NATO Secretary-General calls on EU to strengthen defence co-operation


EU leaders held a strategic debate on European security and defence policy (26 February), NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg made it clear that part of NATO’s strategic plan for 2030, included strengthening cooperation with the European Union.

European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, herself a former German Minister for Defence, said: “There are scenarios where NATO is not engaged, but where the European Union is called upon. The European Union needs to be capable to do that. Therefore, Europe needs to develop its own capabilities that stop the fragmentation we have and to develop interoperable systems.”

The EU has taken steps to develop joint actions and has many joint projects. It has taken some important steps to develop its own capacity to act autonomously. In 2017, the EU finally agreed on Permanent Structured Co-operation (PESCO), which currently consists of around 50 projects that states can chose to participate. Many PESCO members are also NATO members. Ireland, for example, is a PESCO member, but not a NATO member, while Denmark is a NATO member, but chose not to participate in PESCO.

EU leaders are also committed to a new European Peace Facility for civil and military engagement, the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) to assess resources, a new, but relatively under-resource, European Defence Fund and cooperation in space, cyberspace, the high seas and military access across the EU.

“We want to act more strategically, to defend our interests and to promote our values,” said European Council President Charles Michel, adding: “We are committed to cooperating closely with NATO, a stronger Europe makes a stronger NATO.”

The leaders all welcomed the prospect of renewing and strengthening cooperation with the new US administration on a strong and ambitious transatlantic agenda that included a close dialogue on security and defence.

Leaders invited the Commission to present, by October 2021, a technology roadmap for boosting research, technology development and innovation and reducing their strategic dependencies in critical technologies and strategic value chains. They also invited the Commission and the High Representative, Josep Borrell, to report on the implementation of the Cybersecurity Strategy by June 2021.

Bumped of the agenda of foreign ministers earlier in the week, the leaders asked the EU High Representative Borrell updated EU leaders on work towards a Strategic Compass, to guide future European action on security and defence, with a view to its adoption by March 2022.