Less words, more action

NOTES FROM THE EU DELEGATION - Luc Véron - The Philippine Star

In recent years, the European Union’s security environment has deteriorated or, to be blunt, the world has become less secure. In 2020, there were active armed conflicts in 39 states – five more than the year before. Alas, 2022 saw Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine and we now face a war on Europe’s doorstep with unforeseen consequences for the world.

From Ukraine to the South China Sea, the Sahel and beyond, the world is becoming more contested and unstable. Conflicts have become more complex. Military expenditure and development of new weapons and other military assets are increasing. Foreign interference through hybrid threats, disinformation and cyber-attacks are increasingly used to destabilize other countries.

All these perils have a direct effect on the global and regional security and defense situation. The impact on the European Union is no exception and we need to be prepared to act when our interests are at stake. Complicated security challenges require complex and multi-layered responses.

That is why security and defense are becoming an increasingly important part of the EU global role. Last month, the EU launched the Strategic Compass, which delineates our plan of action for strengthening our security and defense policy by 2030. It provides a common vision by setting clear goals, actions and timelines, from diplomacy and security to trade and research, to development cooperation or humanitarian aid.

Four lines of action are to be covered in the EU’s Strategic Compass: 1) Faster action and determination whenever a crisis erupts; 2) Protection of our citizens by anticipating new threats, increasing our resilience and securing access to strategic domains: cyber, outer space and maritime; 3) Investing to develop cutting-edge military capabilities and 4) Collaborating with partners such as the United Nations, NATO, the United States, Norway, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Our Compass is quite comprehensive, so I just want to highlight a few of its components:

Preparing for future crises

The Compass includes a concrete plan for an EU Rapid Deployment Capacity to allow us to quickly deploy up to 5,000 troops for different types of crises, based on different scenarios. We will also increase the readiness of our forces through regular live exercises (never done before at the EU level), strengthen our command-and-control arrangements and promote faster and more flexible decision-making.

Deepening defense cooperation

Put together, the EU member-states are the world’s second largest military spender. Better coordination and cooperation among member-states would avoid fragmentation and improve efficiency.

Since 2017, 25 member-states have committed to cooperate more closely with one another in this area and have adhered to a series of “more binding commitments,” related to spending and investment, capability development and operational engagement. To mention a few examples: the development of an Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle, the operational use of the Eurodrone, the development of a European corvette naval vessel or the formation of cyber response teams.

Strengthening maritime security

Safe and secure seas and oceans are critical to our trade and economy. This is obviously also the case for the Philippines. The maritime domain is increasingly contested between global and regional powers, thus directly affecting our sea lines of communication. Piracy, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, drug trafficking, trafficking in human beings and other illegal activities at sea affect lives and livelihoods in many places of the world.

The EU is promoting maritime security and the rule of law at sea through naval operations, international cooperation and dialogue, as well as capacity building. We want to build upon our experiences in the Gulf of Guinea and the Indian Ocean and develop coordinated member-states’ naval presence in key strategic areas to strengthen the EU’s role as a security provider.

The EU also supports capacity building in partner countries around the world to ensure their own maritime security and the security of sea lines of communication. In the Philippines, the EU is pursuing vigorously its maritime cooperation through CRIMARIO (“Critical Maritime Routes in the Indo-Pacific”) to step up maritime domain awareness through information sharing, capacity building and training. I am proud that the Philippines is the first ASEAN country benefiting from this project.

We started to work on the Compass when we already felt that in a world of power politics, the EU needed to speak the language of power and enhance its collective capacity to act. Everything that has happened since has only fortified our resolve.

As the EU High Representative Josep Borrell said, “l am well aware that words are often easy and cheap but that actually providing security and defense is hard and expensive. The real metric for success will be whether the Strategic Compass leads to concrete results or not.”

The EU is making its headway in the areas of security and defense. Working with the Philippines and other countries in the Indo Pacific, I am confident that our integrated approach – bringing civilian and military instruments together and cooperative and multilateral solutions – will help ensure a safer and more secure world not only for European citizens but also for the rest of the world.

Now is the time for action.

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Luc Véron is the Ambassador of the European Union to the Philippines.

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