The Parliament Magazine and European Movement International: Road to European elections: A stronger Europe in the world by 2030?

by | Mar 26, 2024

(March 22, 2024 – The European Parliament Liaison Office in Finland)

Panel I: The future of European security and defence policy

Speakers:

  • Sirpa Pietikainen, Member of the European Parliament, EPP
  • Tytti Tuppurainen, Member of the Finnish Parliament, SDP
  • Aku Aarva, Executive Director, Urban Energy Finland
  • Jonas Cederlöf, Policy Officer, European Commission
  • Juha Jokela, Programme Director, Finnish Institute of International Affairs

Moderator:

  • Christopher Alessi, Editor-in-Chief, The Parliament Magazine

Maria Blassar, Head of the Delegation of the Representation Office of the European Commission in Finland provided the introductory remarks for Panel I, underlining that European security and defence policy is a very timely subject, ever since the start of the Ukraine-Russia war. The EU is determined to provide Ukraine all kinds of support, including military assistance. At the same time, the question of the longer perspective arose: how to strengthen Europe’s own defence? That is what the European Commission had in mind proposing the European Defence Industry Strategy. It aims to increase defence readiness by augmenting defence expenditure in the Member States. The Commission proposed an initial 1.5 billion € funding proportion for a two year period starting in 2025. It is debatable whether it is sufficient or rather not, but Blassar emphasized that this is just the beginning. The main goal is to have a bottom-up industrial strategy to develop the EU’s defence market. European security order is at stake, so we shall find a way to combat Russia’s aggression. Now it is up to the Member States to respond to the Commission’s proposal.

Jonas Cederlöf opened the panel reacting to the introductory remarks, saying that looking at where we come from, the current developments are unprecedented, but still not enough. He drew attention to the fact that 1.5 billion € will not save Ukraine either.

According to Tytti Tuppurainen, the EU is the greatest peace project in the world. At the same time, she reminded us of the proverb “if you want peace, prepare for war”. She believes that the EU has to complement NATO and use diplomacy as its primary tool.

Juha Jokela added that the defence expenditure of Member States has already increased over the past two years, but he was wondering when it will be reflected in the European defence cooperation. The strategy is now an element of that, but there is still room to improve the figures. The EU has decided to enlarge which poses another challenge: taking the security and defence of candidate countries more seriously as well.

Aku Aarva agreed that the strategy is a good start, but not enough, especially since Russia is transitioning into full war economy. The EU has to be strategic about it, protecting its values and freedom. The last thing he wants is to have a war on Russia’s terms.

According to Sirpa Pietikainen, we should look at the bigger picture, not solely focus on one field. She emphasized that the EU never should be left unguarded, and we should pay attention to every threat. An issue with the EU is that everyone wants to participate, but no one wants to pay the bill. Cutting from other policies should be a no go, but how can we increase defence funding then? Well, it primarily depends on Member State governments. She thinks another key is efficacy: after all, the EU would have one of the biggest armies in the whole world if Member State armies were united.

Cederlöf explained the idea that by pulling the demand, we can achieve higher efficacy, and then we can pull the supply too. But he drew attention to two principles: sellers benefit, not buyers, and there is an impact on the buyers as well. So, pulling the demand is fundamentally ineffective. He also reminded us that NATO deals with resilience for the military, but the EU deals with resilience for all, including the military.

Tuppurainen expressed that what happened to Ukraine is striking, and it proved to be a self-destructive of Putin, because it led to the enlargement of NATO and Denmark giving up the opt-out in the EU’s defence policy. Of course, there are still doubts and issues, but we stand united. She underlined that the EU has all the reasons to strengthen its capabilities, and that is actually what the US expect from the organisation too.

Jokela said that the EDIS has a clear role, and the EU has to support NATO, partly to avoid duplication. The European defence cooperation is actually leading somewhere, and truthfully, the Americans find it difficult to digest that Europeans do not buy from them. He added crisis management to the mentioned differences between NATO and the EU, stating that everybody is looking at the EU’s role and capabilities while NATO is preoccupied with Article 5.

Tuppurainen brought up the case of military mobility and the European North. The former is what the EU could strive for, with more investment, and if the new Commission proposed a directive on that. Concerning the latter, more precisely the Arctic, she emphasized that Finland and Sweden now provide both the NATO and the EU serious strength there, since Russia and China have core strategic interests in the Arctic.

Pietikainen talked about Donald Trump’s possible return, and she said it is clear what needs to happen. As former German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested during Trump’s first term, “Europe must take its destiny in its own hands”. The overreliance on the US is a strategic long-term mistake that we have to face. According to Pietikainen, we have to take the question of the Arctic more seriously too, even though it is almost a lost game for Europe. She noted that the EU has a programme on military mobility, but it is true that it could use a directive. She assumes that the EU is “sort of naked” without NATO, but believes that it would also need troops, procurement and production, in short, the capacity to act.

Cederlöf would be interested in how the Council would approach a military mobility directive. He confirmed that it is indeed part of a programme, but the problem is that military mobility funds are already used for this period. He also wanted to point out that the military mobility requirements are actually NATO requirements.

Aarva emphasized that Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO accession is a big change from the national perspective too. He is worried about the situational awareness being different in the Member States and recalled the motto “united in diversity” asking if the unity covers security and defence. He does not think that this is the current case and added that the ability to take decisions would be the most important part of the equation.

Tuppurainen highlighted that the political leadership has to understand what is at stake and the EU needs structures to support that. She backed the idea of two new portfolios, the defence commissioner and council along with moving to qualified majority voting.

Jokela thinks it is important to understand that different parts of Europe will have different kinds of security interests and will see threats differently. According to Jokela, the strategic compass is a good attempt to bring these perceptions closer together.

Cederlöf upheld the diversity of Europe as well. He believes the best approach is Europe as a whole, but we cannot deny that Member States have different geography, and it is taken into account when developing matters.

Pietikainen thinks if we can be united in other matters, like agriculture or climate change, we should move up to that in defence too. If any EU country is threatened, it is the threat of all of us, and the EU’s interest should be that country’s interest. But it is not the mindset yet, and Pietikainen does not expect a change anytime soon with the growing nationalism. Still, we talk about European people’s interest, our security.

Tuppurainen closed the panel, underlining that what we actually need is European solidarity.


You can watch the event here.

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