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News blog27 August 2021Directorate-General for Communication

Afghanistan: common European defence is no longer an option

We are all in mourning today for the terrible attack in Kabul that took the lives of many Afghan civilians and American soldiers.

This is the deadliest attack on our American allies in 10 years and plunges Afghanistan further into chaos.

The unilateral withdrawal of US troops has once again highlighted Europe's strong dependence on Washington's foreign and security policy.

This situation will undoubtedly contribute to a better understanding of the concept of "strategic autonomy": the ability for Europe and Europeans to have choice, the freedom of choice.

We have undoubtedly reached a turning point, where we are moving from "Europe as a Market" only, to "Europe as a Power".

Europe has always exercised its global influence through its soft power. Today, it is clear that this is no longer sufficient.

A geopolitical Europe, a powerful Europe, must have the means and certain attributes of “hard power”.

For me, European defence is no longer an option. It must come of age. The only question is "when". And we will be ready.

Europe should progress gradually, but rapidly, towards the establishment of a Common Defence. The Treaties foresee it – the time has come to carry this ambition forward.

We have already taken important steps towards European integration in the field of defence, particularly in terms of capabilities, thanks to the European Defence Fund and permanent structured cooperation (PESCO), which enable us to anticipate and provide Europe with the defence capabilities necessary to ensure greater strategic autonomy. This also contributes to the development of an affectio societatis for European defence, a common will shared by all political and industrial players, as well as by European public opinion.

But we must go even further in order to establish a genuine European capability plan in order to jointly define needs, establish joint procurement strategies and ensure consistency between the various national plans.

Personally, I believe that beyond the capability pillar, a Common Defence should be built around three additional pillars:

  • Firstly, a European security and defence doctrine to define where, when and why Europe should intervene, and if necessary complement NATO missions autonomously. It will be a matter of guaranteeing the territorial integrity of the Union, its protection against all forms of hybrid threats (as we see for example on the border with Belarus), against cyber and terrorist threats, or the maintenance of stability at our borders and the preservation of peace. This doctrine should be based on two founding principles: a principle of credible and operational European solidarity - already included in the treaties but which must now be strengthened - and a principle of joint commitment on the ground.


  • Secondly, a military projection force that is operational, flexible and can be mobilised quickly. A European defence will only be credible if we have the possibility of intervening militarily outside our borders to carry out complex missions, with all that this implies in terms of logistics, preparation and chain of command, but also in terms of risks for the women and men who would be engaged on the ground on behalf of Europe. I am also aware that such an ambition presupposes the establishment of an integrated European command centre with an associated budget and clear mission objectives.


  • Finally, a Common Defence requires a renewed European institutional and political framework, fully respecting the competence of the Member States in this area. The aim would be to develop cooperation frameworks that make it possible to establish a common security culture (joint analysis of threats) and to take the necessary decisions together. In this respect, I consider that we must move forward on the proposal to create a European Security Council, which would prepare the decisions of an autonomous Council of Defence Ministers, and ultimately of the European Council in defence format.

This is my ambition for European Defence. It is not a question of calling historical alliances into question, but of ensuring that Europe organises itself as a player for its own security and also as a security player on the world stage.  

Yes, it is ambitious. It will require discussions between Europeans.

But I think the time has come.


Publication date
27 August 2021
Directorate-General for Communication