Challenge for Europe

New Challenges, Old Traditions

Since the fall of the Berlin wall and the considerable enlargement of the European Union, security policy in Europe has been totally overhauled and the challenges have multiplied. Today, the risks that European states need to face are joint. States can no longer be blind to this fact. From now on, international cooperation in the field of security and defense is unavoidable.

After having initiated the European Security and Defense Policy, member states of the European Union intensified their military cooperation under the European framework. They followed in some sense the example of Franco-German cooperation (Franco-German Brigade, European Corps) and profited from the experience of NATO. Certain politicians are even working towards the creation of an integrated European force.

Yet, at the moment, general opinion tends to think that the implementation of European armed forces can only be envisaged in the long term. The organization and traditions in the armies of European countries are still so diversified that the creation of an integrated European force would demand a great willingness and capacity for compromise. From now on, member states need to work clearly in this direction.

Integration Appeals to a Common Basis

Whatever their configuration, European armed forces need to integrate the cooperation of national armed forces more deeply. Common standards or a common system of military laws are an indispensable condition for the creation of an Integrated Force.

Currently, multinational missions are part of the European military reality. This cooperation between several countries in the domain of defense will certainly intensify. Although being applied regularly in the international context in international missions and/or multinational units, the official texts that determine the rights and responsibilities of militaries come from the national laws of states. Given the great differences between countries, efficiency losses and conflicts within the framework of multinational operations are frequent.

The SAFE Initiative of the European Parliament Needs to be Followed

The question of common military standards does come solely from the long-term vision of the creation of European Armed Forces. The more the European Union orients itself towards greater integration at the level of structures, operations and equipment, the more the urgent question of harmonization of service conditions for European soldiers engaged in joint missions becomes.

The Member of European Parliament seem to have become aware of this idea since the adoption in February 2009 of the resolution concerning European Security Strategy and the European Security and Defense Policy. This resolution proposes that we progressively strengthen the integration of armed forces under the framework of an optional model called SAFE (Synchronized Armed Forces of Europe). Moreover, it demanded that a common status for soldiers be resolved. Social coverage for men and women serving in international operations is an equally important aspect of the propositions.

According to the leaving President of the Parliament, Dr. Hans-Gert Pöttering, this concept is “almost ready, it will be the next to be integrated, it contains innovative ideas and at the same time it gives enough space for future developments.” With this resolution, the European Parliament is pleading for a “proactive” development of cooperation between national armed forces with the goal of greater harmonization.

But the European Parliament wants to go further. It suggests the completion of the Security Policy with the concept of “synchronized deployment.” In fact, the soldiers have raised the fact that troops deployed together need to be trained together. To reach this synchronized deployment, national and multinational staff need to learn lessons from past and ongoing operations (best-practice procedures).

Across the SAFE project, Parliament supports the progressive harmonization of training programmes, command principles, and rules of engagement. But it also insists on the synchronization of living and working conditions during joint operations. These are the fundamentals of legal order, including the rights and responsibilities of militaries which need to be decided together.

Apart from these elements, the European Parliament is pleading for a more ambitious development of health services equipment and arrangements linked to social security in the case of death, injury or disability. A lest of common rules should be established and the principle of task-sharing at the European level in relation to military capacities should be introduced since all the states in the Union do not have the whole gambit of military capacities (satellite reconnaissance, aerial defense, aircraft carriers, aerial transport…). From now on, task-sharing between different states with respect to their real military capacities could see to it that all capacities are provided for at the European level.

Finally, the European parliament appeals to the opening of military transports of national armies to the deployment of other member states of the union, following the example of the Belgian Armed Forces.


Since the European Union does not have the power to promulgate a law to harmonize national defense policies, member states need to take charge of this process.

The next European Parliament should take engage in a permanent dialogue with EU member states and their armed forces to direct future developments towards ESDP.

Closer cooperation at the European level in the field of training, maintenance of equipment and logistics is an essential condition to make defense spending more efficient. This cooperation will familiarize the collection of categories of military personnel with the different existing standards. This first step towards cooperation will allow for the choice of common standards.

A similar cooperation needs to be encouraged by a European sponsoring, in providing a budgetary fund that member states would support, for example as a function of the number of servicemen in their national armies. These funds would be attributed community financial means for:

– The enlargement and deepening of exchange programmes between military personnel, following the Franco-German example for the instruction of naval officers

– Create new European Training Schools like the Franco-European TIGRE school (for combat helicopter crews). Create European Training Centers by fusing national schools (almost every state organizes its own school for infantry, cavalry, artillery, engineering…)

– Initiate a common financing of certain military capacities and/or research and development programmes

– Create a common structure for the management of human resources in the network “framework for multinational units and European staff”…

The idea of establishing common standards is coming along. From now on, militaries need to make themselves heard and build their opinion on the project together. The harmonization of national armies bears a risk: some governments might be tempted to accept common standards at a level inferior to those that already exist in other European countries.

Given that the interest of governments sometimes differs from that of the individuals concerned, all qualified networks – like that of the International Alliance of Militaries for Peace and Security – need to be consulted after clarifying the interests of the personnel in their armed forces

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  1. I am very pleased to hear that finally some movements towards a more equal situation in european military situation are being made or at least spoken out. In my close family I got to hear strange and unbelievable conditions in Greek military. Greece as a long term member of eu is still far behind fullfilling eu standarts in human rights in their military and that is disasterous and desperatly needs change.

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