Borrell: EU must change defence paradigm and start defending itself

Monday, 15 April 2024 —

Josep Borrell, the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, has announced the release of his book Europe between Two Wars on his blog, stressing that the EU needs a paradigm shift in European defence policy.

Borrell said the EU has delegated its security to the United States for too long, and in the 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Europe has allowed "a silent disarmament".

He noted that the EU was built around the internal market and economy, but in his opinion the EU cannot continue along this path.

"We must assume our strategic responsibility and become able to defend Europe by ourselves, building a strong European pillar inside NATO," Borrell said.


The top diplomat added that the EU needs to make this leap forward in a very short period of time.

"Not because we intend to go to war. On the contrary: we want to prevent it by having the means to credibly deter any aggressor. This does not mean creating a European army. Defence is and will remain for a foreseeable future an exclusive competence of our Member States," the official stressed.

Borrell explained that this is primarily a matter of spending more at the national level, increasing defence spending to over 2% of GDP.

"But, even more importantly, it is about spending together to fill gaps, avoid duplications and increase interoperability. Only 18% of equipment purchases by our armies are currently made cooperatively."

Borrell highlighted that one of the main lessons of Russia's war against Ukraine is that technological superiority is a key factor, especially when fighting an adversary who doesn't care about human lives. Therefore, he believes the EU needs to have its own defence industry to meet its needs.

"The most promising avenues for achieving this goal are: first, changing the European Investment Bank lending policy to allow it to invest in the defence sector, and second, issuing common debt, just as we did successfully to face the COVID-19 pandemic. These discussions are however in their early stages among our Member States, and it is critical to get everyone on board."

On 11 April, Borrell noted that he was anticipating "bold decisions" on Ukraine from the joint meeting of EU foreign and defence ministers to be held on 22 April.

Earlier, Polish President Andrzej Duda said he was seeking to push the idea of increasing NATO member states' defence spending from 2% to 3% of GDP.

Over the 10 years of Russia's war against Ukraine, there has been a sixfold increase in the number of NATO member states spending more than 2% of GDP on defence.

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