THE BLOG

Where Will Europe Go on Defence?

08/09/2014 11:09 BST | Updated 05/11/2014 10:59 GMT

As tensions continue to rise over Russia's continued incursion in eastern Ukraine, Federica Mogherini, European Union's new foreign policy chief, has ruled out any form of military intervention from Europe. She used the first interview after her appointment to state that Europe going to war with Russia is not an option - only through a political solution can peace be achieved.

But as trenches are dug in eastern Ukraine and the spectre of declared war on the European continent returns, it is time to ask what more the European Union could be doing.

The EU is a super-state borne out of economic necessity from the ruins of a world war, grown into economic global power. For many years Europe has been grounded in political realism, taking a cautious approach to conflict resolution embedded in the use of soft power, focused on its economic strength and diplomacy to protect its own interest. However in a multipolar world, with a continuously evolving global environment where past certainties no longer exist, the EU finds itself confronted with the difficult questions of its geopolitical role and military identity.

The United States continues to be stretched militarily with multiple global strategic interests. Europe will inevitably have to rethink its approach and take on a greater burden of responsibility for its own security and defence.

Currently, the EU defence structure is based around the Common Security and Defence Policy, the military decision-making tool of the European council, under the brief of High Representative of the union for foreign affairs and security policy. CSDP is the successor of the European Security and Defence Identity under Nato, with its only difference being that it falls under the governance of the EU itself including countries not associated with Nato.

Former Belgian prime minister, Mark Eyskens once stated 'Europe is an economic giant, a political dwarf and a military worm'. I disagree with the political part of his statement although militarily European Union does remain impotent. European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, argued in the pre-election debates that CDSP needed further development, and he stated openly his belief in the need for a 'European army' to counteract Russia growing threat and protect Europe's interest.

There are many barriers to the formation of a European army. One such barrier would be the question of how the distribution of cost and troops would occur among nation states. With Europe's economic direction largely steered by Germany, and to a much lesser extent France, many member states would be wary of a European army dominated by large member states.

With Europe unable to come to a joint decision on fiscal policy, the idea that EU can easily agree on a common defence policy which includes a standing army appears unlikely.However, the development of closer military ties and harmonising defence policies across EU member states would be an achievable goal and could benefit the EU economically through savings. An area where significant saving could be made is in procurement, through the development and creation of a true single European defence market.Currently markets still remain highly regulated at a national level, which leads to fragmentation and divergent national approaches, reducing innovation overall undermining the EU's global competitiveness. However, with the publication of the European defence roadmap, a document outlining how EU plans to achieve goals recommended by the European Council in December 2013. These actions include opening up markets and cut red tape, promoting a more competitive defence industry within the EU. These approaches will generate billions in revenue which could be reinvested in schools, hospitals and public services.

Nato remains the main military alliance in Europe and has been used by those who oppose further European military integration. Last year David Cameron blocked EU proposals supported by Germany, France, Italy, Poland and Spain, which would have set the foundations for a European air force. Cameron argued that Nato was the bedrock of defence in Europe, with Anders Fogh Rasmussen, secretary general of Nato, adding that his organisation's military assets could be owned by the EU, arguing against the idea of a militarised Europe outside of Nato structures.

When it comes to European defence there are three defining groups of thought. On the one hand there are those who strongly believe the EU should remain a civilian soft power arguing that the EU trade and economy as its strength and through the use of diplomacy the EU can protect its interest. On the other, there are those who view Nato and continued close cooperation with the United States as central to Europe's future. Third are a small group, who feel the importance of Nato has declined, arguing that the formation of an independent military identity is crucial in ensuring Europe's long-term security in a multipolar world.

Ed Miliband believes Britain should play a lead role in the EU, and in the coming months he will have to articulate Labour's vision for Europe and the wider world. When Ed becomes prime minister next May he will have to make that vision a reality, working with other EU leaders towards a stronger Europe. He has argued that a Labour government must lead the way in pushing for large-scale reform of EU structures; this should also include a review of the CDSP to ensure Nato and EU defence structure work in the best way possible to provide security at home as well as abroad.

This article was originally published on Progress Online