Reflection paper on the future of European defence
Subject headingsSecurity and defence cooperation
Rising from the ashes of two world wars that took 80 million lives, our European Union (EU) was inspired by a vision of lasting peace on the European continent. More than 60 years on, most Europeans have enjoyed a peace spanning three generations and seven decades, the longest period of peace in Europe’s troubled history (see Figure 1). While the world we live in may have changed profoundly in that time, our commitment to peace remains unshakeable. Today we enjoy unprecedented opportunities in our everyday lives, but we are also faced with new threats and challenges. Peace and security at home can no longer be taken for granted in a world in which global and regional powers rearm, terrorists strike at the heart of cities in Europe and around the world and cyberattacks escalate. Faced with this context, the European Union and its Member States have a duty and responsibility to protect citizens and promote European interests and values. Security has become one of the biggest concerns for Europeans. They look to their Union for protection. They demand, deserve and must be able to feel safe and secure in Europe. Protecting our societies and freedoms is a joint responsibility. If we are to deliver on our peace promise to the next generations in the same way as was done for us, security and defence must play a more prominent role in the European project. Our Union is best placed to provide unique added value when it comes to the future of European security and defence. Many of the threats we face today do not respect national borders. While Member States remain on the front line and are responsible for deploying security and armed forces when needed, these new types of threats are best prevented and tackled by working together. That cooperation can be triggered, facilitated and reinforced by the EU and help make collective action more effective. The Union can provide the framework and the incentives for EU countries to develop and maintain more and better defence capabilities. This can be done through more systematic cooperation and the joint development of technologies and capabilities needed to keep Europe safe. One of the major strengths of the EU's approach is its blend of soft and hard power. It uses security and defence instruments alongside diplomacy, sanctions, development cooperation and trade aimed at preventing conflict. It promotes peace, inclusive growth, human rights, rule of law, and environmental protection at home and abroad. While soft power alone may not be enough in an unstable world, this integrated approach lies at the heart of sustainable security. Our Union also provides a unique platform to coordinate security and defence policies with core partners such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the United Nations (UN). An unprecedented momentum is currently drawing the EU and NATO closer together. In his 2016 State of the Union address, President Juncker called for a ‘Europe that protects and defends, at home and abroad’. This reflection paper considers the issues that matter for the future of our security and defence. It does so by looking beyond current debates and decisions. Instead, it considers underlying structural trends, presents different scenarios of possible futures for European security and defence by 2025, and maps our possible ways forward.