In early November, President Macron made a statement that triggered a series of heated tweets from President Trump. He said that Europe should protect itself from China, Russia… and the United States. Donald Trump quickly responded that Europe should, first and foremost, contribute more to the NATO budget. What is the situation regarding a European defence?
Nowadays, tensions are increasing within the Atlantic relation, especially between France and Germany and the United States. Indeed, President Trump has repeatedly declared that Americans should stop supporting the European burden in the defence field and that Europeans must start investing more in their defence and therefore in NATO. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is the heart of the Atlantic relation: created shortly after the Second World War (1949), it protected Europeans from the Soviet threat during the Cold War. Its article 5 declares, “an armed attack against one or more of the members (…) shall be considered an attack against them all. (…) if such an armed attack occurs, each of them (…) will assist the Party or Parties so attacked”.
To secure peace in Europe, the US wanted European countries to focus on building the European Union. To do so, the superpower has borne the defence burden since the creation of the Alliance. Nonetheless, recently, with Donald Trump’s declarations and President Macron’s willingness to make the EU more independent from the US, many initiatives have been undertaken in the field of defence. Global threats, such as China and Russia, and terrorist attacks have also highlighted the necessity for a more powerful and coordinated European defence.
Thus, in his Sorbonne keynote in September 2017, President Macron proposed to create a European Intervention Initiative (E2I) with European countries that have the capacity and willingness to act in the defence area.
What is the European Initiative Intervention?
In his Sorbonne keynote, President Macron said that the Europe of 2024 should be “sovereign, strategic and independent”. E2I could be one of the tools to address this objective and has multiples objectives. First, it is supposed to enable a better and quicker cooperation between countries in emergency scenarios (natural disaster, evacuation of nationals, terrorist attack…) by enhancing the ability of members to act together on missions headed by NATO, UN, the EU or a coalition. Moreover, E2I should strengthen links between national armed forces thanks to enhanced interaction on intelligence sharing, scenario planning (joint exercises), exchange of officers, support operation and doctrine. More precisely, cooperation will be fostered in four areas: strategic foresight, scenarios of employment, doctrine and lessons learned and support to operation.
Ultimately, the initiative aims to create a common strategic culture by developing common analyses and responses to threats.
France will play a key role in E2I because it will implement a permanent secretariat with the liaison officers of participating countries. Officials will meet several times a year (biannual military strategic talks, annual meeting of Defence political director and annual ministerial event).
Despite the European character of its members, the E2I does not develop within the EU framework. Indeed, in spite of Brexit, Great Britain decided, among the first countries, to be a part of this project, enabling the UK to remain a crucial partner in the security and defence field. Second of all, this new framework is more favourable for a quicker response than the EU, which often has to follow the lowest common denominator logic.
More than a year after the Sorbonne keynote, ten countries (France, Great-Britain, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Estonia, Portugal, Spain and Finland) are part of this new initiative. This first nucleus of European countries will allow the initiative to grow faster because cooperation is simpler between ten countries. Other countries will follow when E2I is more mature and efficient.
There are no established criteria to enter E2I but participation revolves around four statements:
– Commitment to the EU and NATO
– A shared vision on security issues
– Ability to deploy liaison officers
– Political willingness and military capability to shoulder an operation
E2I implementation and the questions it raised
E2I implementation raised some questions and problems that needed to be addressed.
First, German participation was not automatic because of the new framework in which E2I develops. Because of its history, Germany has long been absent in the field of defence delegating all defence duties to NATO. However, from the 90s onward, Germany has started to be more and more active in the European defence policy especially since France asked Germany to take on its responsibility for European security. After the announcement of the E2I creation, Chancellor Angela Merkel was rather cautious about German participation. France’s European partners have always been careful when France talked about European strategic autonomy because the country is known to be rather wary regarding NATO. This new project with a new framework needed more clarification for the German Chancellor to pursue it. In April 2018, Angela Merkel announced German participation in E2I but in June, she added one condition to this cooperation: E2I must be included in the Permanent Structure Cooperation (PESCO) of the EU. PESCO was launched in November 2017 with 25 countries in order to deepen cooperation in the defence area. Many other officials such as the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini asked for clarifications. This delayed the launch of E2I until late June. Officials needed assurance that the initiative was not going to be designed against PESCO or NATO and some were reluctant to place France as the leader of this project. Finally, on June 25th nine countries signed the Letter of Intent to start an E2I that would be designed in close relation to PESCO. Italy was invited to be part of it but postponed its participation.
Finally, E2I remains an autonomous initiative regarding PESCO but the ultimate goal will benefit the 25 members-states participating in PESCO and also benefit NATO. However, there will be strong links between the two projects. Some PESCO projects of the first wave will obviously benefit EI2, namely in the field of Military Mobility or Support to operations. Conversely, the EI2 Military European Strategic Talks will allow the elaboration and joint submission of a shared strategic vision to EU or NATO, for the sake of the whole community. Nonetheless, a merging won’t be possible since Denmark has an opt-out of the PSDC and the UK will stop being a member of the EU.
Moreover, some participating countries feared E2I could duplicate NATO. But actually, France argued that it would be designed in complement with NATO rather than duplication and that it could help to cover some “blind spots” left by the Alliance. It could also be a solution to the “burden-sharing” issue denounced by the US since the end of the Cold War.
To conclude, if E2I is completed successfully by this first nucleus of European countries, it could be a real step forward into giving to the EU a genuine role on the international scene. Closer cooperation could be the key to the strategic independence of Europeans.