Intervention au "Forum de la sécurité" à l’Académie de défense nationale polonaise
"Contribution of CSDP and NATO to the European security"
Akademia Obrony Narodowej
20 January 2015
I would like to thank you all for paying, through this minute of silence, a homage to the victims of the atrocious attacks in Paris earlier this month. Let me also thank you for this kind invitation extended to us, the ambassadors of France and Germany, to appear side by side in what is a première of sorts. It is all the more a pleasure that, notwithstanding the close partnership between our two countries, I developed a personal friendship with ambassador Rolf Nikel, which, as exemplified by the relationship between ministers Fabius and Steimeier, is of great help.
On January 7, France was victim of an awful attack against the State, against our community, against our values – and especially the freedom of expression – and against the very foundations of democracy. Such a dramatic event reminded everyone of the daunting security challenges. Europe’s strategic and geopolitical environment is evolving rapidly, and the numerous crises all around the world are inviting us to relentlessly commit ourselves to international peace and security.
It is hence in order to revisit our vision of security in Europe in order to better cope with constantly evolving threats. How ? By understanding that what may be perceived as today’s peripheral conflicts are Europe’s threats for tomorrow. Ebola, refugees arriving to Europe are some examples. When you see how much harm a radicalized couple of islamists can do – as we witnessed 2 weeks ago in Paris – you get a better sense of the magnitude of the challenge.
That is why France is fully mobilized, to struggle against all forms of terrorism.
In Mali, operation Serval stabilized the country. In Central African Republic, operation Sangaris has restored public order in a country torn by a civil war. To perform these actions, France used its know-how in counter-terrorism. Drones and attack helicopters were deployed, as well as airborne troops, to sustain the advance of our troops on the ground.
In Sahel, operation Barkhane has started last spring to provide a regional answer to a threat spreading from the Gulf of Guinea to Libya. It remains nowadays essential for international partners to stay mobilized to support the local authorities against the dangers of djidahism in its local forms.
And in the Middle East, France has just decided to carry on operation Chammal and is fully mobilized to combat Daesh on all fronts : 15 fighter aircrafts are deployed on the French bases in neighbouring countries and last week the French aircraft carrier “Charles de Gaulle” sailed off from Toulon with 21 fighters on board, bound to the Indian Ocean.
All our allies acknowledged the operational and readiness level of French troops and the excellence and battle-proven qualities of our equipment. In these endeavours, France was happy to be able to count on the support of her allies, including Poland : African and Middle-Eastern stability is a paramount factor for European security.
As defence budgets are decreasing both in the EU and in North America, European countries are compelled to unite, and rally within CSDP – for instance with such operations as EUTM Mali, EUFOR Central African Republic and EUCAP Sahel.
In this sense, France appreciates the solidarity expressed by our European allies, in particular by Germany, which is the first contributor in EUTM Mali. The first operational action of the French-German Brigade took place on this occasion. Poland played also a significant role in the training mission in Mali and sent up to 50 soldiers into Central African Republic. Besides the core objective of the mission, these operations are also mutually beneficial, as they enhance our interoperability and know-how.
Rebuilding the local & UN forces is crucial. We have supported the transition from African-led to UN missions in Mali (MINUSMA) and Central African Republic (MINUSCA). In the Middle-East, the Iraqi army should become able to do the job in the long run.
As for me, this is a clear evidence of the effective complementary between NATO and CSDP. EU operations have added value there, where NATO is not present. That is why, in the Newport Summit Declaration (art. 14), NATO allies have recognized that “NATO and EU efforts to strengthen defence capabilities are complementary”. The specificity of the EU operations is what we call “global approach”, which means that we have different tools, ranging from purely military & coercitive ones to development aid and state rebuilding.
We all know the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If we are able to contain & neutralize the terrorist threat in the Middle East today, we can feel safer at home tomorrow. This is certainly what we should aim at.
Solidarity is also necessary to face the current challenges on the European Eastern Flank. My German colleague will elaborate further on the analysis of the situation, so allow me to focus on the response we have brought up together.
NATO Allies have reaffirmed their commitment during the Newport summit and taken appropriate decisions. The Readiness Action Plan (RAP) has set up commitments which are being implemented in a credible and sustainable way.
NATO’s commitment is illustrated by assurance measures in central Europe. France played the key role in Steadfast Jazz NATO exercise in 2013, sent 4 fighters to Poland (Malbork) in 2014 to increase policing capabilities of the skies of our Baltic allies. And like those of our German friends, French AWACS patrol Romanian and Polish airspaces.
French warships are taking part in the Standing Naval Forces in the Baltic Sea. France will participate in 4 NATO exercises in Poland in 2015. Besides that, our major bilateral commitment will consist in the deployment in Poland, this year, of a Leclerc tank company reinforced with a mechanized infantry platoon and an engineering mechanized platoon. These exercises, all decided in the wake of the Ukrainian crisis, offer, besides that, real opportunities to enhance interoperability between our forces.
At the Newport Summit, nations also decided to adapt NATO’s structures to the new challenges. The creation of the “Very High Readiness Joint Task Force” (VJTF) is thus an important step and certainly the most ambitious measure of NATO Readiness Action Plan. Because collective defence is key to our security, European partners must work hand in hand, in order to remain credible.
Among these new challenges, the crisis in Ukraine is certainly the most pressing issue, for which there is an overall consensus, that there can be no military solution. NATO has rightly drawn conclusions regarding the consequences of these developments for the Alliance. But we must work out solutions at the political level. Different channels have been used for diplomacy. One of them, the so-called contact group, mooted the protocol and the follow up memorandum signed in Minsk in September. We think these documents provide the best basis for a political settlement. Another channel is the one opened by France and Germany, which triggered dialogue between Russian and Ukrainian Presidents in June 2014 in Normandy – at a time when there was none. Our two countries have played and will continue to play their role in helping to find a way out.
I should add that we have shown remarkable cohesion within the EU, scaling up sanctions against Russia as the conflict unfolded. As these sanctions are in fact limited in time, and are not an end in themselves, but a tool to reach a certain objective, we should be also reflect on how to make the best use of them. This was one of yesterday’s FAC agenda items. As far as France is concerned, we stick to our line of both dialogue and firmness. And we keep thinking that the sanctions must be handled in close linkage with progress in implementing the Minsk protocol. European unity is paramount.
To increase the effectiveness and the impact of CSDP in Europe, in coherence with NATO efforts, new European tools have been developed. EU battle groups have been set up, but are not yet operational enough and have never been deployed. We also welcome the Polish initiative to form a Visegrad battle group in 2016.
Cooperation in the area of military capabilities has been enhanced, in order to maintain key capabilities and to avoid redundancies. As an example, I would refer to the development of European Air-to-Air refuelling capacities or to the EU Cybersecurity Strategy.
To be more effective and credible, we have also to make full use of synergies, to develop a more integrated and competitive European Defence industry. Its integration will help ensuring the interoperability of our armies in the long run.
Nowadays, no European country can afford to develop individually its defence industry. Poland, like others before, has started to consolidate its defence industry and is therefore a significant potential partner in this European process. Its know-how would strengthen the European defence industry for many decades to come.
The current modernization program of the Polish armed forces offers a unique opportunity in that direction. Airbus, which is certainly the poster boy of an European success story, has offered Poland the opportunity to join the core of the European air & space industry, as it has done with Spain before.
The Europe of defence is at a crossroads and recent events have brought back strategic issues to the top of our priorities and concerns. The European Council in June 2015 and the Warsaw 2016 NATO Summit are major opportunities on the road to strengthen our capabilities.
As French President François Hollande said last week after the Paris events, “we have to be mobilized. We have to be able to answer to attacks by strength when we have to use it, but also by solidarity”. I could not say it better.