
Two EU battlegroups of 1,500 troops, which are supposed to be staffed in turn by member states, were set up in 2007, but they were never deployed, in part due to understaffing.
Beyond the willingness and ability to put boots on the ground, Von der Leyen said EU intelligence and other agencies need to share information. also suggested that to develop the EU defense sector and ensure that equipment used by European armies is "interoperable", VAT could be removed on purchases from local arms dealers.
A leaders 'summit devoted to European defense will be convened by Von der Leyen and French President Emmanuel Macron in the first half of next year, when France will hold the rotating EU presidency. "It is time for Europe to take it to the next level ", said Von der Leyen.
L Current German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said: "Ursula
Von der Leyen is right […] The real defense of the EU depend of the political will of the Member States. This is why Germany and France must be in the lead. "
The comments were generally well received in the Chamber, Martin Schwirdeman , chairman of the left-wing group in parliament, lambasted the committee for "having called for more weapons and military solutions" rather than channeling funding to alleviate the suffering of the poorest. Some governments in the The EU also expressed doubts about the announcements. "Europe will remedy its defense weaknesses with a declaration, a summit, an agency and a VAT exemption," complained a diplomat. " The vision: technocracy embodied. ”
The speech was also particularly rare on announcements or catchy initiatives, very probably reflecting a will of the chairman of the committee of do not get caught up in the electoral campaignGerman.
Two European Commissioners, Margrethe Vestager from Denmark and Ylva Johansson from Sweden, brought some knitting to do while listening. The issue of Brexit or the EU 's relations with the UK, which has been part of these discourses since 2016, has not been raised.
The committee chairman also dismissed criticism of the EU vaccine rollout which initially seemed slow compared to that of the US, UK and Israel. “More than 70% of adults in the EU are fully vaccinated,” she said. “We were the only ones who shared half of our vaccine production with the rest of the world. We have delivered over 700 million doses to Europeans and we have delivered over 700 million additional doses to the rest of the world, in over 130 countries. We are the only region in the world to achieve this. "