Second key note speaker was Hon Jim Murphy, Scottish Labour MP and Shadow Secretary of State for Defence. He argued for a re-evaluating the European defence which should lead to pooling of resources. In his view NATO provides the frame for this undertaking. I first want to support his claim that Europe must address the issue of defence. Second, however, I argue in favour of stronger defence cooperation within the frame of the European Union. My claim: The EU Member States should stay active in NATO but do so as a single actor. This would give Europe more weight in NATO, as well as make the organisation potentially more effective.
The Challenge to European Defence
European economies are crushed and thus the states have to cut budgets, including the one for defence which accounted up to 200 billion Euro a year before the crisis. At the same time soft and hard security threats are not disappearing. The question thus arises how to pay for soldiers, aircrafts and research.
The European Union Member States waste money and staff on highly ineffective armies according to Joylon Howorth. He remarks that of 1.9 million troops only 190,000 are trained and equipped for peacekeeping missions and only 50,000 for high-intensity battles.¹ Furthermore “there is tremendous waste in European defence spending” because “too many countries order essentially the same equipment from too many different suppliers.”²
What these numbers entail is that the Europeans states have too many soldiers which are too little deployable. At the same time their general spending is too ineffective, including the one for research. The European states have more military research programmes running than the US but spend just a fraction of the US budget for it.
Hence, Europe fails in financial terms – but not only there. Also regarding strategy the EU lacks well behind its status on world stage. Sven Biscop concluded in 2009 that in the European Union there is a huge cap between the strategy outlined and actual praxis. In fact, the EU lacks at all a grand strategy. This means that the EU is not prepared for sudden events, like the case of Libya proofed.
How to Save Money and make Europe’s Armies more effective?
The answer to these problems seems clear: We need to pool our resources to achieve higher cost effectiveness as well as improve capabilities. But how should we achieve this? The two options our there is either integrate the military within the frame of NATO or EU. The question is not if the European states should stay members of NATO – yes they should, we need NATO. However, NATO is an international organisation. There is no perspective at all that NATO will ever become more than that. If armies are supposed to approximate, how do you guarantee progress within an entirely intergovernmental organisation consisting of such different members as Canada and Turkey? How do you guarantee democratic control? How to you make sure the people support this endeavour?
NATO is not the right frame for this. The European Union in contrast offers considerable advantages: First of all, the Member States have relatively equal interests in geopolitics: mainly security on the European continent. Second, the European states have an equal approach to actual operations. For example, they make use of the EU’s transformative power, mix hard with soft power approaches or invest in state-building. Finally, the EU is better equipped for military cooperations because it is a political union. If accompanied by an increase of influence by the European and national parliaments this military integration would be truly democratically legitimised – in contrast to executive based decisions within NATO.
Interestingly, a deeper military integration within the frame of the EU would not foreclose greater European contribution to NATO. If the European forces are organised more efficiently this would at the same time provide the European states with greater resources to contribute to NATO. Equally interestingly, with greater engagement comes greater influence. The Europeans would then be able to wield more influence within NATO – giving it a more European face and balancing the US.
¹ Howorth, J. (2011). The EU’s Security and Defence Policy: Towards a Strategic Approach. In C. Hill & M. Smith (Eds.), International Relations and the European Union (2nd ed., pp. 198-222). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
² Grevi, G., & Keohane, D. (2009). ESDP Resources. In G. Grevi, D. Helly & D. Keohane (Eds.), European Security and Defence Policy: The First Ten Years (1999-2009). Paris: EU Institute for Security Studies.Tags: defence, Murphy, NATO, opinion