The force of the facts is finally forcing the European Union to take a first step that represents a qualitative leap in the integration project: the assumption in practice of its own military capacity that allows it to defend its strategic interests. Defensive autonomy begins to take shape.
A 28-page confidential document titled Strategic compass that during Monday and Tuesday the EU Defense Ministers had on the table, and to which EL PAÍS has had access, proposes for the first time in the history of the Union to organize military maneuvers starting in 2023 with the aim of that the organization as such can act with force in those places of its closest area of influence that require it. Far from being a multilateral military exercise, like those usually carried out by allied countries, these maneuvers are intended to be the basis for the creation of an operational force with some 5,000 members that would be ready within four years. It could take immediate action anywhere it was needed. It is an initiative of much greater depth than the so-called European Battalion, existing since 2017, but which has never been activated due to lack of budget, joint training and, in short, political will. It is not a minor fact that in the project that is discussed the financing is community.
If it occurs, this change of direction in the defensive approach of the EU is justified because the southern and eastern borders of the Union suffer significant security threats. In the Mediterranean there is a serious focus of instability in Libya – in practice turned into a failed state – to which is added the dangerous escalation between Morocco and Algeria, and the active presence, further south, of jihadism in the Sahel. In the east, tension with Russia – including aerial skirmishes in the Baltic countries and in the Black Sea – has been increased by the crisis with Belarus, which is using immigrants and refugees as a weapon of pressure, literally pushing them against the Polish border . Separate mention deserves the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine, with Crimea occupied by Moscow, a pro-Russian separatist guerrilla in the Ukrainian Donbas and periodic troop movements, such as the one denounced by Kiev on Tuesday, over the Russian concentration of 100,000 Russian soldiers on its borders.
But beyond the direct threats, it is perhaps the attitude of Europe’s traditional allies that is why the EU’s defensive autonomy takes priority. The exclusion of the EU from the Aukus – the trilateral military alliance formed this year by the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia – has been a political, economic and geostrategic slap in the face for the most successful association of democratic countries since the end of II World War. With the Chinese giant advancing on all fronts, a worrying delay in the technological race and migratory crises with massive human dramas, finally the EU governments are considering a solution that aspires to be useful in the future for the defense of the best values and principles that unite Europeans.