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Opening remarks Ambassador David O’Sullivan at the 6th CSDP Symposium “Transatlantic Cooperation for Global Security

Photo by Kate Patterson Visuals

Opening remarks – 6th CSDP Symposium “Transatlantic Cooperation for Global Security”

Remarks by Ambassador David O’Sullivan

Ambassador of the European Union to the United Sates

6 June 2017 – Institute of Peace, Washington, D.C.

Thank you Heather, ladies and gentlemen.  It is a great pleasure to be here for what has now become an annual event – our 6th CSDP Symposium.  It has become a regular feature on the Washington, D.C. calendar where we focus on the lesser known aspects of the European Union’s Common Security and Defence Policy.  We always hold this event at this wonderful venue, and we are grateful to the Institute of Peace for making it available.

I would like to thank CSIS – Heather Conley and Jeff Rathke in particular for supporting us, our speakers and panelists from both the U.S. and Europe.  And of course, the Embassies of our EU Member States – for without their support, this symposium could not be a success. Thank you.

I am delighted that Congressman Joe Wilson, who co-chairs the recently reinvigorated EU Caucus on the Hill, will be with us later today.

And this morning, we will here from Minister Margus Tsakhna from Estonia and Minister Raimundas Karoblis from Lithuania who will share their thoughts and views on the logic and the need for stronger European defence and closer transatlantic cooperation.

Let me start by giving one clear and concise message that I believe is important to emphasise on both sides of the Atlantic – for us, protecting our citizens and our nations stands at the very core of what we do, and what we hope to achieve.

Protecting our citizens is what the European project was all about when we started it some 60 years ago.  This year, various significant anniversaries converge, and it is worth reminding ourselves of them.

100 years ago this year, the United States entered World War One.  This was the first, but unfortunately not the last time, when American service men and women gave their lives to help resolve conflict in Europe.  It is the 73rd anniversary of D-Day which reminds us of how we needed, unfortunately, another intervention – twice in a century – to liberate the continent and restore democracy in Europe.

But just as importantly, 70 years ago yesterday, George Marshall gave his historic speech at Harvard University.

I was very honoured, yesterday, to mark that occasion among other distinguished guests – including Secretary Madeline Albright – at the Gorge C. Marshall International Centre, his former home in Leesburg, Virginia which has been preserved as a monument to the great man.  A remarkable visionary, his speech set the tone for most of the second half of the 20th Century because he and the United States recognised that having helped us win the war, we also had to win the peace.  The approach that General Marshall set out was one of enlightened generosity.  I would also say a certain amount of self-interest because the lessons of Versailles and the end of the First World War did not encompass that generosity of spirit.  There was vindictiveness on the part of the European powers, and there was the sense of withdrawal on the part of America that having been embroiled in this conflict, they did not wish to be further involved.  The consequence as we now know, unfortunately, was a further bloodier conflict that included the holocaust.  We knew we needed a new business model, and George Marshall set that out.

I would also like to add that having lived in Japan myself, I also want to pay tribute to how the U.S. approached the restoration of the Pacific region.  Democracy was introduced to Japan.  We have all seen how it has become the successful and vibrant country we know it to be today due to the generosity of spirit, not revenge, in the aftermath of war which is unusual and is to the great credit to the U.S. and the leadership at that time.

That spirit is what helped us in Europe to rebuild.  From that spirit flowed our efforts at European integration.  The U.S. made a vast amount of money available to Europe – about 14% of the federal budget, 3-4% of GDP in those days.  And yesterday we heard eloquent testimony from many Europeans about how that money was used across Europe.  The key was that we needed to cooperate to make best use of those funds.  Our cooperation gave rise to the OECD, the European Steel and Coal Community and now – as I come to our anniversary this year – the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, and the foundations of what we now call the European Union.  You only have to look at how the European Union stands today and the enormous achievement moving from six countries creating a common market in 1957, to 28 countries today, reuniting the continent after the fall of the berlin wall, and the great enlargement of 2004.  The largest single market today, a fully integrated zone of relative peace and prosperity.  And Europe has seen 70 years of uninterrupted peace based on this architecture.  A remarkable achievement of which the U.S. role was crucial.

But today we face multiple challenges on both sides of the Atlantic, some of which we honestly thought we had put behind us.  Our past has come back a little to haunt us.  The reemergence of great power competition, the violation of central tenets of the European security architecture, the breaching of national sovereignty and the intent to change borders by military force.  We have even seen the use of chemical weapons in war, and the dangers of nuclear proliferation.

At the same time, our neighbourhood has become increasingly fragile and has a direct and lasting effect on our wellbeing.  We are also faced with migratory movements on a very large scale.  Violent extremism and terrorism is attempting to exploit grievances and disrupt our freedom.

And, perhaps most worrying of all, within our societies an increasing number of our citizens feel disenfranchised and doubt the very value of our democratic system as they frequently feel it does not deliver for their needs.

Today, we are here to discuss what the European Union and what we as a transatlantic community can do to secure our nations and to defend our citizens.

Within the EU, our Member States and the European Union leadership have vigorously reengaged to invest more into our common defence. Defence is back on the agenda in Europe in a way that was not necessarily the case ten years ago.

Let me be clear, we do so for our own good and out of common interest.  And when I say “invest more into our common defence”, I mean the entire spectrum of what security and defence entails – to reinvigorate and strengthen all of the instruments at our disposal to tackle the crisis cycle.  To align the resources of our Member States – diplomatic, development, humanitarian, law enforcement and of course military.

The Global Strategy presented last year by High Representative, Vice President Federica Mogherini and endorsed by all our Member States is the visible symbol of our joint endeavor.  But it is in the implementation of the security and defence aspects of the Global Strategy that we are witnessing making enormous progress in the first year.  I am very grateful to Defence Ministers Tsakhna and Karoblis as I believe they can personally attest to just how much we have achieved.  I heard in Brussels last week that we have done more in the last two years then we have managed to achieve in the previous twenty or thirty.  This is something our American colleagues should take stock of.

To name just a few of the elements that we are taking forward:

  • We are setting up a small military HQ in Brussels to conduct our military training operations – initially the 3 missions in Mali, Central African Republic and Somalia. I know from my time in the European External Action Service that this was not an easy subject for a number of our Member States.
  • We are revising our civilian level of ambition, and streamlining capacities to react faster and more efficiently.
  • We are reviewing the common financing mechanisms we have in place for our missions and operations.
  • And, finally, to support our Member States achieve the capabilities Europe needs in the future, we have agreed on the modalities for a Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD). And as part of the European Defence Action Plan (EDAP), the European Commission has proposed to set up for the first time a European Defence Fund.  Member States are discussing how to move forward with deeper defence cooperation within the framework of Permanent Structured Cooperation.

What this means, apart from the overarching NATO objective of European spending more of defence – we know the 2% number well, and the strong feelings on this side of the Atlantic even if we do not think it is presented entirely fairly.  But, it is a very legitimate point and we are committed to spending more.

The challenge in Europe is less a question of the absolute amount, but rather the effectiveness, efficiency and output of how we spend our money.  As the High Representative, Vice President reinforces frequently, we spend about half as much as the United States.  If you add up Member State defence spending, it is one of the largest defence budgets globally, only second to the U.S.  But we are only getting approximately 15% of equivalent output.

We have 1.4 million people in uniform, but would only be able to move 20,000 to 30,000 fully equipped infantry troops on the ground, which shows that the ratio of our spend to output needs to be addressed.

We undertake this endeavor in close cooperation with our partners at NATO and with the United States in particular.  Our EU-US and EU-NATO cooperation has seen a significant increase in collaboration.  Through cooperation, we can help Member States achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness through pooling, sharing and cooperation.  This will of course be a significant contribution to their capabilities in NATO.  I like to think that ‘EU or NATO’ debate is behind us and that we do not see them as mutually exclusive.  Member States capabilities are the same, complementary, not fragmented into a NATO side and an EU side.  This is a view shared by NATO Secretary General Jens Soltenberg and the High representative, Federica Mogherini.  Meetings of European Defence Ministers include the attendance of the NATO Secretary General, and NATO meetings are attended by representatives of the European Union, including the High Representative.  As you can see, this shows the convergence of our thinking and collaboration across these two important structures.

And at the NATO Warsaw Summit last summer, the Joint EU-NATO Declaration spelled out 42 lines of action for cooperation that Ministers will take stock on progress at the respective EU and NATO council meetings over the coming days.

So in conclusion, we have come a long way, we understand that there is a new challenge, that we have to take greater responsibility for our own security in a changed world.  But we also want to address these challenges in very close cooperation with the United States because as the events of the last 70 years have shown us, we do that better when we work together as alliances rather than alone.

Some of the very topics we will address during today’s symposium – such as countering hybrid warfare or maritime security – are directly related to our common agenda.  The changing nature of the defence agenda and security challenge is another common theme running through today discussions.

The first panel discussion will start by discussing our joint efforts to combat terrorism – which is regrettably topical and another area of paramount importance.

The lessons of the past decades are clear.  We have learned much from each other.  But in the world that we live in today requires us to work jointly and more closely than ever before to maintain and preserve our legacy.  As High Representative Mogherini said quite poignantly recently, “We are bound to be together. That’s the history of the last 70 years across the Atlantic, and that’s the future we want for our children: peace, security and prosperity both in Europe and in America.”

Thank you very much.

Transatlantic Cooperation for Global Security: The 6th Annual Symposium on the EU’s Common Security & Defense Policy