European unification was gradually achieved through a set of projects carried out in the decades that followed the foundation of the Coal and Steel Community (1951), archetype of today’s European Union. Those projects responded to citizens’ needs, or were deemed necessary in Europe’s general interests, such as the creation of a common market, the completion of the domestic market, the creation of an area of freedom and justice undivided by borders, the development of a monetary and economic union with a single currency. The next project of this kind will be the institution of a European security and defence union.
There are several elements in favour of a defence Union:
First of all, the persistent threats to which Europe is exposed as a result of conflicts, tensions and wars not far from its borders. The wars in Syria and Yemen, the unstable situation in Afghanistan and Iraq, the tensions in the Holy Land, are all felt as a threat, and owing to the inflow of refugees from those areas, they directly influence European peoples’ sense of security; as do the terroristic activities of Islamic groups in Europe. European citizens are also worried about the turbulent situation in Africa resulting from political upheavals and draughts, not to mention Russia’s aggressive behaviour in the eastern part of Ukraine and the occupation of Crimea.
This causes widespread unrest, which citizens perceive as a threat to their families and to their future.
On top of everything, it’s no longer possible to rely on the United States, traditionally considered a protective shield. The US President’s decision to unilaterally exit the jointly agreed deal to curb the dangers posed by Iran could signal the end of Translatlantic relations hitherto based on mutual understanding and respect. In this respect, it is essential for the European Union to guarantee its citizens’ growing need for security. The unwavering harmonious relations between Member Countries are critical to renewed security efforts, thereby ensuring unreserved mutual support.
This will also strengthen European identity understood as a prerequisite for autonomy that Europe needs to emancipate itself from US dominance.
European political action will need to follow this path. On the one side, the present circumstances leave no other option, on the other, the dynamics of integration and unification have expanded the European Union’s scope and sovereignty, to the extent that it will no longer be able to evade the responsibility of its own defence. What’s more, the military expenditure of a high number of national defence forces could be reduced by including common procedures for the development, purchase and maintenance of weapons and military infrastructures among the tasks of European defence.
The sums saved could go towards development aid:
improving economic conditions and stabilizing national social systems in precarious African regions could contribute to peace and security as never before. In this respect, ongoing efforts aim at bringing together various initiatives aimed at stronger EU defence cooperation and intervention. This involves, inter alia, implementing the EU global strategy in the area of security and defence, the establishment of a European Defence Fund to subsidize collaborative projects, the institution of military planning and conduct capability along with an action plan to improve military mobility.
On 13 November 2017, 23 EU Member States – joined by other States since then – signed a joint notification on their intention to participate in a Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).
The European Council formally adopted the project a few weeks later. Thus 64 years after the failure of a European Defence Community owing to the no-vote of the French national Assembly, the EU set up the cornerstone of a European Union of security and defence understood as an essential element of European political unity.