CSDP: Common Security and Defence Policy

Mar 15, 2014

The path to a truly coordinated transatlantic defence and security policy is littered with challenges. Despite a perception that North American security interests are shifting increasingly to the Pacific Rim, there was evident agreement among attendees of an inaugural symposium on European Union-Canada Cooperation in Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) that preserving the long-standing transatlantic accord should remain a priority to like-minded nations.

Manitoba MP James Bezan, who chairs the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence, and is Parliamentary Secretary to Defence Minister Rob Nicholson, said there was no question that Canada is more engaged than it used to be in Latin America and Asia. “But I don’t think it takes away one bit” from ties with the ­European Union and “our operational mandate.”

A few days earlier, General Philip Breedlove, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, also rebuffed perceptions of a shift in U.S. foreign and defence policy toward Asia, at Europe’s expense. “That is not the case; United States remains absolutely committed,” he replied when asked about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) during a joint news conference with General Tom Lawson, Canada’s Chief of the Defence Staff. Breedlove did acknowledge that U.S. troop strength had reduced significantly since the end of the Cold War, but he signalled a possible rebound. “We are all going to have to reevaluate some of the decisions that we have made about force structure, force positioning, force readiness and […] in the short term, our force responsiveness.”

Opening the one-day CSDP symposium, Marie-Anne Coninsx, the European Union’s ambassador to Canada, told the mixed audience of diplomats, parliamentarians and consultants that the event was particularly timely in light of current developments – increased tensions in Ukraine and other parts of Eastern Europe in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Maceij Popowski, Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS) –  through which the EU tries to ensure policy “consistency and coordination” between its member states – pointed out that the “very foundation” of the EU was a rejection of power politics. However, since power politics are back, so too – and “with a vengeance” – are defence and security policy issues. He said the notion of a CSDP had come of age since its first cooperative mission in Macedonia 11 years ago. “You can’t be a serious foreign policy player without a common security and defence policy,” he said, citing EU training of the Malian Army and the ongoing campaign against piracy off the Horn of Africa.

Sven Biscop, Director of the Europe in the World program at the Royal Institute for International Relations in Brussels, and an occasional visiting professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, asked Popowski whether he was confident that a CSDP was practicable in today’s environment. “I think because of the sense of urgency . . . it’s time to get serious about our commitment to defence,” Popowski replied. He also said it was telling that EU leaders had opted to keep defence on their agenda, a stance he said would have been unthinkable four years ago.

However, Rini Goos, Deputy Chief Executive of the European Defence Agency, said the challenge of coming up with a coordinated response policy was complicated by the EU’s varied security concerns and a lack of true interoperability. ”The numbers do not lie”, he said, citing the member states’ lineup of military hardware: 19 types of armoured vehicles, 14 models of main battle tanks, 16 different fighter aircraft, five models of attack helicopters and 29 different frigates.

In contrast, Canada and the United States had only a “relative handful” of equivalent types. “We have a lot of catching up to do,” said Goos, former head of the Commissariat for Military Production in the Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs, where he oversaw consolidation of defence- and security-related industries and kick-started a group of experts to look at opening up European defence markets.

He told FrontLine in a subsequent email that while he was no longer in a position to talk about his homeland’s industrial base “from a truly national perspective”, consolida­tion on such a scale is clearly not a short-term process. “It requires a solid policy framework between the government entities.” He further suggests that suppliers “need to get a fair chance to deliver,” on both national and international levels.” The challenge was exacerbated by austerity measures which had taken “a huge toll” on the Ministry of Defence.

Some industries were able to transition into other markets and areas of expertise that do not only relying on the infrequent defence orders. “Some of them really worked on innovation and competitiveness … and some have become very successful in exporting to markets in and outside Europe,” Goos noted. “But then again, there are also many who did not make it, for a variety of reasons.”

Crisis Management and Support to Peacekeeping in Africa and Beyond From left: Moderator Richard Cohen, former Senior Defence Advisor to the Minister of National Defence Didier Lenoir, Director, Crisis Management and Planning Department, EEAS Ann Fitz-Gerald, Professor of Security Sector Management, Cranfield University and Visiting Chair Royal Military College, Kingston, Ontario Tamara Guttman, Director General, Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force (START), Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development

General Gilles Janvier, Acting Civilian Operations Commander, Civilian Planning and Conduct Capability, EEAS. As for the EU-Canada relationship, Bezan said that the recently-signed trade agreement “sets the tone” for moving forward on a CSDP. Critical of Russia’s record in Ukraine (even before the latest developments), Bezan said that Canada is, by nature, an “expeditionary” country and that it has “always been a proud partner” in ­various multinational forces. That was evidenced by its response to shifting threat scenarios dating back nearly a century, and continuing through its partnership in the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD). “Our commitment to Europe has not changed one iota,” he stressed.

Colin Robertson, Vice-President of the Calgary-based Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, pointed out NATO’s goal of having its members spend 2% of their gross domestic product on defence. He said Canada’s commitment is approximately half that level, but Bezan, noting that most countries are struggling with budget constraints, recognized that Canada is pushing toward 1.7 per cent, “but it is […] a concern.”

Defence Analyst David Rudd queries the panel.

Popowski agreed that “security comes with a price tag”, as reflected in the €200-billion consolidated defence budgets of the EU members. But he believes the solution to “fragmented” spending lay in a shift away from the traditional national sovereignty approach to defence.

Jack Harris, a New Democratic Party MP from Newfoundland who is the Official Opposition’s defence critic in the House of Commons, asked what kind of cooperation on CSDP the EU wanted, given that NATO had the primary responsibility for cooperation. Popowski replied that CSDP tends to be expeditionary in nature and that if the EU initiates anything, it always consults its members, but noted that participation agreements already in place would effectively reduce the time spent on debate. “The demand for CSDP is growing”, Popowski said, citing developments in parts of Africa. “We need to complement that with […] more regular political dialogue.”

Pierre Delestrade, president and chief executive officer of EADS Canada (Airbus Group), paraphrased an early Roman adage, observing that “if you want to protect peace in the world, you have to be ready for war.” He suggested that such readiness required better dialogue between government and industry because it can take a company or consortium five years to design new products within a framework of shrinking defence budgets. “Delay is a nightmare for industry,” he said, stressing the need to retain expertise rather than resort to temporary layoffs. Delestrade said government support, particularly in research and development of increasingly complex, and hence more expensive, products is crucial.

The one-day symposium was described by the EU’s Ottawa office as a great success  and that “positive feedback […] encourages us to play for a 2015 edition.” However, the challenge going forward may be altered by the results of the latest European Parliament elections in which political parties opposed to the concept of a united Europe won 30 percent of the vote – up 10 points from the previous election. The protest vote is expected to have “a huge impact on the parties and policies back home,” said Pieter Cleppe, head of the Brussels office of Open Europe, a London-based think tank. “They will make it harder to centralize powers in the EU.”

Ken Pole is a contributing editor at FrontLine Security magazine.
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