No european harmony on defence policy

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No european harmony on defence policy

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As we’ve just seen, the economic crisis risks being a bigger menace to the new strategy of NATO which will be adopted this weekend in Lisbon, and a further challenge to the reinforcement of the political defence of the EU.

In Lisbon, we met up with Professor Alvaro de Vasconcelos, the Director of the Institute of EU Security Studies.

Miguel Sardo, euronews: “Professor, the EU seems far from having a true common political defence policy. Can the EU defend it’s own position in Lisbon against the new strategy of NATO?”

Professor Alvaro de Vasconcelos, Director of the Institute of EU Security Studies: “Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll see one position on NATO. There’ll be several voices in Lisbon, but not a common one. To date, the EU hasn’t proven capable of establishing a common perspective on NATO. And besides, this question isn’t part of the internal discussions on the EU, which is totally contradictory, when everyone knows there are 22 EU states which are members of NATO, and when you consider that NATO is absolutely essential to european security and that NATO deals with such important questions as relations with Russia and issues with Eastern Europe, with Iran, the question of anti-missile defence, all essential EU questions which would call for a single European position.”

Euronews:” Right now we are working towards a reduction of defence budgets in the majority of european countries. Couldn’t this situation create a rise in dependency on North-American military resources?”

Professor Alvaro de Vasconcelos: “The problem that Europe has in the area of defence isn’t so much that it doesn’t spend enough – clearly spending will be cut in light of the financial crisis, with significant budgetary cuts approaching 15-20% – but the key question is how they’re spent and until now, the inability of Europe to spend jointly, to rationalise military spending, to start up real, collaborative projects that could reduce the difficulties of Europe in certain areas, like strategic transport, helicopters etc. I think that the economic and financial crisis, the cuts in defence spending will probably force the europeans to do more in partnership. Besides, we’ve seen the connection between France and Britain in several areas of industry and defence and even in the nuclear domain, which compels greater european cooperation. And I think that more than being a difficulty, it could create a true opportunity if the Europeans understand that with significant cuts, more can be achieved together than has been achieved individually to date.”

Euronews: “What will the European Union’s position be on the new strategy for Afghanistan, either in terms of maintaining troops on the ground or negotiating with the Taliban?”

Professor Alvaro de Vasconcelos: “I think that one of the problems of this NATO summit is that it’s too focussed on the problematic issues of Afghanistan, namely that instead of discussing the future of NATO over the next 10 to 20 years, they’re discussing a strategy to resolve the problems in Afghanistan and how to create the conditions to allow American and allied troops to begin to pull out from June next year. Today, I think there’s a lot of very strong pressure from European citizens for American troops to withdraw from Afghanistan and there’s no popular support for the war effort, whilst you could have much greater support for the control of conflict, the construction of peace and the building of a state with Afghan rights, stable enough to resolve the problems this country faces today in collaboration with their neighbours.”

Euronews: “Thank you Professor Alvaro de Vasconcelos, Director of the Institute of EU Security Studies, and author of a report entitled “What the Europeans expect of NATO. This weekend, we’ll see if all the members of NATO share the same objectives or not.”