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TematicheItalia ed EuropaEU-NATO cooperation: What’s next?

EU-NATO cooperation: What’s next?


Donald Trump’s feelings on NATO are well-known.The US president said a lot of times that his country won’t rush to defend NATO countries if they don’t spend more on military.

Trump’s remarks aren’t completely new. In 2011, US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates warned that NATO could continue along its current trajectory for much longer. There have been significant defence cuts in European member states since the end of the Cold War, and the US feels it is currently shouldering a disproportionate amount of the defence burden.

Traditionally, the United States has claimed that it supports the development of the European Security and Defence Policy.


Common Security and Defence Policy

 When the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), formerly known as the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), was first launched at Saint Malo in December 1998, the key concept was “autonomous action”. CSDP was never about creating a European army or about supplanting Nato’s responsibility for territorial defence. Each member state remains solely competent for its own defence forces, each has a veto on the approval of every individual operation, and none is obliged to take part in any such operation.

As a result, the EU’s council of ministers, responding to an external crisis, could put in place comprehensive policies including financial assistance, trade measures, policing, support for military reform, institution building, and if necessary, deploy forces under the authority of the UN Security Council.So the EU, it was asserted, would havedeveloped its own strategic vision. Furthermore, CSDP would haveallowed European forces to tackle regional security challenges the US did not wish to engage with.

ButunfortunatelyCSDP did none of those things. Almost two decades later, the June 2016 European Global Strategy asserts that the EU’s foreign and security policy goal is “strategic autonomy” and that “EU will deepen cooperation with the North Atlantic Alliance in complementarity, synergy, and full respect for the institutional framework, inclusiveness and decision-making autonomy of the two”.The reality, as we have seen in Libya and Ukraine, and as it is lived by member states with a Russian border, is that Europe seems more dependent on NATO than at any point since the mid-1980s.


Warsaw Joint Declaration and EU-NATO cooperation

With Trump Administration the Warsaw declaration acquires even stronger importance. The Warsaw Joint declaration signed by the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission, and the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, aim to give new impetus and new substance to the EU-NATO strategic partnership.The declaration identified over forty proposals in several key areas of security and defence policy.

In December 2016, the EU and NATO, following up on the Joint Declaration issued at the NATO summit in Warsaw (June 2016), released a list of areas in which the two entities are actively cooperating. These include for instance: hybrid threats, cyber warfare, maritime security and military capabilities.The Warsaw declaration reflect the most prominent items on the foreign policy agenda of all great western powers: the fight against terrorism, Russian threat and Middle East.

Within the alliance, Turkey, France and Belgium have been victims of terror attacks directly linked to the group since 2014, while attacks with some or indirect connections to ISIL/Da’esh have also taken place in other NATO members.

On the eastern flank, alliance members are especially alarmed by Russia n  aggression in  Ukraine (having already been concerned by Russia’s actions in other former Soviet states). Stationing NATO troops has a deterrence effect against Russia, but concern remains over the ability to counter the hybrid tactics used by Russia.

NATO and EU members in the south face migrant flows from the Middle East, mostly via Turkey, the Western Balkans and the Mediterranean Sea. Instability in the Middle East has also led to the emergence of a number of transnational threats.



Whatis to be the relationshipbetweenthesetwoentities over the comingdecades?

The answer depends on the level of ambition of CSDP. Federica Mogherini aims at the highest one. Strengthening the EU-NATO strategic partnership is particularly important in the current security environment.

At this point, there are three possible scenarios for the future:

  • the first scenario would be one associated with the gradual destroy of European integration. This scenario has been rendered less improbable with the vote on Brexit. In this case, the EU member states would become totally dependent on NATO. Such a prospect might please some in the UK but would be the worst of all possible worlds for other Europeans and for the USA;
  • a second possibility would be a status quo scenario, in which CSDP would continue along its current track, with modest improvements in EU capacity-generation;
  • the final scenario assumes that the EU is serious about becoming a “strategically autonomous” EU member states might activate the Lisbon Treaty’s provision for permanent structured cooperation (PESCO).

At the NATO Summit in Warsaw, Allied leaders underlined that the European Union remains a unique and essential partner for NATO. Enhanced consultations at all levels and practical cooperation in operations and capability development have brought concrete results. The security challenges in the two organisations shared eastern and southern neighbourhoods make it more important than ever before to reinforce the strategic partnership.

NATO and the European Union partnership will also be an important issue that leaders of NATO nations will highlight in the next Summit in Brussels. It will be the first meeting where the new US president and the new French president meet all the other Allied leaders.

So the Summit will be the occasion to understand the future of EU-NATO cooperation. One thing is clear: Europe faces a set of challenges in its Southern and Eastern  neighbourhoodsthat must be solved. The US are no longer willing to solve European foreign problems. Only the EU can do that. But it can only do it with genuine strategic autonomy.


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