#SOTEU: EU towards European Defence Union

Strasbourg 15.09.2021 “..Witnessing events unfold in Afghanistan was profoundly painful for all the families of fallen servicemen and servicewomen” said the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen while delivering the State of the Union speech #SOTEU at Strasbourg plenary of the European Parliament.

“We bow to the sacrifice of those soldiers, diplomats and aid workers who laid down their lives.
To make sure that their service will never be in vain, we have to reflect on how this mission could end so abruptly.

“There are deeply troubling questions that allies will have to tackle within NATO.
But there is simply no security and defence issue where less cooperation is the answer. We need to invest in our joint partnership and to draw on each side’s unique strength.
This is why we are working with Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on a new EU-NATO Joint Declaration to be presented before the end of the year. But this is only one part of the equation.

“Europe can – and clearly should – be able and willing to do more on its own. But if we are to do more, we first need to explain why. I see three broad categories.

“First, we need to provide stability in our neighbourhood and across different regions.
We are connected to the world by narrow straits, stormy seas and vast land borders. Because of that geography, Europe knows better than anyone that if you don’t deal in time with the crisis abroad, the crisis comes to you.

“Secondly, the nature of the threats we face is evolving rapidly: from hybrid or cyber-attacks to the growing arms race in space.Disruptive technology has been a great equaliser in the way power can be used today by rogue states or non-state groups.You no longer need armies and missiles to cause mass damage. You can paralyse industrial plants, city administrations and hospitals – all you need is your laptop. You can disrupt entire elections with a smartphone and an internet connection.

“The third reason is that the European Union is a unique security provider. There will be missions where NATO or the UN will not be present, but where the EU should be.

“On the ground, our soldiers work side-by-side with police officers, lawyers and doctors, with humanitarian workers and human rights defenders, with teachers and engineers.
We can combine military and civilian, along with diplomacy and development – and we have a long history in building and protecting peace.

“The good news is that over the past years, we have started to develop a European defence ecosystem.
But what we need is the European Defence Union.

“In the last weeks, there have been many discussions on expeditionary forces. On what type and how many we need: battlegroups or EU entry forces. This is no doubt part of the debate – and I believe it will be part of the solution. But the more fundamental issue is why this has not worked in the past.

“You can have the most advanced forces in the world – but if you are never prepared to use them – of what use are they? “What has held us back until now is not just a shortfall of capacity – it is the lack of political will. And if we develop this political will, there is a lot that we can do at EU level..”

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