A defense summit will be organized by the French presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2022, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Wednesday (September 15th), as the withdrawal from Afghanistan has revived reflection on the autonomy of Europeans. “The time has come for Europe to move up a gear” to “defend itself against cyber attacks, act where NATO and the UN are not present and manage crises in time,” he said. she explained in a speech on the State of the Union to MEPs in Strasbourg.
The creation of a European rapid reaction force of 5,000 soldiers has been under discussion for several months and the American withdrawal from Afghanistan has revived the debate by highlighting the military deficiencies of the old continent. The project is not unanimous, however, admitted the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell after a meeting of EU defense ministers in early September in Slovenia.
“You can have the most advanced forces in the world, but if you’re never ready to use them, what are they for? What has held us back so far is not just a lack of capabilities – it ‘is the lack of political will, ”lamented Ursula von der Leyen. “If we develop this political will, we can do a lot at EU level,” she argued. The president of the Brussels executive pointed out three obstacles to overcome: the lack of cooperation in intelligence matters, the problem of interoperability of European military equipment and deficiencies in cyber defense.
Ursula von der Leyen called for the creation of a European center to channel and merge European intelligence and elements of analysis. She also proposed to member states to “waive VAT on the purchase of defense equipment developed and produced in Europe”. Finally, she defended the adoption of a “European cyber defense policy with legislation on common standards”. “So we can do a lot at EU level. But member states must also do more,” she warned.