The EU needs to strengthen its strategic autonomy, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said as he spoke to the press following an informal meeting of EU defense ministers in Brdo pri Cranju on Thursday. Slovenian Defense Minister Matej Tonin said political will was needed to address the issue.
Almost all member states agree “we need to strengthen our ability to act independently when and where necessary”, said the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. “We have an army, we have resources, the problem is harmonization and the will to mobilize these resources.”
Afghanistan is a good example that comes at the right time to mobilize the will of the member states and to realize that there is no other way to face the new situation than the ability to act on its own.
“Afghanistan has shown that shortcomings in our strategic autonomy come at a price. The only way forward is to join forces and strengthen not only our capabilities but also our willingness to act,” Borrell said.
This means raising the level of readiness within the joint military exercise, but also creating new tools such as rapid reaction force. Borrell acknowledged that there was no full consensus among member states on the force, but that was not so important as only one discussion was held at today’s meeting, while a decision would be taken in November.
The idea of a European Rapid Reaction Force, which could number around 5,000 soldiers, is an important segment of the strategic compass, a key process to achieve a higher level of Europe’s strategic autonomy, according to Borrell.
Minister Tonin stressed that the EU had its own defense fund to address this issue. “We have the money, and if we have the political will to build in the coming years these urgent capabilities for autonomous action, including in very difficult areas, then we have definitely taken a step forward.”
Tone without much progress at today’s meeting as individual countries announced to present their proposals on how to change the existing mechanism to enable faster political decision-making and faster intervention.
“It is definitely a step forward for member states to make a concrete proposal, and if it is acceptable to all members, we have a concrete solution,” he said.
Afghanistan was the main topic as ministers discussed EU operational activities. They stressed that the evacuation of people from the country had not yet been completed and that support in the diplomatic, humanitarian and development fields should continue, according to a press release from the Slovenian Ministry of Defense.