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Speech by HR/VP Federica Mogherini at the “Building on vision, forward to action: delivering on EU security and defence” event


Speech by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini at the “Building on vision, forward to action: delivering on EU security and defence” event


Brussels, 13 December 2017

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First of all, Muchas Gracias Javier [Solana, First High-Representative of the European Union], Vielen Dank Joschka [Fischer, Former Foreign Minister and Vice-Chancellor of Germany]. I have to say I'm flattered and honoured to be here with the two of you and with so many of you today, somehow celebrating the historic steps the European Union is finally taking on security and defence and looking also at the way forward.

As our title says "building on vision" - and it was your vision -, delivering - and that's what we're doing -, and moving forward to action. The vision was delineated in the 1950s by the same founding fathers - and I stress here "fathers" because no woman was sitting at the table at that time - who signed the Treaty of Rome exactly 60 years ago, giving birth to the most successful regional integration process in the history of the world - our European Union. 

Several decades and a few bumps later - some of which I believe Javier [Solana] just mentioned - the vision came back with the Lisbon Treaty that was signed exactly 10 years ago today. We didn't plan it. It is one of those lucky coincidences that help the symbolism of a message go through. Because on 13 December 2007 the Heads of State or Government of the Member States of our Union - still mostly fathers, but things had started to slightly change at the time, not too much, I think it was one woman at the table that is still around at the table - agreed to work - and I quote the Lisbon Treaty - "on the progressive framing of a common defense policy that might lead to common defence". 

They also decided to provide our Union with the tools to deliver on security and defence. But as we know, history is never linear. And the potential of Lisbon Treaty was not fulfilled for 10 years - a decade.

The financial crisis came, just after the Lisbon Treaty was signed and the main focus of Europeans - both citizens and leaders - moved to economic and social priorities and probably rightly so. When I started my mandate three years ago, it did not look like a good moment for re-launching the process of European integration - including on security and defence. And I believe Joschka [Fischer], who is always a very critical analysist of where the European Union moves or does not move, might remember very well that three years ago it was not a very bright moment for a process to re-launch the European Union. 

I remember very well I had the confirmation hearing at the European Parliament - one of those things that feel like a high school exam at the end of the cycle, for which you have to study thousands of pages and you can get all kinds of questions - and at a certain moment I said that I would work to try to make full use of all the tools and all the potential of the Lisbon Treaty in the field of security and defence. And I remember very well the reactions: Many replied that the political conditions were not there and that it would prove to be impossible, as you would say. 

Well, let me quote a great man of our times, Nelson Mandela, who used to say: "It seems always impossible, until it is done". And today, exactly 10 years after the signing of the Lisbon Treaty, it is done. People thought that it was not possible to achieve that. And here we are. We just took the most significant step ever taken towards the European Union of Security and Defense. We made it. On Monday, I chaired the Foreign Affairs Council that adopted the decision to establish Permanent Structured Cooperation among 25 Member States, and together with that 17 concrete projects already identified.

And tomorrow we will celebrate together with the Heads of State or Government this historic moment, achieved - as Javier [Solana] mentioned - thanks to the hard, collective work of many extremely qualified, dedicated, committed people. And I believe Donald Tusk [President of the European Council and former Prime Minister of Poland], who signed the Lisbon Treaty for Poland, and Jean-Claude Juncker [President of the European Commission and former Prime Minister of Luxembourg], who signed it for Luxembourg, will certainly share tomorrow the strong feeling of pride for what is a "mission accomplished" for the Union - which was not a given at that time.

And it is important for me personally to share this moment in particular with you, Javier [Solana], because if we are here today, it is also thanks to the seeds that you planted as the first High Representative of our Union. And this is why it was so important for me to have this moment between the decision we took at the Foreign Affairs Council and the celebrations tomorrow with the Heads of State or Government to look at our history - recent history, where it comes from - so that we can build on this for the future steps.

If you allow me a personal anecdote: I remember very well when I came to see you, Javier [Solana], in Madrid, it was the very beginning of my mandate, probably the first weeks. We had a very nice, very early breakfast together and I asked for advice. And you told me to be ambitious and pragmatic. To aim high and not to stop when people around me would have told me "it is impossible", "it was never done" or "the political conditions are not there". 

If we are here today, it is also thanks to that advice you gave me and that I dared to follow. We made it, I think, for three reasons. First, what was an aspiration and a possibility 10 years ago has now become an undeniable necessity. No Member State can provide security to its citizens alone. In the face of unprecedented and chaotic proliferation of conflicts, confrontations, crises, new kinds of threats - the list is long – only through our Union we collectively have the tools today to respond to our citizens' security needs and also to our partners' expectations, because around the world our partners identify the Union now as a credible security provider, not just as a market or a trading partner. This is clear today, as it was not clear in the past and this is also thanks to the work that has been done in these past 10 years. And this is also why three out of four EU citizens favour a common European Defence and Security policy. What was a vision is today a necessity.

Second reason why we made it is that I followed your wise advice - ambition and pragmatism. We decided - and that was subject to long discussions - not to re-open the ideological debate - for instance about to the European army or about a single European Defence Minister. And we decided to set the goal, using the full potential of the treaties high - the highest - and we identified the small, huge concrete steps that would have led us there and it worked.

Third is that we worked in a team. First of all, inside the institutions. And here I would like to publicly thank all those that have worked in these months - one year and a half now - with remarkable professionalism and dedication, and I have to say at a speed and a pace that has at times gone beyond the physical challenges of survival. And I would like to really thank them. But also we managed to do the teamwork among the institutions; and all of you who know the Brussels bubble - which means everybody in the room, I believe - know that this was the main challenge from the beginning. Never before - on any of our policies - have we seen such a convergence and synergy between the different institutions and services. 

The Member States in different formations of the Council, bringing together Foreign Ministers, Defence Ministers, obviously Heads of State or Government - and we will need to bring in the Finance Ministers as well - but that's for later, but it will come -, the European External Action Service (EEAS), that has accompanied and shaped the entire process, the European Defence Agency, the [European Union] Military Staff, who is around in the Council - and not only in the Council - much more now than it used to be and, for the first time ever on defence the Commission, bringing together not just the traditional External Action Commissioners but mainly the economic, financial and industrial portfolios to create the European Defence Fund that will support the Permanent Structured Cooperation projects. 

I would like here to thank Jean-Claude [Juncker, President of the European Commission] for his constant support and leadership on this. This is probably, I would say, the best way to celebrate and honour the Lisbon Treaty. Exactly 10 years later the double hat of High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission has proven to be not only possible to wear - even if physically any woman and, I think, also every man knows that wearing two hats is a bit complicated, aesthetically probably not the best idea - but in this case, possible to wear, and more than that, indispensable in order to deliver. Actually, we always referred to two hats, but they are three. Because heading the European Defence Agency is a key asset to support this entire process and without these three hats, without that, we would not have made it.

I am often asked, if my role is not an impossible one. I can tell you it is perfect. Without the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty on this role we would not have achieved these results and maybe this is something to keep in mind for other policies as well. What we have achieved in these years of work: Today, we can research together the technologies of tomorrow in the field of defence and develop together our defence capabilities. We can buy together, to ensure that we have all the capabilities we need and also spend efficiently. We can act together on operations to manage and prevent crises, to strengthen our partners, to make our citizens more secure.

And this is the European Union of security and defence that we have started to set up. And to do this, we have put together quite an impressive number of new instruments, not for the sake of creating new structure or instruments, but simply because they were missing in the toolbox the world of today requires in the field of security and defence.

First, we created last spring the first ever command centre for our military training and advisory missions.

Second, we brought our cooperation with NATO to a level that was never experienced before. Let me add that I am particularly glad that we can continue to work with [NATO Secretary General] Jens Stoltenberg for the next couple of years as his mandate has just been extended yesterday.

Third, we have set up a European Defence Fund with the [European] Commission, not to militarise the EU budget, but on the contrary to help Member States spend better by spending together.

And, of course, we have activated a Permanent Structured Cooperation on Defence [PESCO] among 25 Member States, ambitious and inclusive. And, let me say the four defence ministers who started the process on the Member States' side are all four women. So times are changing also on this.

25 European countries have committed to join forces on a regular basis to provide troops and assets for the missions we agree together, but also to speed up their national decision-making to share information, to work on a common funding of our missions and operations. Their work has already started very practically, as I was saying with 17 projects for concrete cooperation.

These are very practical problems. They will facilitate cooperation between armed forces, fill some crucial gaps in capabilities, make defence spending much more efficient. I would take only one example: the defence industry. We have great expertise in Europe, great companies - including small and medium-sized great companies. But our industry is too fragmented, definitely too fragmented. With the 25 Member States of the European Union who have joined the Permanent Structured Cooperation [PESCO], you have the second largest military budget in the world. But as long as it is fragmented, it is not the second one. It is 25 different ones. 

So let's take advantage of what the European Union can bring in terms of added value to this, which is the economy of scale: to do things together, spend together, invest together, buy together, act together. As you see the possibilities of the Permanent Structured Cooperation [PESCO] are immense. And let me tell you the possibilities are even greater if we manage to use together all the different tools we have created over the last year.

Now the real work is just about to begin, today, tomorrow. It is a bit of a celebration mode which is understandable, because we have achieved more in this last year than we achieved in decades on security and defence in the European Union. And we can celebrate and we should celebrate, because also we need to recognise when the European Union makes something good. We tend also to underline the deficits and the difficulties. But most of all we are ready to go back to work, with the same determination, the same ambition, the same pragmatism that has brought us here.

So let me point out six ideas on which, I believe, work that lies ahead can be important, and on which I will submit proposals in the coming weeks in the institutions.

First of all, action. Our work to develop collective capacities and new instruments cannot be an end in themselves. What matters is if they provide a real contribution to our security and to peace and stability in the world. We could now work for instance, finally, on the possibility of deploying a battlegroup in crisis theatres where it is needed, exactly 10 years after their creation. Full use of our instruments, not for the sake of using them, but if and when it is needed, and given the state of the world today, something like this can be useful in many different places, always in the European way – meaning at the service of peace and development.

Second, we need to equip ourselves with the means and resources to live up to our new joint ambition on security and defence. With the Commission we are working on the next multiannual financial framework – our spending plans for the next seven years in the Union. In that context I would propose to create a new European Peace Facility, financed and managed together with our Member States. This would allow to be much more efficient in planning and deploying our military missions, but also to support our partners in dealing with our shared security challenges.

Third, we do not do all of this in isolation, but in close cooperation with our partners. As we build a Security and Defence Union, we want to strengthen our partnerships first and foremost with NATO – and this is already ongoing – but also with United Nations, with the African Union, with other regional organisations, and with our friends in the world. If you think of our military and civilian missions – we have now 16 of them around the world – they do benefit our European citizens but they also provide peace and stability in three continents. And there are many partners that benefit from that. 

Our partners are increasingly interested in taking part in our missions. So one option could be to create a mechanism for closer and more constant coordination with the non-European Union countries and international organisations involved in our missions and operations, or otherwise associated to our policy in the field of security and defence. And this mechanism could become even more relevant to guarantee a strong and effective cooperation with the United Kingdom when they will leave the Union, because apparently this is going to happen sometime. 

Fourth, while most of the attention these days goes to the impressive progress we have made on the military side of our Common Security and Defence Policy, I would like to put the accent and the priority in the coming months to see progress on our civilian missions and capabilities too. Because security threats have changed. They are less traditional than before and this makes our civilian engagement even more important. If you think of the work we are doing to help, for instance, our partners in Iraq, to build strong strength with professional police forces, or think how important the criminal justice system has become in dealing with the terrorist threat, this careful mix between military and civilian actions is what makes the European way unique and what makes it indispensable, impossible to replace.

Fifth, with the multiple, complex initiatives we have launched in the area of security, there is more than ever a need for coherence and coordination. And this is when we come back to the Treaty of Lisbon and the brilliant idea of this triple hat: the High Representative, the Vice-President of the [European] Commission and the head of the [European Defence] Agency [EDA]. I feel the responsibility as we launch this new phase in the European defence to make it a priority for the rest of my mandate – still two years to go, which is a short time – to ensure synergies and coherent results of all the defence and security related initiatives. We are starting, including by setting up a Defence Union Task Force for that purpose.

Finally, and I will finish, our work on defence is about assets and capabilities, but it is also about creating a common strategic culture within our Union. It is becoming more and more vital that our military personnel have the opportunity to enjoy a truly European training and education. We already have set up a military Erasmus and the first European training centres, from hybrid threats to tactical airlift. And I have visited them. Some projects in the Permanent Structured Cooperation [PESCO] will also focus on training.

So, the work continues: ambition and pragmatism, step by step, vision and action.

And I would like to be very sincere with you. I wish we would not need to be talking so much about security and defence. I wish the world around us would be less chaotic, and much less confused. I wish there were more rational, more wise and co-operative forces in our difficult, confused, and dangerous world. Unfortunately, we do not get to decide on the kind of world we live in. But we can choose to try and change our times in an ambitious and pragmatic manner, and step by step. 

And I believe we started to change our Union. Think of the mood in and on the European Union, exactly one year ago, one year and a couple of months ago: it was all about crisis, crisis, crisis, crisis. Many, most of the ones that were writing comments and talking in the bar, were believing that we were entering the beginning of the end of the European Union. And first and foremost we were facing ourselves a crisis of lack of self-confidence. I often said – if you allow me an unusual parallel – the year when the European Union was turning 60, it seems that we turned 16 and looking at ourselves in the mirror, seeing ourselves as ugly – life is awful and everything is going wrong, while we are strong and people around the world look at us as a point of reference. 

Look at us now. After one year, one year and a half, the mood in and around Europe is completely different. And we have achieved now more than we have achieved ever in our history on security and defence. And just a few months ago everybody was saying this was not happening.

Here we are - celebrating the most impressive common achievement to build a Union of security and defence, being – and we are seeing this from Jerusalem, to Iran, to Africa and I could continue – a strong, reliable, cooperative, wise, calm, rational, indispensable point of reference for many in the world. I would say – a cardinal point, a compass, in this confused and dangerous world. And, I believe that we have shown that change is possible, and we can be the drivers of such change.

And, as Javier [Solana] has always said, we have done it the European way and we would continue to do it the European way, with all the wisdom, the ambition, and the pragmatism that has led us here.

Thank you very much.


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