The Strategic Compass is out: now we have to implement it
“Knowing is not enough – one must apply. Willing is not enough – one must also act”, the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said. This quote is quite relevant to discussions on EU security and defence.
We have known for a long time that Europe is facing a fast-worsening strategic environment – but we have not always applied this knowledge. Similarly, we have often stated our desire to transform the EU into a stronger security and defence actor – but we have not always acted on it.
Two years ago, EU leaders tasked me as High Representative to develop an ambitious and actionable plan to strengthen the EU’s role on security and defence. This week, 27 EU foreign and defence ministers adopted the Strategic Compass and EU Leaders will endorse it today.
The war against Ukraine reinforces even more the need for a sea change in EU security and defence. How to get this done in practice is the purpose of the Strategic Compass.
We started to work on the Compass when we already felt that in a world of power politics, the EU needed to speak the language of power and enhance its collective capacity to act. Everything that has happened since has only strengthened this argument. It is obvious that the war against Ukraine reinforces even more this need for a sea change in EU security and defence. Today, no one denies that we need robust capabilities and the willingness to use them against the full spectrum of threats we face. How to get this done in practice is the purpose of the Strategic Compass, a rich document, with four main work strands:
- Act more quickly and decisively when facing crises;
- Secure our citizens against fast-changing threats;
- Invest in the capabilities and technologies we need; and
- Partner with others to achieve common goals.
The Compass includes a concrete plan for an EU Rapid Deployment Capacity to allow us to quickly deploy up to 5.000 troops for different types of crises, based on different scenarios. We will also increase the readiness of our forces through regular live exercises (never been done before at the EU level), strengthen our command and control arrangements and promote faster and more flexible decision-making. We will expand our capacity to tackle cyber threats, disinformation and foreign interference. And we will deepen investment into the necessary strategic enablers and next-generation capabilities. All this will make the EU a more capable security provider for its citizens, but also a stronger global partner, working with the UN, NATO and others for international peace and security.
More than the papers that we usually produce in Brussels, the Strategic Compass sets out concrete actions, with clear deadlines to measure progress. This is a member states-owned document and by signing off to it, they commit to implementing it.
Next up: implementation, implementation, implementation.
I am well aware that words are often easy and cheap but that actually providing security and defence is hard and expensive. The real metric for success will be whether the Strategic Compass leads to concrete results or not. That is why we need to move immediately to the implementation phase, working with member states, the European Commission, the European Defence Agency (EDA) and others.
I will be relentless in pushing everyone towards results. If there are blockages or hesitations to implement what everyone has now agreed to, I will not be shy in pointing them out.
When it comes to implementation, let me just mention a few action tracks: we will start now on developing the scenarios that will guide the development of the Rapid Deployment Capacity; we will begin the preparations for live exercises at the EU level. In May, the Commission together with the EDA will produce a report on existing defence gaps and proposals on how to remedy them. The same sense of urgency applies to accelerate our work on cyber, hybrid and foreign interference and manipulation of information, space, maritime etc..
Keeping up the momentum is essential. As High Representative, I will be relentless in pushing everyone towards results. If there are blockages or hesitations to implement what everyone has now agreed to, I will not be shy in pointing them out.
If open war on our continent does not compel us to act and become a real security actor act, when will we?
For more details, you can read my personal foreword “A Strategic Compass to make Europe a Security Provider” and access the full document here. You can find all relevant documents at the special EEAS webpage devoted to the Strategic Compass here.
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