On 21 October, EU defence Ministers held the last debate before the presentation mid-November of the draft Strategic Compass, which will set the political guidelines for the development of European defence and security in the following decade. Ministers discussed some of the options that have been put forward over the past months, such as creating a rapid response force, countering hybrid threats, developing critical capabilities and deepening the EU´s strategic partnership with NATO.
Recent events compel us to further develop our capacity and our will to act. For that, we need a shared sense of the threats we face and a set of concrete actions to address them together. This is exactly what the Strategic Compass is about. If there is enough political will, next year will be a turning point for European defence.
Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
Afghanistan has shown that we lack critical capabilities with which to play a greater role in resolving the situation in cooperation with NATO. We need to find solutions to speed up decision-making. Therefore, Slovenia supports concrete proposals in this direction.
Matej Tonin, MSc, Minister of Defence
Defence ministers reiterated that the EU needs to respond faster to crises, notably in the immediate neighbourhood, but also beyond. A rapid reaction force is one of the options being discussed, as well as mechanisms allowing faster decision-making within the existing contractual provisions and more financial solidarity.
As part of the debate on strengthening resilience to complex crises, ministers discussed the need for a hybrid toolbox and emergency measures to counter malicious activities of various hybrid actors. They referred to the importance to secure our access to strategic domains such as cyber space, maritime domain and outer space.
Ministers also discussed the development of flagship capabilities in line with the six focus areas of the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD). Capability development should primarily focus on the capabilities directly minimising the shortfalls and increasing the EU’s strategic autonomy. Some of the key priorities areas are strategic lift, air refuelling, early warning system, strategic foresight and intelligence capabilities.
The participants expressed the need to strengthen and expand cooperation between the EU and NATO, especially now that both organizations are reflecting on their strategies – the EU’s Strategic Compass and NATO’s Strategic Concept. Ministers welcomed the idea of adopting a third EU-NATO declaration by the end of this year, which should be seen as a clear political sign of our strategic partnership.
This ministerial workshop, jointly organized by the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the European External Action Service (EEAS), concludes the strategic dialogue phase started in February. The High Representative/Vice-President will present a first draft of the Strategic Compass at the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council in November. Member States are expected to adopt the final version in March next year.