Security and Defence package: Remarks by High-Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the press conference
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Good morning, thank you to all of you, thank you Margrethe [Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age] for your introduction and your remarks.
As you said, the security environment in Europe has changed dramatically.
Since last February, the war is back at our borders and the Russian aggression against Ukraine is undermining peace [and] the international rules-based system globally. But it affects us.
And we have to adapt our defence policies to this new environment. [And] that is a good occasion to wear my double hat: the hat of the Vice-President of the Commission, and the [one for] High Representative for Security and Defence. And maybe a third one: the [Head] of the European Defence Agency (EDA) that is going to play an important role in the development of these policies.
First, about military mobility and our second Military Mobility Action Plan.
You know that there is no road for military vehicles – there is not a specific road, they use the same roads.
But look at which is the weight of a Leopard tank, which is the length of a train to transport military warfare. And then, you could imagine, easily, that not all infrastructures are ready to support the weight and the length of the military warfare.
We need to adapt our mobility system for our troops to be able to transport and deploy quickly all their military capacities. This is critical for our defence: the capacity, the ability to move troops and equipment quickly from one side of the European Union to the other side of the European Union; from the West to the East – mainly -, to our external borders; but also, beyond our external borders when we deploy our military missions around the world. This requires to make bridges, tunnels and roads, and trains ready to transport our military capacities. Our military support to Ukraine has shown clearly that this matters a lot.
This “Action Plan” aims to reduce the delays to transport military capacity with 30 actions, enabling to move safer and quicker, ranging from transport infrastructure, regulatory issues, preparedness, and resilience.
Let me focus on the elements of that plan that fall under my responsibility as High Representative and Head of the [European] Defence Agency.
First, we have to update and expand the scope of military requirements. This, for example, includes looking into the Fuel Supply Chain. We need to be sure that there is a fuel supply chain from one side of Europe to the other side of Europe. Our [EU] Military Staff expertise will be key in designing this chain of fuel supply.
Second, the European Defence Agency will take forward the work on cross-border movement permissions and custom formalities, establishing a network for smart logistics. With Member States, we will address gaps in strategic lift capacity to ensure that we are able to transport large-scale forces at short notice.
Third, we have to work closer with our partners. The first one, NATO. NATO’s cooperation has to be intensified, but also with partners like Ukraine and Moldova. We have to share best practices with regional partners, with the Western Balkans. We have to be ready to prepare force deployment in this region, and we will address it with our transatlantic partners in regular dialogues.
From this point of view, I am happy to announce that the United Kingdom will join us on a Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) project on military mobility.
Second, on Cyber Defence.
Cyberspace is the new strategic domain. It is the place of geostrategic competition, and it will become a battlefield. But cyberspace has no limits: where is the space of the cyberspace? Everywhere. There [are] no borders. So, to make the difference between the internal and external, does not make a lot of sense, because there is no line between one thing and the other.
But, in any case, cyber war and cyber-attacks have become an integral part of modern warfare.
The Russian aggression against Ukraine is being accompanied by repeated cyber-attacks, not only against Ukraine, but also against us and against our partner countries. Remember, that before the war launched, a big cyber-attack preceded the bombing of Kyiv.
We are proposing [actions] to increase our ability to prevent, detect, deter the cyber-attacks and defend ourselves against them. We are following the same lines, the same verbs that we use in the Strategic Compass on Security and Defence: to act together for a stronger EU cyber defence, secure our defence ecosystem, invest in better cyber defence capabilities, and partner to address common challenges.
There is one common thread: better and stronger cooperation between the military and the civilians.
The [European] Commission is doing a lot on the civilian side of cyber defence - the military also. We have to link these two sides.
We must create the structures and mechanisms for cooperation among military actors to improve the situational awareness, the detection, the preparedness, and response.
That is why we are proposing, in this plan, to create an EU Cyber Defence Coordination Centre. It would act as a central node to collect, analyse and distribute cyber defence information.
Also, [we will establish] an operational network of Military Computer Emergency Response Teams with the European Defence Agency acting as secretariat.
[We will also] expand our Cyber Rapid Reaction Teams and cyber defence exercises.
Similarly, we need to address the gaps in the cyber defence workforce. We need to train, educate, and do exercises with the people that will work in these new battlefields. Because, certainly, we need to increase the number of people ready to participate in this kind of war, knowing that the classical warfare, the classical training of a soldier does not fit anymore in this new dimension of the war.
And we will step up our work in support of cyber defence capacity building of our partners also.
We are doing that through the European Peace Facility, supporting Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, and we are looking to further advance with others, in particular the Western Balkans, where some countries – like, for example, Albania – are suffering from cyber-attacks.
Member States will lead the implementation of this plan. But we have the instruments and initiatives that can make a difference.
[We are] presenting these concrete solutions, delivering on commitments and ambitions that we already announced when we approved the Strategic Compass.
I am sure this will make the European Union a stronger global security and defence actor.
I want to thank my colleagues from the Commission for the good cooperation between the civilian and military side of our capacities.
Q. I wanted to ask about third countries that have or will request to join the EU Military Mobility project. You mentioned the United Kingdom, but I understand that Turkey has applied a while ago, as well. Do you think this is moving forward? Do you anticipate others that could be potentially interested or considered to join the project?
Maybe I can answer this question.
Yes, the request from Turkey is moving forward.
Q. I wanted to touch on the wake-up call. When we look back at about April last year, Russia was already prepositioning things in Belarus and many Member States did not actually want to believe that there was even an invasion being prepared. I struggled to see our sense of urgency. When we look at the Baltic States – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania –, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, for example, NATO is already bolstering forces there to try to dissuade Russia. So, there is a sense of urgency on that frontline. But when you mention the study or the analysis that has to be done, identifying weak spots, my understanding is that it was supposed to be done four years ago already. Does that mean that nothing has been identified yet? Isn’t it better to start fixing things now, making the ports deeper, making the airports stronger – the bridges -, reinforcing them and so on? Because, as Ukraine knows, when a war is on your doorstep, you do not have any choice. You do not have any time.
Yes, certainly, not everything has been done yet.
We have made an important progress in the last months, but let’s recognise that bottlenecks remain. And these bottlenecks, sometimes they are not just physical.
For example, it takes at least five days for a cross border [transport] of a military capacity from one country to another. That is too long. And that is too long because it is not done in a digital manner. We are trying to develop a digital system shared by all Member States to facilitate the movement across the borders. It is not physical: it is not a bridge; it is not a road. It is la “paperasse” (paperwork), how they say in France, red tape. This has to be changed.
And you could say: “Yes, you should have foreseen that before the war.” Maybe. I remember when we were discussing the financial perspective. At that time, the European Peace Facility and military mobility were certainly not considered as something - let’s say - extraordinarily needed. And they suffered quite an important cut during the budgetary discussion because nobody had in mind what was going to happen.
Certainly, we would be very happy. We could have more money in the European Peace Facility, in the European Defence Fund and on Military Mobility. But when we were discussing that before the war – much before the war, at the beginning of our mandate -, the war was not on our radar screen.
Until the last minute, we were trying to avoid the war. It has not been possible. And, certainly, it requires us to engage more, allocate more resources and speed up our activities on this front. Not everything has been done before but our project and our proposal today [are] a matter of taking more awareness and acting quicker to face the current situation.
Link to the video (starting as of 9:08): https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-233114