Speech ”EU Common Security and Defence Policy – what changed after the December European Council?” at the Seminar A Finnish view on EU peacebuilding and civilian CSDP, 5.2.2014Helsinki

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to be here at this important seminar. We have a full agenda today with themes that are very important to Finland and form key elements of our foreign and security policy. 

Today, I will make some remarks relating to the European Council discussion on Common Security and Defence Policy in December. This was an important moment, aimed at providing further impetus to EU work on security and defence questions. Much has been achieved in the CSDP in the last decade. But at the same time, there was a feeling that this European Council was called for in order to strengthen the cooperation and provide perspectives for further work.

Early on, Finland saw the necessity to take CSDP and defence cooperation to the Heads of State and Government. True European leadership and political commitment from the highest level was crucial as it had been many years since CSDP had been on the agenda of the European Council.  Finland played an active role in the preparations of the December European Council and we pushed for an ambitious agenda.

Overall, we are quite content with the outcome of the European Council as reflected in the Council conclusions.

Finland has been strongly committed to the development of CSDP since its early days. This has been demonstrated by our active participation in EU crisis management operations and missions, and the related work in developing relevant capabilities. For example, Finland is currently the biggest contributor within the EU to civilian crisis management missions in relation to our population, with approximately 100 experts abroad. Finland’s contribution reflects our long-term commitment to international crisis management. Overall, Finland has about 120 experts serving in international civilian crisis management missions, and over 500 soldiers in military crisis management operations.

We believe that it is in the interest of all the EU member states that the EU has a strong and coherent security and defence policy. This is also crucial in view of EU´s external action and foreign policy.

The CSDP debate in December centered around three clusters: developing the CSDP, fostering capability development, and strengthening Europe’s defence industry. The EU took several important steps in December.  Let me just briefly go through the main messages and outcomes:

FIRST: Regarding increasing the effectiveness, visibility and impact of CSDP: it is clear that the Union needs to be able to respond rapidly to security challenges to protect its interests and values. In order to do so, the use of the comprehensive approach and engagement with partners is of essence. In our view, the European Council gave a clear message of our political commitment to enhance the EU’s role as a global security provider.  This was at the same time an important signal for Europe as well as towards our partners, in our neighborhood and globally.

SECOND: Enhancing European defence capabilities to be able to act: this means that cooperation and genuine efforts toward Pooling and Sharing are necessary to do more with less with the declining defence budgets that are a European reality.

THIRD: Reinforcing Europe’s defence industry: a strong and healthy industrial base is a prerequisite for developing and sustaining defence capabilities. In addition, this industry is also a driver for jobs, growth and innovation.

As regards results in CSDP, we saw a reiteration of EU commitment to crisis management.  EU’s crisis management operations and missions are perhaps the most visible demonstration of the EU’s commitment to enhancing international security with 7000 civilian and military personnel deployed in a wide range of operations. The first CSDP operations were launched early in 2003 – the police mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and a military operation Concordia in Macedonia.  By now around 30 different missions have been launched, and the EU has genuinely promoted peace and security, rule of law, and state building in many different circumstances around the world. The operations and missions are a tangible and concrete illustration of CSDP. At the same time, they have been a driver in the development of the CSDP.

A particular advantage of the EU is the wide tool-box of different policy instruments it has at its disposal.  The aim should be to become better in acting comprehensively in international conflicts and crises. Finland has supported efforts to strengthen the EU’s comprehensive approach in external action as a whole. Using all instruments from military and civilian crisis management to political dialogue, from trade to development policy should be interlinked in the EU’s objectives.

In addition, we need to ensure that horizontal and cross-cutting themes such as the implementation of resolution 1325 as well as capacity-building in crisis management of countries in crisis areas are adequately taken into account. Only this way we will ensure the EU efforts produce sustainable results in the long term.   

We firmly believe that the long-term vision of Common Security and Defence Policy needs to be based on a common analysis of the EU’s strategic context. In this regard, we would have liked to see further steps from the European Council, a more ambitious tasking to the High Representative. Yes, the December tasking is a step in the right direction, but a modest one.  We believe that the EU needs a foreign and security policy strategy – times are changing and challenges are evolving. No member state can alone face the multifaceted security challenges. We need more synergies, more coordination and more commitment for coherent foreign and security policy.

The European Council Conclusions rightly stressed that effective crisis management also requires adequate civil and military capabilities. Furthermore, we should aim for more flexible and speedy decision-making so that the EU can deploy both civilian missions and military operations rapidly, when necessary. As to military rapid response, improving the usability of EU Battle groups is a key.  I’m pleased that the conclusions include some concrete steps as regards these issues. By now, it has become evident that just having a plan of using Battle groups as one single capability – fully or not at all – is not functional as each crisis has particular requirements for the planning of operations. The Battle Group concept should be re-examined so that the resources invested in them can be more flexibly used.

By increasing transparency and intensifying cooperation in capability development we can be more efficient, remedy shortfalls and allow willing member states to benefit from economies of scale. Regional capability cooperation arrangements such as NORDEFCO should be seen here as complementary to cooperation at the European level.

We were also pleased with the further steps that were taken towards opening the European defence market. The measures should all aim at creating market conditions for the European Defence industry that are based on competitiveness. This will ultimately strengthen the European defence technological and industrial base. In our view, it is important that steps towards opening the European defence market are also combined with measures to further enhance and broaden Security of Supply arrangements in Europe.

Ladies and gentlemen,

All in all, Finland was pleased with the results achieved at the December European Council. Numerous taskings were given the High Representative, the Commission and the European Defence Agency.  The European Heads of State and Government agreed to revert to these issues at the June European Council in 2015.  Hence, the December European Council can be seen as an important milestone in furthering CSDP and defence cooperation.

One can argue that already the preparations and anticipation of the December European Council raised general interest in questions regarding European security and defence.  This forward-looking spirit was very much needed. In addition, an important outcome of the meeting was that the EU28 is moving forward and was able to endorse a common approach in a wide range of issues.

Now it is time to focus on next steps and develop the necessary means to fulfil the objectives set in December as well as during its substantial preparations. We need to keep up the positive momentum as well as truly build on the political commitment achieved so far. The ambition level must remain high and the Member States must continue to give strategic guidance to further development of CSDP and defence cooperation.

We can all agree that we took significant steps in December, but a lot of challenges remain. The EU must act decisively and use all of its instruments in line with the comprehensive approach. We need to act decisively and action needs to be based on the political will of EU capitals. CSDP has to complement the objectives of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy. We need to engage in strategic thinking, set objectives and strive for results. CSDP requires adequate civilian and military capabilities. In this regard, we need synergies, best practices, strategic planning and political commitment. It is important that we can move ahead in CSDP at 28 without creating new division lines.   

The escalating crisis in the Central African Republic is an important test case for the EU after the December European Council. CSDP concepts and policies need to be developed in Brussels, but the practical implementation of this work forms the core of effective CSDP. This means e.g. that we need to generate political commitment and demonstrate the EU’s willingness to participate in international efforts to stabilize crisis such as the Central African Republic is currently facing. So far, the EU has been swift in its efforts to plan and launch a military crisis management operation. There has been consensus of the member states that there is a need for rapid action and the EU has to act.  However, the bottom line is that we need to translate this commitment into concrete contributions and presence. This is a genuine challenge for EU capitals. Finland is preparing the decision on our possible participation in the CAR operation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

There is an enormous amount of work ahead of us – both technical and political – and we believe it is essential to proceed systematically and in a determined manner. The EU member states have an important role to ensure that the taskings are being taken forward and there is a systematic follow-up. By regularly examining the progress made, we can push for continuing development and ensure lasting results, also in the long term.  

It is clear that only by increasing the member states’ political commitment to developing EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) can the EU truly contribute to peace and stability in our neighborhood and in the world. Enhancing this commitment was one of the main objectives when the Heads of States convened in December. Developing the CSDP is a work in progress, and Finland is committed to ensuring that the direction is forward.