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Seminar on the European Council on Defence 2013
Dublin Castle – 17th May, 2013

Address by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence,
Alan Shatter, T.D.

Secretary General, Chief of Staff distinguished speakers and moderators, ladies and gentlemen.
I welcome the opportunity to open this seminar today which will address issues relating to the discussion of Defence issues at the European Council in December next.

This is an important discussion. We all need to be cognisant of the fact that the work we embark on today, and which will continue through the Lithuanian Presidency, will set the parameters for the development of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and defence capacity within the Union, potentially for the next five years. As such we need to be determined and ambitious, but also, pragmatic and considered, in how we formulate the agenda for this discussion.

On a personal basis, I would particularly like to thank our distinguished speakers and moderators for agreeing to participate and present at this high level seminar.

It is a number of years since the European Council last discussed defence issues and military capability, including CSDP. The upcoming European Council discussion therefore affords all of us a significant and relatively unique opportunity to place defence issues centre stage for the Heads of State and Government of EU Member States.

Since December last, Member States have been actively addressing this topic across a range of fora. This topic has been on the agenda of every formal and informal meeting since Ireland assumed the Presidency of the European Council. A number of discussion papers have already been presented, with more to come. A number of think-tanks are also actively considering this issue, together with the Commission, the External Action Service and the European Defence Agency. This demonstrates the importance of the current opportunity and the seriousness with which we take the issue of defence within the Union. If the opportunity is to be realised, we must ensure that the discussion in December will be inclusive, instructive and wide ranging.

The European Council discussion is a common thread for this year’s work on CSDP. During the many discussions that have taken place already a number of common themes emerged, including that:

resources would remain in short supply – necessitating Pooling and Sharing;

there is a need for a clearly articulated political commitment to the deployment of Battlegroups - if not we need to question the basis for them;

We need to develop a functional toolbox of military capabilities including enablers and niche capabilities which can be deployed in support of CSDP missions; and

We need to significantly improve decision making cycles so as the EU can respond where and when required - the experience from the Mali mission would suggest that, while individual Member States could respond rapidly, the decision making process within the EU had been found wanting.

Member States and decision makers have a significant role to play in both the preparations for and in the Council itself. Clearly individual Member States will have their own national priorities that they would like to see discussed, planned and implemented as a result of this Council. However, we need to be both realistic and willing to compromise on the range of issues that will be considered. Obviously not all our national objectives can be achieved or even discussed. I believe that the most important objective is to ensure that the debate is strategic, worthwhile, and rational. Most importantly it should produce deliverables and a clear political direction on the way forward for the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy and for Defence more generally.

European defence matters”, as I and President Van Rompuy recently stated in our respective addresses at the European Defence Agency Annual Conference. It matters, in the first instance for the safety and security of the citizens of our individual Member States; it matters for the safety and security of the Union as a whole; and it matters on the international stage for the safety and security of the most vulnerable in the world. It also matters, as President Van Rompuy stated, “because of the jobs, the cutting edge technologies, and the potential for growth”.

Situated in that context, defence is a theme that all Heads of State and Government recognize and understand. It is our responsibility as the Defence community to ensure that we present appropriate strategies, which they can endorse and which will deliver a safe and secure environment for our citizens, our communities, our States and, indeed, for the wider world with which we interact in today’s globalised world.

Three broad parameters and themes for the discussion have already been set by the European Council in 2012. I do not intend to delve too deeply into these themes. However, I would like to look at them in the broadest sense relative to CSDP.

As I have said on a number of occasions, “in today’s rapidly changing world our values and interests are being continually challenged and we need to be able to respond to those challenges”. The threats to our security that we face today are real and substantial. They threaten not alone our citizens and communities, but also international peace and security at large. Throughout the world, these threats have become more difficult to address and are becoming ever more interrelated. As we endeavour to tackle or indeed overcome these many security challenges, we must strengthen both our response and our capacity to respond.

We know that there is a need to increase the effectiveness and visibility of CSDP, a core theme of the discussion to take place at the European Council. However, in my view, the greatest requirement is to ensure its effectiveness and impact not alone to maintain international peace and security but also to guarantee the security of our citizens. We need to ensure that CSDP acts to ensure the promotion of the EU’s values and interests, both within and outside the Union. We should also seek to safeguard those who cannot defend themselves and ensure that we have and can deploy the requisite civil and military capabilities to this end. This is the bottom line when it comes to CSDP. Regardless of all other issues and constraints, CSDP is required, needed, and must be used, to help protect those who are vulnerable, defenceless and in need of security.

This brings me to the second theme: enhancing the development of defence capabilities. We are all aware of the instances in the recent past whereby the EU has had to rely on partners to facilitate our actions and reactions to world events. For a region that is one of the most technologically advanced in the world, has a population of over 500 million, standing Defence Forces of approximately 1.7 million and has significant military hardware, it seems unbelievable that we cannot supply some of the basic military capabilities that are required. We are all aware of instances, both in the past and more recently, where this has been the case. It is incumbent on all of you, given your positions as key decision makers to ensure that this cannot and will not recur.

I would like to see the European Council on Defence result in each Member State, either individually or as a group, looking critically at the resources and capabilities required to assist in such missions and operations. It would seem to me that there must be increased potential for specialisation in delivering niche capabilities, to be called on when the need arises. Perhaps it could be the case that each Member State would, alone or with others, provide a particular capability that can be used by the EU, in response to International crises. This is the “toolbox” approach that I referred to earlier, whereby, specific capabilities are developed by particular Member States to be called on to deploy at the request of the Council, with the full range of capabilities being available within the Union as a whole. The EU is currently developing military capabilities through a range of initiatives, which include the Pooling and Sharing initiative, bilateral, multilateral or regional cooperative arrangements. We need to ensure that these arrangements deliver tangible and deployable capabilities for CSDP operations so as to ensure that we are in a position to launch a CSDP mission in a timely and efficient manner.

In order to effectively support capability development and the provision of key capabilities, we need to examine how our national defence planning is conducted. We must ensure that the military capability needs of individual Member States are closely aligned with those of the Union as a whole. An alignment of national defence planning cycles, would better afford Member States the opportunity to engage in bilateral, multilateral cooperative arrangements and in Pooling and Sharing initiatives. The European Council in December presents us with an ideal opportunity to discuss the advantages of adopting a more coordinated approach at EU level to Defence Planning, particularly in these times of austerity. With the support of Heads of State and Government this initiative could be facilitated by the European Defence Agency in close consultation with all relevant national capability decision makers.

We must overcome the situation where a delay in launching a CDSP operation is due solely to internal delays in assigning resources, both troops and equipment from within the readily available resources and Member State capabilities. More importantly, we need to ensure that there is the political will amongst all concerned to make these capabilities available when and where needed in support of international peacekeeping and crisis management operations. In this regard, there is a requirement to advance the concept of International Peacekeeping and Crisis Management as a common good which contributes to all of our security. Heads of State and Government can lend their weight to ensure the effective implementation of the full spectrum of potential support by the EU to the UN in peacekeeping operations.

The third strand is to strengthen Europe’s Defence industry. In the development of military capabilities, we need to examine innovative and cost effective means of generating these capabilities. The European Defence Technological and Industrial Base makes a major contribution to the security and defence of EU Member States and is an important prerequisite for an effective Common Security and Defence Policy. Heads of State and Government acknowledged this last December when they said there is a requirement to strengthen Europe’s defence industry, mainly by “developing a more integrated, sustainable, innovate and competitive European defence technological and industrial base,” developing greater synergies between civilian and military research and development and finally by promoting “a well-functioning defence market open to small and medium-sized enterprises”.

I acknowledge the work undertaken by the Commission Task Force on Defence Industries and Markets. It is important that we explore the different policy options available to the Commission to strengthen the European defence equipment market and further enhance the competitiveness of the defence industry.

The varied range of capabilities/technologies being developed by industries across Europe can in many instances have a civilian and defence application – dual use goods. We must ensure that we eliminate duplication and deliver more effective collaboration in the development and exploitation of complementary technologies for civilian security and military defence capabilities. To this end, we need to work very closely with all parts of the Commission, so as to ensure that we collectively strengthen CSDP efforts – both in the civilian and defence domains. We need this coordinated approach to ensure that we can realise the synergies and economies which can be achieved from civil and military actors working together. This, in turn, will support jobs and growth in our economies.

The European Council debate is primarily centred on defence and capability development in the context of CSDP. That said, Defence Ministers also need to consider the wider dimensions of the discussion on defence, which now also reaches into the Commission. This is particularly the case in relation to the development and acquisition of defence capabilities, the development of the defence industry market, the defence research base etc. As this sectoral discussion continues to evolve, Defence Ministers need to consider further the appropriate structures and institutional framework for their engagement on these issues. We should also factor in the review of the External Action Service. With the coming into effect of the Lisbon Treaty provisions, we have moved from what previously may have been an overly Presidency centred agenda. This has been beneficial in providing continuity on key policy initiatives. However, with my experience of been actively engaged in Ireland’s Presidency over the past 6 months, it would seem to me that the potential for the Presidency to support the continued evolution of CSDP and the engagement of Ministerial colleagues, through a more explicit role, is worthy of further consideration. I believe that this is an issue where Defence Ministers might have a considered discussion in advance of the European Council in December.

As we move forward to the December European Council, the Defence community as a whole must seek to ensure that Heads of State and Government understand and appreciate the opportunity that the meeting presents for Europe’ security, its place in the world and for development, jobs and growth.

Today’s seminar affords us the opportunity to feed into that debate, to examine how we can foster more effective co-operation among Member States and indeed between the various institutions and organisations. It will also offer us the opportunity to address how this cooperation and coordination at Member State level can be used to give greater effect to CSDP. I am particularly interested in hearing the views of today’s speakers as to how we can develop greater synergies between civilian and military research and development. Finally, I am interested in hearing how we will continue to ensure that the institutional framework and processes engage the Member States, support defence capability development and deliver on the Union’s ambitions for CSDP.

I wish you all the best in your deliberations.


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