Thank Putin, not the French, for more European defense – EURACTIV.com

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In this week’s edition: Historic post-NATO summit, Ukraine last and Moldova.


The first six months of this year have shown that the time for European security and defense has come. But it has less to do with French President Emmanuel Macron’s grand defense vision and more to do with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

France’s six-month presidency has had its fair share of achievements, including on migration, defense and climate issues, though it has been overshadowed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The long-standing French goal of increasing European defense cooperation has been put forward by Macron, despite the reluctance of some EU governments.

Quickly drawing lessons from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, EU leaders agreed on March 11 in Versailles to “resolutely step up investment” in defense capabilities and “substantially increase” defense spending. throughout the block.

“Let’s be honest, most taboos fell out of necessity and less because there was suddenly a much greater appetite for stronger European defense as such,” an EU diplomat told EURACTIV.

“Most of the initiatives were already underway before the presidency [Strategic Compass]roughly discussed [more research and investment] or existed as a somewhat forgotten and obscure EU instrument or tool somewhere within the sphere of the European defense framework [European Peace Facility]largely taken into account only by researchers, less by member states,” the diplomat added.

The best example is the brand new EU military strategy document, the Strategic Compass, which was approved in March.

The project, which had been in the works for two years, was not a direct response to the war in Ukraine. Yet Putin’s invasion of Ukraine prompted a significant rewrite that those who were part of the drafting process say helped unify member states to push its most ambitious parts over the line. arrival.

The final version states that “the more hostile security environment compels us to leap forward, strengthening our will and ability to act.”

“However, we have to give credit to Macron. It’s hard to deny that, without a doubt, he kicked off something that we finally really needed,” said another EU diplomat.

Most of the proposals fueled the long-running debate that was kicked off by his Sorbonne speech in 2017, Macron’s European defense moment.

“But only the war in Ukraine pushed the member states to take another step because they suddenly realized that if they now acted collectively, French interests might not be pursued at the expense of other EU members, but in favor of the cause,” he added. .

After all, the presidency does not make the presiding member states the ultimate decision-makers in legislative processes or negotiations, but rather makes the country an honest broker.

The second example was the evolution of the European Peace Facility (EPF), which since 2020 allowed the EU to indirectly provide military equipment or infrastructure to partners.

At a “decisive moment” for its defense policy, EU member states have agreed to abandon the taboo that the EU cannot use its resources to supply arms to a country. They also released some 500 million euros for member states to buy weapons from the Ukrainian armed forces, in the hope of stopping the Russian invasion.

“The proposal made under Mogherini was initially made in an attempt to Europeanise the instruments of the common foreign and security policy,” an EU official said.

“Yes, it’s up to member states to approve the tranches of money, but ultimately it’s the EU diplomatic service that pushes and suggests how to spend it,” the official said, pointing out that decision-making has not only been increased at intergovernmental level between member states, but also increasingly institutionalized at the level of EU defense institutions.

From Friday (July 1), the Czech EU Presidency will last for the next six months and will be mainly impacted by the war in Ukraine and European defence; they will therefore, unsurprisingly, be its priorities.

Prague wants to “strengthen security and defense capabilities, particularly in partnership with NATO” and focus on new technologies and cyber threats.

In the meantime, there are already 51 actions within the framework of the strategic compass whose implementation is planned by the end of the year.

While these developments are encouraging, a sense of caution prevails around Brussels. In the past, European ambitions have often gradually run out of steam or have not led to a concrete result in the long term.

But Russia has indeed achieved something else it did not want, with the Europeans taking defense policy seriously and actually finding the will to use the instruments they created.


UKRAINE LAST

  • How to export grain from Ukraine in the midst of a sea blockade. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its blockade of the country’s seaports have forced one of the world’s leading grain exporters to look for new routes to export its products.
  • Zelenskyy tells NATO that Ukraine has earned a place in the “common security space”. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told NATO leaders that the alliance should reserve a place for Ukraine in the European security architecture.
  • ‘Please don’t betray us’: Ukrainians call on European Parliament to reject green label for gas and nuclear. Ukrainian activists and politicians have urged the European Parliament to reject plans to label nuclear and gas as ‘green’ investments, saying it would be a ‘gift to Putin’.
  • The Russian Embassy in Sofia is appealing for war donations. A blog post from the Russian Embassy in Sofia, inviting Bulgarians to donate for the military taking part in the invasion of Ukraine, is making waves in Bulgaria. It could be a sanctions violation.

DEFENSE CORNER

NATO LANDMARK | The truth is that just three years ago, NATO was approaching its “brain death” stage if the comments of some of its members are to be believed. But Russia’s war in Ukraine helped her rediscover her sense of duty.

NATO has agreed to a new strategic concept which identifies Russia as “the most significant and direct threat to the security and stability of the allies”, reflecting a serious deterioration in the alliance’s relations with Moscow over the past of the last decade. Here are the most important elements.

NATO also plans to massively increase the number of its high-readiness forces to more than 300,000, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said ahead of the summit, although it is still unclear how he will reach that number. .

Meanwhile, the United States plans to increase its long-term military presence in Europe, including a permanent headquarters in Poland and more military assets deployed in major European countries.

In an eleventh-hour deal, Turkey this week dropped its veto and said it would support Finland and Sweden’s bid to join NATO. The official signing of NATO accession protocols for the two Nordic countries is expected to take place on Tuesday 5 July.

ENLARGEMENT

MOLDOVA FOCUS | After gaining EU candidate status, Moldova hopes to increase its agricultural exports to the EU and receive more support to modernize and increase the resilience of its agricultural sector.

In one of the poorest countries in Europe, exports of IT products and services have increased fivefold over the past five years, mainly to EU countries.

THE EU IN THE WORLD

MIGRATORY RANK | A fresh row over migration policy between Africa and the EU has erupted in response to the deaths of dozens of migrants trying to cross from Morocco to the Spanish enclave of Melilla last week.

COMMERCIAL AGREEMENT | The European Commission has concluded negotiations on a free trade agreement with New Zealand, which would reduce a large part of the remaining tariffs between the two trading partners.


WHAT ELSE WE READ

ON OUR RADAR FOR THE NEXT DAYS…

  • Plenary session of the European Parliament
    | Mon-Thu, July 4-7, 2022 | Strasbourg, France
  • Ukraine Recovery Conference
    | Monday, July 4, 2022 | Lugano, Switzerland
  • Change of Command of Allied Command NATO Operations
    | Monday, July 4, 2022 | Mons, Belgium
  • Finland and Sweden will formally sign NATO membership protocols (TBC)
    | Tuesday, July 5, 2022 | Brussels, Belgium
  • G20 Foreign Ministers meeting, EU Foreign Minister Borrell attends
    | Thu-Fri, July 7-8, 2022 | Bali, Indonesia

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[Edited by Alice Taylor]