The incoming European Parliament approved during its last plenary session a deal setting a 13 billion defence fund that is aimed at boosting the bloc’s mining industry. Sputnik asked Anneke de Laaf\.

Sputnik: The European Parliament endorsed a provisional agreement reached by co-legislators about the future European Defence Fund (EDF) for its next budget period spanning 2021 to 2027. What’s the significance of this arrangement?

Anneke de Laaf: After EU President Juncker first declared the introduction of the European Defence Fund in the State of the Union address at 2016, he spoke of an EU within an existential crisis. Bear in mind, that was right after the Brexit vote.

He worried about the lack of unity, the growth of’populism’ and fragmentation, but mostly concerning Europe’s decreasing part on the world stage, in politics, scientific innovation and the economy.

This photo taken on September 22, 2016 shows a British soldier walking by a Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet at Royal Air Force's Akrotiri base in Cyprus, before taking off for a coalition mission over Iraq.

AFP 2019 / Petros Karadjias

He predicted for a long term vision and an optimistic attitude on tangible European actions, a.o. to”a Europe that awakens at home and abroad”:”For European defence to be powerful, the European Union sector should innovate. That’s exactly why we’ll propose before the close of the year that a European Defence Fund, to boost innovation and research ”

Now, using this arrangement on a long-term budget, this vision may be implemented. The EU shows that it is committed to addressing the problems technological invention, EU cooperation and investing in EU engineering\.

The time is interesting, before the election of a new EU Parliament (though this might be a coincidence of course). If the’populist’ parties triumph, since Brussels appears to fear, then the EDF is safe for the forthcoming years.

Sputnik: Could this agreement be viewed as a step of developing a European army?

(*)Anneke de Laaf: Though the statement doesn’t expressly refer to an European military, Juncker, in his address in 2016 substantially stated:”The Lisbon Treaty enables those Member States who wish, to pool their defence capabilities in the kind of a permanent structured cooperation. I think the time to generate use of this potential is currently.”

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The simple fact that Juncker does not use the term European army exemplifies how sensitive this issue is.

This photo taken on September 22, 2016 shows a British soldier walking by a Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet at Royal Air Force's Akrotiri base in Cyprus, before taking off for a coalition mission over Iraq.

AFP 2019 / / Petros Karadjias

NATO-leader USA isn’t excited to have competition for the European Union budgets. Donald Trump, such as his predecessor Barack Obama, compels member states to cover additional to NATO (and invest on US military equipment). Spending those budgets on a military instead is not in the interest of Washington rates.

In precisely the exact same time, the idea of a French or German dominated European army brings back memories of war-torn Europe, where several significant players fought dominance to get well above 1000 years. The fear amongst the countries is, \an army would largely serve French or German interests and not always theirs.

Since Juncker Id pointed outthat the EU remains fragmented. The North is different from West, East from the South. With ideas and interests, a single EU military is likely a bridge too far for today\.

But increased cooperation between various players is probably, in actuality, this happens, albeit mostly within the NATO framework right now.

Sputnik: EU MEPs advocate devoting 13 billion euros to the development of the EDF.  What would be the fiscal distribution priorities? Why these?

(Decision )Anneke de Laaf: Personally, I would rather see defensive technology prioritized. With ever increasing NATO aggression against EU neighbour and fellow European nation the Russian Federation, the possibility of something going amiss sadly also increases, and I believe it is a government’s first priority (and obligation) to shield the citizens.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Chief of the Defence Staff French Army General Pierre de Villiers arrive in a command car for the traditional Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, France, July 14, 2017.

REUTERS / Stephane Mahe

Looking at the tips (as communicated at a press release on June 2018), the EU will concentrate on innovation in disruptive technologies and drone technologies, such as. These aren’t necessarily defensive.

Another related initiative declared in precisely exactly the identical press release is the European Peace Facility, that has really very little to do with serenity and is actually a budgetary instrument to cover expenditure for EU contributions to’peace operations’ led by spouses that cannot be financed under the EU’s funding due to the military and defence implications. The funds to the EPF will sum to $ 10.5 billion.

The EDF compliments other EU programmes, such as the Spinning Europe Facility ($6.5 billion) to improve the EU’s tactical transport infrastructures for army mobility. The infrastructure is improved over NATO’s orders.

(Decision )Sputnik: Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer made a note that Germany and France are working together on a combat aircraft job; she added that the next step is the introduction of a joint aircraft carrier. Can we expect for the technological independence of Europe? If so, when?

(Decision )Anneke de Laaf: In theory we might hope for full technological independence, there’s the required know-how, there is a desire to produce new technologies and extra resources will become available. It is unlikely, though, I believe for two reasons.

Members of Eurocorps military contingent hold the Europeen flag during a ceremony for Croatia's accession to the European Union on July 1, 2013, in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France


First of all, our planet has gotten so globally interdependent, it is hard for any nation to become completely technologically independent. The USA utilizes Russian engines to their rockets. With \international trade relations, there is obviously no need.

Secondly, many EU nations are also NATO members, also it is an unwritten (but openly enforced) principle that NATO members should buy at least a few US military technologies. This will remain a factor.

This doesn’t mean, but that active collaboration in defence jobs amongst EU nations shouldn’t be undertaken and encouraged. And the EDF intends to do that.

Sputnik: A group of deputies from the French and German parliaments commenting on the situation stated that military alliance within the EU would not produce competition for NATO. If these military blocs are not competing, then what’s the difference?

(*)Anneke de Laaf: I think the concept is that they are complementary. The EU is extremely careful to always place its own projects. From the press release of June 2018 for Instance, they state:

The Key characteristics of this European Defence Fund are:

Financing of projects which help make the EU safer and more which correspond to priorities agreed by Member States in the frame of the Common Security and Defence Policy along with other regional and Global organisations including NATO;

Mr. Juncker in his 2016 address said:”We should also move towards common military assets, in certain cases possessed by the EU. And, of course, in complete complementarity with NATO.”

One gets the impression that they would prefer an independent EU army, however, for whatever reason don’t dare move it alone without NATO, or go against Washington.

Officers of an air defense regiment of the Russian Armed Forces during a combat alert duty at the control board of an S-400 Triumf missile system in Crimea.

Sputnik / / Sergey Malgavko

Obviously, if they did attain effective EU military alliance, this could strengthen the EU place within NATO. But using the overwhelmingly superior US military could (at least in numbers and budget), it is hard to comprehend how the EU nations would then be able to force Washington to change its policies. NATO will for now remain the element. I anticipate any EU military will be used for’peace missions’ and projects.

The question is obviously, what will the EU or a EU military perform, if Washington attacked a vital EU fascination, e.g. Nord Stream two? Can you stand by your NATO spouse or do you shield your interests?

I feel it is issues like that which are made the EU contemplate setting up its army in the first place.

US interests may differ from EU interests, often quite significantly. How prepared is Washington when interests diverge to assist the EU? Can it share technology that is key\? We know Washington does not share all, although essential intelligence isn’t always shared. With China becoming the significant economic (and more political and tactical ) player, Washington’s attention is shifting to Asia. And together with Donald Trump, our elite recognized they might have to manage a political leader with \thoughts very different from their own. Is your USA still the dependable partner it once was (or was believed to be)?

Sputnik: What will the EU’s army cooperation focus on?

(Decision )Anneke de Laaf: One of the ideas behind the EDF is that member countries not simply develop advanced military technology collectively, but also buy the goods that are the outcome. Another aim is to save funds. And as mentioned previously, developing plans may also be a focus.

Sputnik: President Trump has criticised NATO members for spending more on the bloc’s defence funding. But Europe is \moving in the path of its defence bloc and improvements\. What would this lead to?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks at a reception to celebrate NATO's 70th anniversary in Washington, U.S., April 3, 2019

REUTERS / Joshua Roberts

Anneke de Laaf: Purchasing EU technology may put the EU in battle with Washington, which needs its NATO’partners’ to get US weaponry. We see.

But in this situation, perhaps it doesn’t come to blows. Keep in mind, that the EU programs are placed within the NATO framework. And extra budgets are earmarked for improvement of the infrastructure to move US troops around Europe and also to fund’peace missions’ with’partners’.

It will ultimately depend on how much cash is invested on NATO. In my estimation, the EU will attempt to avert a conflict.

Sputnik: What response may be expected from US government to the EU’s steps to reinforce its strategic autonomy?

(Decision )Anneke de Laaf: I’m not sure the EU could strengthen its freedom, maybe perhaps not in a meaningful way. As Washington is sure to point out Keep in mind, most member countries are NATO members also this specific responsibilities\.

(Decision )Quite frankly, I don’t believe Washington would tolerate EU strategic autonomy and would seek to block it. Imagine if the EU would want to sign a cooperation treaty with the Russian Federation, that is an EU trading partner in addition to a European nation\? That could be unacceptable to Washington.

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The US has many different means to be certain the EU would honor its own dreams. The EU cannot afford to dismiss them, with economic dependencies and US bases present all over our continent. 

(*)The opinions expressed in this essay are those of the speaker and don’t necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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