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Research Report

Bold Steps in Multinational Cooperation: Taking European Defence Forward

Margriet Drent
Kees Homan
Dick Zandee
Copyright Date: May. 1, 2013
Published by: Clingendael Institute
Pages: 31

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. 1-2)
  2. (pp. 3-4)
  3. (pp. 5-6)

    It is not deniable any more: there is a defence crisis in Europe. Declining defence budgets have resulted in reduced capabilities and – if continued uncoordinated – could even lead to complete loss of military capacities. At the same time, it is safe to say that Europe will have to take up more responsibility for security in its own backyard and that this tendency will continue. This double challenge brings out the necessity to pool resources multinationally to be able to maintain capabilities, address shortfalls and achieve much needed modernisation. Steps have to be taken to bring multinational defence cooperation...

  4. (pp. 7-8)

    It is important to understand the wider geostrategic context and the strategic urgency of a capable European defence. The nodes of power are shifting and the emerging new international system can be described as an interpolar world: a mixture of multipolarity which is at the same time characterised by interdependence. In two decades Asia will bypass not only Europe but also the United States in terms of economic power. The OECD predicts that by 2030 the combined economies of China and India will account for 40% of the world economy against 34% for the American, European and Japanese economies together....

  5. (pp. 9-9)

    Can we close this gap between geopolitical urgency and practice of lacking multinational defence cooperation? A problem is that we do not have a clear picture of where we stand in terms of existing capabilities, redundancies and cooperation projects. Also, it seems we have not drawn enough lessons learned from past experiences of international defence projects. Both NATO and the EU have taken a number of initiatives and ambitious goal setting exercises over the past years, but so far the real deliverables are limited. The financial crisis gave new impetus to capability development with doing more for less. The practical...

  6. (pp. 10-14)

    European governments have responded to the combined challenge of maintaining and modernising capabilities with declining defence budgets by establishing or reinforcing clusters of defence cooperation. These clusters can reduce costs while simultaneously raising the collective output of European defence. Clusters are structural forms of cooperation and can cover capability development in a wider sense, among them cooperation on procurement of military equipment (based on harmonised requirements), common maintenance, training and education, more widespread sharing of infrastructure and the creation of joint operational units.

    An often heard argument opposing deeper defence cooperation is the issue of national sovereignty. Sovereignty can be...

  7. (pp. 15-20)

    The cluster approach is widely regarded as the most practical way forward to increase multinational defence cooperation set against the background that the attempts of the EU and NATO over the years have not yielded substantial results. Nevertheless, it also raises questions. Firstly, there is the issue of managing redundancies in capabilities which requires an approach beyond clusters. Secondly, European shortfalls have to be addressed coherently. Thirdly, opportunities for improving capabilities at a larger scale or for guaranteeing interoperability and standardisation beyond clusters might be neglected. Fourthly, clusters can also run contrary to efforts to reform Europe’s defence industrial base...

  8. (pp. 21-23)

    1. A substantial increase in defence budgets is most unlikely in the near future. There is only one alternative: eliminate military surpluses within Europe wherever possible and focus on European shortfalls and priority capabilities by deepening multinational defence cooperation across the board.

    2. The sovereignty issue should not be an excuse for abstaining from participation in ‘pooling and sharing’.

    3. Existing mechanisms like the European Air Transport Command (EATC) and the military earth observation Helios satellite cooperation show that successful models can be developed in which sovereignty of participating nations is covered satisfactory.

    4. All three models of deeper defence cooperation (modular, integration, specialisation)...

  9. (pp. 29-29)