First of all, I would like to thank the Rapporteurs Mr McAllister and Ms Loiseau for their work. We very much share the spirit of the document: the call to continue supporting Ukraine and to enhance the EU’s security and defence.
Indeed, the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine has shown the need for a stronger and more capable European Union in the field of security and defence. Thus, your Report is extremely timely.
Honourable Members [of the European Parliament],
The EU strongly stands with Ukraine and supports it politically, militarily, on the humanitarian front, and economically. Our political and military commitment is absolutely clear, as reiterated last week by the European Council.
Our words are matched by deeds: we adopted the largest set of sanctions in EU history. Only last week leaders welcomed the sixth package of sanctions against Russia to cover crude oil, as well as petroleum products.
The leaders also welcomed a new increase in military assistance to Ukraine. The Europe of tomorrow will emerge from the battlefields of Ukraine. This is why, since the beginning of the war, we have supplied €2 billion in assistance to the Ukrainian Armed Forces through our European Peace Facility. This is unprecedented.
Second, on EU security and defence. I fully subscribe to the Report’s call for “making genuine progress in foreign policy and for policy defence cooperation at Union level”. The Russian unprovoked aggression against Ukraine and wider threats to European and global security made it even more evident. This is an attack also to Europe and the whole democratic world. We need to be more united and more capable to act.
For this, we need first and foremost to strengthen our defence capabilities. This is what the EU leaders discussed last week, building on the defence investment gaps analysis that the High Representative had presented jointly with the Commission.
The message is clear: we need not only to invest more in defence, but also invest better – which means together, in a coordinated way. Between 2009 and 2018, the EU has accumulated an under-expenditure of around €160 billion and an under-investment of about €44 billion.
Since 2018, figures have gone up and are expected to grow further following recent announcements. Yet, collaborative defence investments are still too low – only 11% in 2020 and down to 8% in 2021 – far below the agreed benchmark of 35%. This means fragmentation and waste of resources. We need to reverse this trend and do more together.
The Joint Communication puts forward a number of proposals to do so, starting with joint procurement. The European Council has tasked the Council to take work forward, and as Chair of the FAC [Foreign Affairs Council] Defence, the High Representative intends to do so without delay. The European Defence Agency will continue to play a central role in supporting Member States in their efforts to strengthen their military capabilities, working closely with the Commission.
This is also part of the broader work in the framework of the Strategic Compass, adopted in March – which provides the ‘backbone’ to our security and defence efforts. As you know, the Compass contains over 80 concrete actions that will allow us to make a quantum leap forward in security and defence.
Work is well underway, including on many on the topics mentioned in your Report, such as the operationalisation of the Rapid Deployment Capacity, the use of article 44, to increase our flexibility and swiftness of action or to increase the resilience of the EU and our partners.
These are just a few examples of areas where much progress is taking place as we speak.
The war is not over yet but we can clearly say that Putin’s and the Russian regime’s strategy has failed. Instead of toppling the Ukrainian government, it strengthened it. Instead of dividing the EU and NATO, he has united them. As rightly pointed out in the Report, NATO and EU have never been so firmly united. Last week Danish citizens decided in a referendum to abolish the Defence opt-out. Finland and Sweden have applied to join NATO. These are just recent examples of the interest in the further progress on EU’s security and defence and on strengthening NATO as a defensive alliance. These decisions will bring additional strength and unity to NATO and our CSDP and defence initiatives.
We are doing precisely what the Report calls for: enhancing cooperation with partners, in particular with NATO. Since the first day of Russia’s invasion on 24 February, EU and NATO have demonstrated political unity and complementarity of efforts. We are in very close cooperation with our international partners to respond the Russian military aggression against Ukraine and its civilians. It could not be another way because the stakes are too high.
Link to the video (starting at 10:33): https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-226254
Madam Chair, Honourable Members [of the European Parliament],
We take note of, and very much welcome, your continuous support for the development of EU security and defence. We will continue to strongly support Ukraine, including significant military and political support to end this war. We share your sense of urgency. With war at our borders, we need to be more determined and more united in our efforts than ever.
Many of you referred to the importance of bringing forward EU security and defence. Let me assure you that this progress is well underway, as is the work of the Strategic Compass, but also across many policy areas, including missions and operations, Rapid Deployment Capacity, EU-NATO, and industry. Again, this file is a high political priority for the High Representative and for Member States.
Thank you again for the report and the recommendations. They will certainly provide a useful input
in to the debates held in the Council.
We remain at your disposal for further exchanges with you on progress, on a regular basis.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-226256