Foreign Affairs Council (Defence): Press remarks by High Representative Josep Borrell after the meeting
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Well, today’s discussion with the Defence Ministers has been focusing, obviously, on Ukraine. Ukraine is and remains our priority number one in political and defence terms.
As we are talking, Ukraine and particularly Kyiv is being massively attacked by drones. Russia continues bombing and destroying Ukraine. In the United Nations, the vote in the UN General Assembly has asked Russia to be [held] accountable for the destruction they are causing.
During our meeting, we were joined by the Ukrainian Minister of Defence, Oleksii Reznikov, remotely, and by the NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, in person in parts of our discussion.
During these discussions, the Ministers have received an update on the military situation on the ground, provided by our Military Staff. It is good to know that Ukraine has already taken [back] 50% of the occupied territories after the end of February. After the beginning of the war, the Russians occupied part of the territories of Ukraine - the Ukrainians have recovered 50% of these territories.
Russia is trying to restore a front line in the East [close] to the administrative border of the Luhansk Oblast. From there, they are exerting pressure on the Ukrainian armed forces, but only through limited operations around the city of Bakhmut. Whilst, in the South, Russia has had to withdraw from the Western bank of the Dnipro River, and to use this river as a line of defence after having abandoned the only regional capital that they [had] conquered.
What is clear - and we got evidence of that - is that on both fronts, in the East and in the South, the military equipment provided by the Europeans and the United States, all together, to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, are proving to be extraordinarily useful. These arms, especially anti-aircraft, are making the difference, clearly.
This war is a war of logistics, it is a war where supply chains matter a lot and critical equipment – such as battle-tanks, artillery, and, especially, air defence systems – are vital. We are convinced that, thanks to this aid, Ukraine is not only resisting, but pushing back the Russian army.
But Russia [still] has the capacity of creating a lot of damage. They are through systematic attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, and through its mobilisation, continuing the war. Russia has made its intentions clear: the war will continue. On one side, they say vaguely that they want conversations, but, on the other side, the war continues, and the destruction is increasing. As we speak, Kyiv and many other cities in Ukraine are under heavy missile attacks. Many of these missiles are being shut down by the anti-aircraft capacity of the Ukranian forces. Many of them are Iranian [drones] - we know, and we are putting pressure [on] Iran in order not to provide more arms to Russia.
That is why we need and will sustain our transfers of military equipment to the Ukrainian armed forces, with the support of the European Peace Facility (EPF), and all Ministers agreed on the need to redouble efforts to regenerate [their military capacities] and to train their military capacities and to train their personnel.
That is why yesterday with the Foreign Ministers and today with the Defence Ministers, [we] have officially launched the EU Military Assistance Mission (EUMAM) for Ukraine. It has been done less than three months after I made the proposal. Remember, in August, I made the proposal and people were quite skeptical about [it], “is that providing value-added? Will you get unanimity?” Well, three months later in record time, the Mission is agreed and operational.
The first Ukranian soldiers are arriving to different Member States to start their high-level training. The Mission is a reality and - as I said yesterday - a first batch of 15,000 Ukrainian soldiers will be trained in our training camps. More than 20 Member States have offered their capacities to participate in this Mission.
This Mission will have a real value-added: by pooling resources, by pooling instructors, by synchronizing training modules, it will generate additional training offers to address and to adapt to Ukrainian needs.
The Mission will be established on European Union soil only and commanded at the strategic level by the Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC), here in Brussels.
My Military Staff will take care, through this MPCC facility, of conducting and commanding this Mission. But there will be a Combined Arms Training Command at operational level in Poland and a Special Training Command in Germany. This Mission will be closely coordinating its activities with partners and Allies.
In order to support this Mission, we agreed also to facilitate €16 million to provide equipment and ammunition.
This is part of the big effort that we have made, something unprecedented. We have used the European Peace Facility over the past months and mobilised a total of €3.1 billion since the start of the invasion. But, as we said yesterday, and today we have discussed with the Ministers, this is just the part of the funding that comes from the European Union’s financial structures. You have to add to it the amount that Member States provide bilaterally, directly, to Ukraine.
The best estimation of the total amount of our effort – provided by the European Peace Facility and the Member States directly – reaches a minimum of €8 billion.
So please keep in mind these figures: €3.1 billion is coming from the European Peace Facility; all in all, it is about €8 [billion]. Together with the United States – all together -, we are providing an incredible amount of supplies of arms and logistic capacities to the Ukrainian armed forces.
This figure - €3.1 billion - represents two thirds of the total amount of the European Peace Facility. Two thirds of the total budget of the European Peace Facility has already been allocated to support Ukraine directly from the budget, if I may say, which is under my direct management authority.
So, we need to ensure the financial sustainability of the European Peace Facility because the war, unhappily, will continue. It looks like it is going to continue, and there are many other scenarios where we have to engage and support our partners.
I made Member States conscious of the urgent need to keep the European Peace Facility sustainable from the financial point of view. And this requires to be able to provide a pertinent, flexible, fast and efficient support in times of crisis.
The work will continue, [there is] no agreement today. It was not on the table as a decision, but as a debate. The work will continue in the Council, and I hope that, before the end of the year, we can take measure that ensure the financial sustainability of our efforts through the European Peace Facility. Then, Member States will continue doing a lot on their side according to their specific capacities, to provide the arms that they have, and to the Ukrainians’ request. All that under the control of our Clearing House cell here in Brussels.
The second issue that we have been discussing today is a more structural one. It is about how can we step up our defence investment and defence capabilities, apart from Ukraine.
We know that Putin is destroying the infrastructure of this country and putting into the darkness and the cold the Ukrainians during the winter. We will support them, but we have to think also of our own capacities, our own defence capabilites and our own investments.
In order to study that, this morning, the Ministers sat on the [Steering] Board of the European Defence Agency (EDA). The Agency will be more and more important. The European Defence Agency, which I have the honour to chair its Steering Board, will be more and more the body that will take care of all the coordination of efforts of Europeans in terms of defence and security.
Today, I presented the second CARD. Keep in mind this acronym, one more: CARD, the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence. The best image of the defence landscape that we have in Europe. If you want to know about European defence capabilities, [take] a look at the CARD. This is the second report of this type, Coordinated Annual Review.
And the conclusions of this Review are clear. Allow me to put some slides for you to understand better what we are talking about.
In 2021, the European defence effort – all Member States together – reached about €214 billion. You see, where the green light becomes orange. This is 2021. You see, the big “defence underspend”.
Since 2008, when the financial crisis erupted, everybody in Europe has been cutting defence expenditures in quite an uncoordinated manner. And then, the defence expenditures decreased from €190 [billion per year] to €160 [billion per year]. It was a big gap that was increasing from 2008 to 2014 when Crimea was invaded. The Crimea invasion was a wake-up call and since then military expenditures have started growing again but very slowly.
It has created a big gap that we call the “defence underspend”. The financial crisis in 2008, and from 2018, we start growing above the pre-crisis level. But we have to recover all the grey area (the “defence underspend”). All this grey area is in mathematical terms the cumulation of the underspend in defence.
In 2021, where we are, €214 [billion] – so more in nominal terms than in 2005. In nominal terms, but there is something called inflation which decreases the value of money: it is not the same €1 billion in 2005 than in 2021. But let’s continue talking in nominal terms. In nominal terms, we are well above the pre-crisis level.
From now on, what we see is an orange trajectory that we call “repairing the past”, which means to recover the grey zone. The orange is to recover the grey: what we have not spent since the crisis has to be recovered. And, then, the green one is “winning the future”. It is to do more than just recover from the past: it is to prepare ourselves to face the challenges.
We have to be ready to fight the war of tomorrow, not the war of yesterday, and this requires new technological capabilities.
We want to follow the dotted line spending from the “recovery point”: it is the point on which we change from “repairing the past” to “winning the future”. This is about €70 billion. Keep in mind this figure: €70 billion is the amount of additional defence expenditure that Member States plan from now until 2025, in the next three years. If we are really able to implement what we have announced and planned, then we will go to the green zone – “winning the future”. Not only repairing the past - which has to be done – but doing much more than that. And “winning the future” requires an additional expenditure of €70 billion to 2025 – not on a yearly basis, in the next three years. When this will be fully allocated, certainly we will improve our readiness to close this long-standing gap in our defence capabilities.
This is the summary of what the plan is. This is the plan to recover from years of underspending in defence following the financial crisis. This has to ensure our capability to have armed forces ready to face our challenges.
This has to be done in [defence] cooperation. I insist on that idea and that is why CARD exists: Coordinated Annual Review on Defence. It has to be in a coordinated manner.
[If] we have a look at the defence expenditures today, what do we see? I am not talking about the whole expenditure, but about the capability development programmes – let's say the investment. In civilian terms, we would say “investments”: not “current expenditures”, but “investments”. In military terms, we say “capability development programs”.
CARD has a look at that and it sees that about less than 20% - 18% - [of capability developments programs] are done in cooperation. The rest, we do not know exactly. It is not reported or it is done on a national basis. So, the degree of cooperation among our armies is very low when it comes to the moment to increase their capabilities. It has to be changed.
Certainly, 18% is better than 11% - two years ago [in 2020], it was 11%. It has increased but it is still too low. We need to reach the target of 35%. In the [Strategic] Compass, we said: “we need to invest in a coordinated manner 35% of our expenditures.” We are at 18% - we need to do much more.
And that is what CARD is doing, because CARD maps the defence landscape and looks at what we have, what we do, and which are the opportunities for cooperation. It identifies more than 100 collaborative opportunities.
When we say, “to do it together”: what can we do together? I think this is a good occasion because when we are ready to spend more, we have to spend better. And the best way of spending better is spending in a coordinated manner.
We must move past recovery and towards winning the future by building a true European defence capability.
Today, we held the first annual meeting [on capabilities] – the [Strategic] Compass mandates us to do it at least once a year. This was the first annual meeting on capabilities to study where we are, and where we want to go, and which are the possibilities and opportunities to do things together.
And there are many: we listed 100. I do not [expect] you to go through the 100 of them, but they are grouped, and you see the number of things, areas: from satellite communications to maritime surveillance, to armoured tracked vehicles. We identified 100 defence capabilities where joint procurement can be a win-win for all.
We have advanced the work, we have identified urgent needs, [and] we are reaching out to the industry. There are a lot of examples on this graph.
If we do that, and we work very closely together with the [European] Commission, we could avoid competing for the same products, competing for the same things with a limited industrial capability. We may have greater bargaining power; we could ensure the interoperability of the armies. And that is what the European Defence Agency has to support.
Member States agreed also to increase the budget of the Agency by 13% to give the Agency more capacities. It is the best group of military experts and advisors, coming from all European armies. They will be supporting this coordination [of] expenditure.
But we can only procure what the industry produces. We need to strengthen our European defence industry. We need a better and more capable Defence industry to deliver rapidly the needs of our Member States. The Ministers agreed that the European defence industry needs to ramp-up production rapidly, to replenish the stocks that have been allocated to Ukraine. We need a reliable production capacity. But a reliable production capacity in the field of defence requires also a reliable demand. Otherwise, there will not be the investments needed to support the demand.
This is about the intense and very productive that we had ahead of our plans to develop our defence capabilities.
Remember, CARD is the best tool that we have to overcome the gaps inherited from the crisis [of 2008].
Then, we went to the rest of the world. We looked at what happened in the Sahel. I proposed a small and agile military mission to respond to the needs of the Niger Armed Forces in the field of maintenance and logistics. I hope that my colleagues from the Foreign Affairs Council will be able to approve this mission in December.
Then, we continued working on the implementation of the Strategic Compass – which is not a book to be kept on a shelf, but a guide for action.
I updated Ministers about the ongoing work on the European Union Rapid Deployment Capacity – which is one of the key deliverables of the Strategic Compass.
We have developed two possible scenarios where this capacity could be used. The Military Staff presented the Ministers these scenarios: one scenario relating to the rescuing and evacuation of European Union citizens – we have seen how important it [was] in the case of Afghanistan - and another one in the initial phase of a stabilisation operation. The next stage will be to put this work in practice and to test it with live exercises, which will take place on the second semester of 2023 under the Spanish Presidency [of the Council]. The Spanish Presidency will hold live exercises of these scenarios.
Then, by 2025, the EU Rapid Deployment Capacity should be fully operational.
[There are] good news: the Council has agreed to allow the Netherlands to invite the United Kingdom to participate in the PESCO project on Military Mobility. I informed the Council on the Joint Proposal on Military Mobility and on the EU Cyber Defence [Policy] approved together with the [European] Commission, which are also part of the Strategic Compass’ deliverables.
All in all, it has been an intense and productive Council of Ministers of Defence. With the war in Ukraine on the stage, everything is being conditioned by this war and the Member States repeated their strong commitment to continue supporting Ukraine militarily with the means and capacities that we have and the ones that we will build.
I think it is everything I can tell you.
Q. I have two questions. The first is about what you told us today. So, Ukraine has one of the strongest armies in Europe, while the EU plans to create its own army. Are you considering more cooperation with Ukraine in the military sphere? And how could this affect the speed of considerations of Ukraine’s application to join the European Union? The second question is: are there ongoing discussions in the European Union regarding the recognition of Russia as a State sponsor of terrorism at the European Union level?
Well, I can tell you what has been the discussion in the Council. I cannot tell you what has not been the discussion in the Council. This was not in the discussion in the Council, so no news about it.
Frankly speaking, our military support to Ukraine is not part of the [accession] process. The [accession] process follows its route. In the next weeks, there will be a high level meeting between the European [Union] leadership and Ukraine, there we will discuss about it. This was a meeting of the Defence Ministers, and the Defence Ministers do not deal with enlargement.
Q. Sur la Facilité européenne pour la paix, je voulais savoir s’il y avait un montant que vous considérez comme nécessaire à atteindre pour que cette Facilité soit durable - “sustainable” comme on dit en anglais. Pour le Niger, est-ce que vous pouvez nous donner plus d’information sur cette mission que voulez créer?
Yes, with Niger we want to develop a mission based on partnership: this is why we call the mission a military partnership mission. It is the first time that we use “partnership” when we name a mission, because we understand that we have to be working with the Nigerian army on an equal basis, and develop more [their] logistic capacities, and leave behind – because the Mission will not last forever – structures that the Niger army can run by themselves. Certainly, it will depends [on] the details, but a decision will be taken by the Ministers in the next Foreign Affairs Council – if everything goes as quickly as needed.
You want to know how much money I need? I do not know, frankly speaking, I cannot give you a figure. Two thirds of the European Peace Facility have already been committed, and there is a long queue of requests to be fulfilled, but let’s see which is the debate on the next Foreign Affairs Ministers Council. I cannot advance a figure now.
Q. Could you please specify what kind of these new weapons, what kind of this new system did you agree to provide to Ukraine? Which terms of this provision?
It is a continuous flow. The supply of arms to Ukraine is a continuous flow. It flows everyday, and everyday, there is a Member State that provides more. The systems have already been provided. I do not think we need new systems. What they need is ammunition to make the systems work. And this has to be done on a daily basis. This was the most important request that we had, and certainly air defence capabilities. Ukraine is being destroyed from the air: from drones, from flying bombs and from missiles, which are sometimes are being launched from 1,000 km far away from Kyiv. So, what Ukraine needs is more air defence systems - and that is what we are going to provide. If I can summarise it, it is a continuous flow of ammunition to make the systems already provided fully operational.
Q. Considering today’s developments in Ukraine, if I may, I would like to look back at the discussion from yesterday on Russia. Could you maybe elaborate on the six points that you discussed yesterday and that intend replace the five principles? The lines did not seem particularly new, so I would be interested in where the discussion should be going. Can you maybe comment on the response that you received? Because some Member States had mixed signals about them.
Yes, I know. You know that these lines of approach to Russia have been discussed in order to make an approach that everybody could share. We are in the middle of the war, it is very difficult to say how our future relations will be – who knows when and how. For the time being, we have to deal with Russia considered as an aggressor to Ukraine. Member States agreed – there are always some differences, some verbs, some words; but I think there is a strong unity around these lines that can be summarised in six points.
First point, we have to isolate Russia internationally. This is also a geopolitical battle. I used the term “battle of narratives” three years ago at the beginning of my mandate. I think I invented the term “battle of narratives”. And this battle of narratives is really raging today. We have to isolate Russia internationally. What does it mean? It means imposing and implementing restrictive measures against Russia and preventing their circumvention. We do that in order to impede Russia to wage the war. And these measures are efficient, they work.
Second, we have to look at how to ensure accountability by holding Russia, the perpetrators and the accomplices, responsible for the violation of human rights and international law. Accountability. The second word is accountability.
The third [point] is to support our neighbours, including the neighbours that are part of our Enlargement policy in the [Western] Balkans. To help them to address the global consequences of the war, including what we have done with Ukraine with the Solidarity Lanes because Russia is weaponising food and energy. In the war against Ukraine, they are weaponising food and energy, affecting the global food insecurity. And yesterday, at the G20 [Summit], I think it was President Xi [Jinping] from China, that together with President [of the United States, Joe] Biden - both of them - stressed that food and energy should not be used as a weapon, and this is what Russia is doing. So, we have to support the neighbours.
The fourth [point] is to work closely with NATO and partners worldwide to defend the international rule-based order, and to reject the notion of spheres of influence that was used in the past century. But in the twenty-first century, no one has to be part of a sphere of influence. The European security order has to reject this idea of areas of influence.
Then, the fifth [point] would be that we have to enhance our resilience: to build our energy security, to protect our critical infrastructures, to defend [ourselves] against information manipulation. And it is much more urgent to increase our security and defence, as we did in this graph.
And the last one is to support civil society, everywhere: to support human rights defenders, to support independent media inside and outside Russia. And also, to address the increasing threats to security and public order in the European Union, because Putin believes that some events in the international arena could be useful for him. He was thinking of good results on the American elections. He was thinking of the new attitude of some governments in Europe. He was thinking of the effect on the high prices of electricity, and he is still thinking that, during winter, the European societies will be weakened by these problems. And we have to increase our resilience to defend the defenders of human rights - in the case of Iran also – and doing that every day. And these are our lines to take, which are quite evident. It is quite common sense. I do not think that anyone can disagree with that.
Q. How many and which countries showed their interest in joining the Rapid Deployment Capacity so far? What are the next actions from the Strategic Compass in the pipeline?
As I said, we are still not on the operational deployment. We are still not in the phase of Member States providing capacities to build the modules of this structure. We are in the phase of designing scenarios and practicing these scenarios through live exercises. It will not be operational until 2025. In 2023, it will be live exercises to implement actions with respect to some possible scenarios, and later we will be asking to Member States to participate and I am sure that everybody will participate.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-233006