EDNL commentaar inzake Tweede Kamer technische briefing Clingendael inzake taakspecialisatie (23-11-2022)

Author: Iric van Doorn, Vice President Eurodefense Netherlands

Eurodefense is of the opinion that this paper is an excellent analysis of the presently available options for specialisation for the Netherlands Ministry of Defense. It also explains the relevant definitions, the terminology, and the various forms of specialisation within NATO and the EU. Its “Conclusions and options” for the Government of The Netherlands are realistic and mainly based on ongoing projects and programs. Nevertheless, Eurodefense has comments and suggestions.

The Research Paper limits itself to (mainly existing) projects and programs that will require a decision by individual participating countries to specialise in a certain activity or technology. This can be done on a bi- or multilateral basis and it will be coordinated, stimulated, supported, and monitored by NATO and/or the EU. The report states: “The uncertainty as to which threats and challenges countries might face underlines the need for close coordination among participating countries because it is crucial that they together cover the entire spectrum of defence capabilities.”

Over the past 70 years this non-committal attitude has delivered disappointing results. European NATO member-states still have an enormous variety of equipment and capabilities and certain concepts like the “battlegroups” are simply ineffective. It is as if all the players and instruments in the orchestra were available as well as various compositions, but unfortunately the conductor was absent. By maintaining the fiction of national sovereignty most European countries have tried to keep the illusion alive of being able to defend themselves and protect their defense-industries while at the same time reducing capabilities and capacities. Reality is that at present not one European Nation is able to defend itself against immediate, serious, and massive outside aggression.

NATO is certainly a useful organisation, but the foreign policy of the NATO leader-nation USA may not always be beneficial for Europe. Therefor EU member-states have decided to become more independent (“strategic autonomy”) from non-EU suppliers and non-EU defense organisations and in particular from the USA. The Treaty on the EU specifically mentions the mutual defense obligation binding all EU member-states to unconditionally defend a member-state with all means at its disposal if it so requests. This will require the capabilities and capacities to do so.

The argument that advantages of European defense specialisation could be compared to those of the economic theory of “comparative advantages” is not convincing. Defense specialisation among countries makes a country more dependent on various other countries that have taken over, or specialised in, certain of its tasks. In order to make this a reliable and effective system of cooperation an overall binding agreement on a Common Foreign Policy and Security and Defense Policy is required as well as an “umbrella” organisation such as a defense union. Today, this is not the case for the Netherlands.

Before answering the question “how to specialise in European defense” we must first ask the question “what are the present and future threats to the EU and how can the EU best defend itself.” It is the opinion of Eurodefense that the following decisions and initiatives are essential if the EU wants to become a credible global player able to defend itself:

·      The Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) should both be more specific; these policies should specify the common threats to all EU member-states and formulate common EU policy for third countries and regions. Formulating a military doctrine will be the next step. The EU Strategic Compass has been a good start in this respect.

·      Since the consensus-rule will block any progress in matters of Foreign Policy and Defense some system of Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) will have to be agreed upon; if the consensus-rule itself will block this we propose that EU member-states will form a “coalition of the willing” that can take the first steps towards the creation of an EU Defense Organisation (there is some comparability with the Eurozone)

·      This EU Defense Organisation (EUDO) will be the umbrella organisation for all defense organisations of the twenty-seven member-states and will participate in NATO as the “EU pillar.”

·      EU and EUDO mandates and decision-making procedures must facilitate quick and unambiguous decisions making in case of a crisis.

·      EUDO will initiate, coordinate, supervise and direct specialisation among the participating EU member-states in all aspects such as R&D, production, procurement, and operations. EUDO will function as the director of the orchestra of the participating member-states. No member-state will have to reduce capacities or capabilities against its will but participating in the EU Defense organisation will make a member-state certainly more secure because of the complementary capabilities and financial facilities.

·      EUDO will identify and develop those capabilities that are missing among the participating nations and its capabilities and capacities should be complementary to those of member-states.

·      As proposed in the Strategic Compass the EU will create a Rapid Deployment Capacity (RDC); this should be the responsibility of EUDO. Defense personnel for the RDC should be permanent professional EU personnel without personnel ties to individual member-states. The RDC should be able to withstand without delay a first attack or threat to EU territory or interests. Pre-commissioned ready units from member-states will follow up.

·      The EU and its defense partners such as the UK and Norway should formalise their defense cooperation in association agreements.

·      It will be the responsibility of EUDO that the capabilities and capacities of EUDO and the participating member-states together cover the entire spectrum of defence capabilities.”  

Eurodefense is of the opinion that the proposed “Conclusions and options for The Netherlands” in the Clingendael report will strengthen its defense capacities and capabilities. However, we recommend a Dutch defense policy that formulates a long-term objective for Dutch Defense within the framework of a more integrated EU defense policy and organisation. The Dutch government will have to introduce and promote its long-term EU defense-policy preference among the EU member-states and at the same time execute its own defense policy in line with its long-term vision. The creation of EUDO must be a priority for all member-states.

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