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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

With these EU missions Mr. Ambassador, you are really spoiling us

Nick Witney, the former Head of the European Defence Agency, has published an interesting report for the European Council on Foreign Relations on some of the shortcomings of the EU’s security and defence strategies. Chief amongst the problems, which were briefly mentioned in the Telegraph today, seems to be a series of planning failures of which the most “spectacularly amateurish” is the EU’s mission to Aceh in 2005 being funded by the personal credit cards of the advance party and by a loan from the entertainment allowance of the UK’s Ambassador in Jakarta.

He notes that: “the collective preference for declaring each operation an unqualified success has meant that many persistent failings, such as shortage of transport and inadequate communications, have been repeatedly ignored.” Apparently, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Javier Solana has “often” been forced to ring round European Defence Ministers requesting loans of a single transplant plane or field surgeon.

He says that plans for a stronger EU defence policy should not be abandoned if the Lisbon Treaty fails to come into force – and that countries that wish to should push ahead to be allowed to do, though “nonplayers should not insist on a seat at the table”. He suggests a “sensible minimum requirement of spending at least 1% of
GDP on defence”, which would mean currently, Austria, Ireland, Luxembourg and Malta bowing out. A further basic test could be a minimum level of deployment on operations; he notes that if this were set even as low as 1% of military manpower, then Bulgaria, Cyprus and Greece would also fail to qualify.

Reading the paper it’s clear that based on current capabilities the EU member states are still expecting an all-out European Armageddon in a small forest somewhere in eastern
Germany. Investment is massively concentrated in hardware unsuitable for the kind of missions the EU is currently involved in: the EU may have 10,000 tanks and 2,500 combat aircraft, but it lacks sufficient inter-EU communication links, helicopters, transports and surveillance drones. Greece, the EU country that spends most on its military as a proportion of GDP, has directed most of this into constructing Europe’s largest tank fleet in order to fend off the impending Turkish invasion…

Would it be fair to say Sarkozy’s aim to create a "single European defence policy" by the end of the year is looking a bit... out of reach? (even with the platform shoes)

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