Politics, Europe

EU top official proposes steps towards 'European Defense Union'

Head of EU Commission urges EU states to 'step up to next level' on bloc’s own military force

Agnes Szucs   | 15.09.2021
EU top official proposes steps towards 'European Defense Union' Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission delivers "The State of the European Union" address during a plenary session in Strasbourg, France, on September 15, 2021. ( EU Commission/Pool - Anadolu Agency )

BRUSSELS

The European Union will hold next year a Summit on European Defense "since it is time to step up for a European Defense Union," the president of the European Commission announced on Wednesday in her State of the Union speech.

Speaking to the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Ursula von der Leyen assessed the past year and outlined the main priorities of the EU executive body for the upcoming 12 months.

In light of the international community’s mission in Afghanistan that ended “so abruptly,” Von der Leyen stressed the need for a European Defense Union.

“What has held us back until now is not just a shortfall of capacity, it is the lack of political will,” she said, proposing three lines of actions to develop the bloc’s defense.

Von der Leyen suggested the bloc to set up its own Joint Situation Awareness Centre to assist well-informed decisions and to waive VAT (value-added tax) when purchasing EU-produced military equipment.

She also promised that the EU executive body would propose soon its policy recommendations on cyber defense, including a new European Cyber Resilience Act.

“So, we can do a lot at EU level. But member states need to do more too,” she said, announcing that she would host next year a Summit on European Defense together with French President Emmanuel Macron.

“It is time for Europe to step up to the next level,” Von der Leyen said.

At the same time, she confirmed the bloc’s commitment to transatlantic defense, and revealed that she would be working with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to deliver a new joint EU-NATO joint declaration by the end of this year.

In August, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell advocated for setting up a rapidly deployable 5,000-strong EU army as one of the main lessons learned from the crisis in Afghanistan.

EU ministers will discuss in the detail the plans on EU rapid reaction force -- officially named Initial Entry Force -- during their next meeting in November.

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