At the last debate before the presentation of the draft Strategic Compass, which will set the political guidelines for the development of European defence and security in the following decade, EU defence ministers discussed the building of a rapid response force, countering hybrid threats, critical capability development and deepening of strategic partnership with NATO by signing the third joint declaration.
“Next year will represent a turning point, as the Strategic Compass will give new impetus to European defence.” Josep Borrell Fontelles High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
» Afghanistan has shown that we lack critical capabilities with which to play a greater role in resolving the situation in cooperation with NATO. We need to find solutions to speed up decision-making. Therefore, Slovenia supports concrete proposals in this direction.” Matej Tonin, MSc, Minister of Defence
In the debate on the increasing of the European Union’s operational readiness for security risks, defence ministers reiterated the EU’s need for a quicker independent response to crises in the immediate neighbourhood. It is expected that this could be facilitated by Rapid Reaction Forces, which, according to the ministers, should be built on the basis of the existing instruments. Compared to the latter, Rapid Reaction Forces should be more effective, flexible and robust, but above all, in order to facilitate their operation, it is important to provide mechanisms for timelier decision-making within the existing contractual provisions.
As part of the debate on strengthening resilience to complex crises, ministers discussed the hybrid toolbox and emergency measures to counter malicious activities of various hybrid actors. Minister Tonin emphasized that Strategic Compass should determine the direction of development. The scope and ways of designing such a set of tools will then be defined in the next phase.
Ministers also discussed the development of flagship capabilities within the six focus areas of the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD). Capability development should primarily focus on the capabilities directly minimising the shortfalls and increasing the EU’s strategic autonomy. Among the priority areas, Minister of Defence Tonin highlighted strategic lift, air refuelling, early warning system, strategic foresight and intelligence capabilities, taking into account the need to increase the energy efficiency of defence systems and reduce the carbon footprint of EU operational activities.
The participants expressed the need to strengthen cooperation between the EU and NATO, especially considering the fact that both organizations have strategic processes underway – EU Strategic Compass and NATO Strategic Concept. Although the cooperation of the EU and NATO in 74 areas is intensifying, it would be wise to broaden these areas by adding additional ones, such as cyber defence, disruptive technologies, effects of climate change and fight against terrorism. Ministers called for drafting of the third EU-NATO declaration by the end of this year.
This ministerial workshop, jointly organized by the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the European External Action Service (EEAS), represents the final phase of a strategic dialogue ahead of the November presentation of the draft document, which is due to be finally approved next March at the European Council meeting.