BRUSSELS – The Vice-President of the European Commission and High Representative for the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, presented and discussed with the Foreign and Defense Ministers of the Twenty-seven, in Brussels, the «Strategic compass », a new document for the construction of an embryo of EU common defense complementary to Then.
The initial proposal of the “compass” will now be the subject of discussions in various working groups of the EU Council, which Borrell will take into account in drafting the final text, which will then be submitted to the Council for approval in March.
In a press conference yesterday afternoon, at the end of the two days of the EU Council, Borrell explained what the “Strategic Compass” is. In discussions with ministers yesterday and today, he said, “I stressed from the outset that this document is not just another policy document, but that it is a guide for action, with concrete measures and timelines”.
“If we want to talk about defense – observed the High Representative – we have to talk about challenges or threats, because we are defending ourselves from something. So the first thing that’s needed is a solid assessment of the strategic environment. This assessment has been made, and the conclusion is that in general we find ourselves in an environment of instability, with transnational conflicts that threaten our security, and hybrid tactics such as those we experience today on the border with Belarus ».
“A few months ago – continued Borrell – we would not even have imagined it, and I think it is essential to remember that the basic difference between war and peace becomes increasingly vague: the world is full of hybrid situations in which we find ourselves in front of dynamics and intermediate interventions of competition, intimidation, coercion. This is what we see today on the border with Belarus, which illustrates what we said earlier: that we are facing a hybrid war, with many shades of gray between the white of peace and the black of classic conflicts “; a situation” in which everything is transformed into weapons, as I wrote in my Introduction to the Strategic Compass ».
La Bussola, indicated the High Representative, proposes four points: action, security, investments and partnerships.
«First of all – explained Borrell -, to act more quickly and more robustly in the face of crises, to be more flexible, and to adopt a more robust and modular mandate (that is, adapted to the circumstances, ed) for our missions. In this context, I propose to develop European rapid intervention capabilities which would allow the rapid deployment of modular forces of up to 5,000 men. Missions determine form and capabilities, and these capabilities must be prepared together, with common training, in order to improve interoperability and preparedness and readiness ”.
«The second important thing – continued the High Representative – is to guarantee security: we must strengthen our resilience, our ability to protect the Union and its citizens from new types of hybrid attacks. For this we have proposed a new toolbox against this type of attacks (‘hybrid toolbox’, ed), to ensure a better coordinated response, and to identify any attempts at manipulation and foreign interference. Cyberspace and space in general will be the new battlefields of these new hybrid attacks, and we must be ready to fight these battles, in cyberspace, at sea level and in space ».
Third point, «investments. If we have to act – noted Borrell – we need capacity. With the Compass we have identified the gaps in our critical skills, which still exist and which we must fill. We must be pioneers in technological innovation, reduce the fragmentation and dependence of our defense markets, increase our industrial capabilities to produce the tools we need to be at the forefront of new military technologies ».
«Finally – added the High Representative – there is the partnership: we propose a new strategy, a new collaboration with NATO for Security and Defense. We talked about it with the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, during our working lunch today, and everyone stressed the need to strengthen our cooperation with NATO; because the Strategic Compass is a way to make NATO stronger, making the European Union stronger, as US President Joe Biden and the French President have said Emmanuel Macron».
“For us, this is a cornerstone that will allow us to increase the capabilities of the European Union, and this is in turn a way to increase and strengthen global security and transatlantic ties together with NATO, in a complementary way.” This means for the EU to be able to “use its capabilities alone if necessary and together with NATO if possible,” stressed Borrell.
The High Representative insisted on this point: “If one thing is complementary to another, this means that they are not the same thing: being complementary to NATO means that the European Union does not consist only of those Member States which are also members of NATO, but it is a Union with the ambition of building its own common security and defense policy, in order to use its capabilities alone, if necessary, and together if possible ».
«The ministers – said Borrell – underlined the fact that our approach must be complementary to NATO, of course, that it must be of benefit to NATO, of course, and that it must avoid duplication. Certainly, but duplications – he pointed out – must be avoided by both sides: that is, on one side towards the other and vice versa; and this approach must be consistent. I believe – the High Representative claimed – that this is fully guaranteed by the text I presented ».
“In concrete terms, the Compass indicates why we need a stronger Union, one that is ready to protect European citizens, values and interests, improving our strategic responsibility, or our strategic autonomy if we want to call it that, and our capacity to work with our partners to safeguard these values and interests of ours “.
«This approach – Borrell reported – was widely supported by the ministers, who expressed their willingness to work towards the adoption of the Strategic Compass at the March Council. In the meantime, between now and March I will present at least two new drafts, which will incorporate the results of the discussions that will take place in various working groups in the EU Council ”.
In general, the High Representative summarized, “Member States have expressed their support for the approach based on defense capabilities, and on the need to address hybrid challenges and engage with partners. The important thing now is to be able to translate ambition into action; and it is for this reason – he concluded – that the Compass has a clear timetable and a revision process that will allow us to reach these objectives and implement them ».
Finally, the Ministers of the Twenty-Seven today endorsed a negotiating mandate for an administrative agreement between the European Defense Agency, chaired by Borrell, and the US Department of Defense, with the aim of deepening transatlantic cooperation by launching a dedicated dialogue also in this area.
(with source Askanews)
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