FlesihmanHillard had the honour of receiving yesterday the Ambassador of Switzerland to the European Union for a roundtable on the future of the relations between the European Union and Switzerland.
In February, Switzerland voted in favour of a popular initiative restricting immigration for all foreigners, including those coming from the European Union. This raises doubts as to the compatibility of these new dispositions with the principle of free movement of people, which Switzerland shares with Europe as a member of its Schengen zone. The reaction from the European Union has been firm, and it was the right moment for us to ask an important question: what is the future of the EU-Swiss relations? Ambassador Balzaretti shared his views and unique insights with us, during a lively and fruitful discussion. Caroline Wunnerlich, Managing Director of FleishmanHillard in Brussels, moderated the roundtable.
The Ambassador of Switzerland to the EU and Caroline Wunnerlich
2014, Year of change
With a new team of Commissioners and a new Parliament, the European Union will have the opportunity to engage in renewed dialogue with its neighbours and partners. But within these changes, there will be continuity, and Switzerland remains a very close partner of Europe: Switzerland is the third largest economic partner of the European Union. Europe and Switzerland are linked by bilateral agreements ranging from research, innovation, education, trade or agriculture; a number of new agreements are currently under discussion, covering issues as varied as the ETS, Galileo or electricity. The European Union and Switzerland have always enjoyed close economic and political ties, and the success of this event shows the strong interest of a wide range of stakeholders in the future of this relation. Although the debates were held under Chatham House rule, Ambassador Balzaretti kindly agreed to let us use here one of his sentences which, in our opinion, symbolizes this event: “We share the values of the European Union”.
A great success for the Black box!
The FH Black Box also made a great impression. Its six screens displayed data and visuals on the Swiss popular vote and on the reactions it triggered in the news and on social networks. The attendees showed a great interest in the wealth of information provided by the Black Box.
The Black Box
This roundtable was a success and the attendees had the opportunity to have an open and enriching discussion with the Ambassador. FleishmanHillard is proud to have organised this event, and the whole team is already looking forward to the next roundtable.
April 10, 2014
March was an interesting month, and for a minute it felt like Europe was the centre of attention for the entire world: President Obama visited Belgium for the very first time, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited numerous EU countries, and Brussels was busy with the preparations for the EU-Africa Summit scheduled for early April. March also saw several extraordinary Councils on Ukraine and an extremely rare NATO Summit under Article 4. The removal of Russia from G8 also put the spotlight on Brussels as the selected location of the next G7 meeting. Finally, the publication of the ‘satirical’ cartoon of Obama in the Belgian daily De Morgen also made international press headlines, turning the world’s attention to a country “famous for chocolate and beer”.
The end of March also witnessed one of the most interesting conferences on foreign affairs in Europe – the Brussels Forum, an annual high-level meeting of the most influential North American and European political, corporate, and intellectual leaders. This year’s edition was spectacular and attracted an amazing crowd, including speakers such as Lady Ashton; Andrii Deshchytsia, Acting Foreign Minister, Ukraine; Heinz Haller, Executive Vice President at Dow Chemical Company; Toomas Ilves, President of Estonia; Vitalii Klychko, Chairman, Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms; President Herman Van Rompuy; Robert Zoellick, Chairman, International Advisors, Goldman Sachs and many others.
Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine
Although the Brussels Forum showcased a number of discussions on Belarus, emerging economies, Pakistan, Afghanistan, energy issues and China, they were definitely overshadowed by the recent developments in Ukraine. In fact, some of the attendees partook in the Council meeting or travelled from Ukraine and Georgia. This made the discussion at the Brussels Forum quite heated and sometimes personal towards Russian representation present in the room.
Photo: Ewa Abramiuk Lété
So why do people care so much about our Eastern neighbour? President Obama described it in his Brussels speech: “To be honest, if we defined our interests narrowly, if we applied a cold-hearted calculus, we might decide to look the other way. Our economy is not deeply integrated with Ukraine’s. Our own borders are not threatened by Russia’s annexation. But that kind of casual indifference would ignore the lessons that are written in the cemeteries of this continent”.
Ukrainians are currently preparing for the 25 May elections, which will be a crucial step towards leading the Ukraine out of the country’s deepest political crisis since 1991. “Our goal is to live in a new way. To form Ukraine in a way that there will be rich, free and honest citizens happy to be Ukrainians and to live in a country respected by the whole world,” said Petro Poroshenko, the current front-runner for the Ukrainian presidency.
So, it’s been an interesting month and some of the quotes above might spark further reflection. Most definitely March left us with a lot to consider.
Ewa Abramiuk Lété
*Photo: Ewa Abramiuk Lété
March 31, 2014
This year’s edition of Brussels Forum, hosted three interesting speakers: EEAS’s Lady Ashton, Council’s Mr Van Rompuy and NATO’s Rasmussen. All three of them will step down from their positions this year, which inspires for a reflection about their key challenges, successes and failures over the past years.
Since Van Rompuy became a President of the Council five years ago, we have seen a transformation of the Council into one of the most important EU institutions. A little joke made by President Van Rompuy during Brussels Forum actually contains a bit of truth about why the Council became so influential: “I took this job now almost five years ago, and some are saying that the European Council became the most important institution in the European Union. There are two reasons for this. I don’t know if it is true, but there are two reasons. The first reason, of course, is they had a brilliant President of the Council. The second reason is that we had a crisis, and a crisis helps a lot to put people together. We can’t have a meeting with the 28 leaders and then after the meeting I had to confront the president, say we had an excellent meeting, but we just didn’t agree on anything. That’s impossible. We had to agree. We had to converge. We had to take decisions otherwise we were punished by the markets the day after.”
*Photo: Ewa Abramiuk Lété
Lady Ashton also presented a few reflections about her achievements: “(…) success for me is about making sure there’s a second high representative, which there will be. And I said that for my time in office, there were three things that mattered. One, I had to build a service because when I started, we had lots of fabulous people, but they were scattered in eight buildings in Brussels and across the world doing things that were not what we do now. We now have 140 delegations that are EU operating across the world who are a real network of impressive people who can deliver the range of what the EU does”.
Indeed, it must have been a difficult job to create this machine, one which requires a skilful diplomat and negotiator, which Lady Ashton is. However, while the first part of the work has been done – creating a network of delegations around the world – it will be interesting to observe how this peculiar machine will develop under new leadership.
Strong words came from NATO Secretary General Rasmussen, who will be leaving his position this year but, according to the Brussels rumour mill, might remain in town in a different role. Rasmussen said “We cannot continue to disarm while the rest of the world is re-arming and some are rattling their arms on our borders. NATO’s greatest responsibility is to protect and defend our populations and our territories. To do that we must insure that we have the full range of capabilities to deter and defend against any threat. To back off diplomatic softpower with military hard power. Now we need real power.” Norwegian Jens Stoltenberg has just been announced as his successor and while congratulations to the new Secretary General are flowing in and the excitement around this new appointment is still high, it will be interesting to observe if his rhetoric will stay as strong.
Three strong individuals will leave Brussels, however I am looking forward to seeing which opportunities this change will bring for Europe and NATO.
Ewa Abramiuk Lété
March 28, 2014
Yesterday, EU member states fishing ministers backed the European Commission in their efforts against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. Agreement was absolute to support the fight against perceived widespread abuses.
Read more from undercurrent news here.
Belize, Cambodia, and Guinea have all been blacklisted. Fish caught by their fleet or from their waters will no longer come into Europe unless they are able to show in the future their fisheries are under control.
Other countries are under investigation by the European Commission. South Korea, Ghana, Curaco have all be warned to address their fisheries. And Panama, Fiji, Togo, Sri Lanka and Vanuatu have been given until the spring of 2014 to implement the measures they have told the EU Commission they would introduce.
It seems a few countries thought the EU was bluffing. They have just learned the EU is very serious about taking and beating Pirate fishing.
Around $10 billion a year of fish is from IUU fisheries.
March 26, 2014
Two think tanks dominate the Brussels energy landscape, however the Brussels bunch still lag behind their American counterparts
It was the best of times, it was the burst of times
Last week, while discussing the merits of a newly released ‘2013 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report’ with my colleague James, he asked me whom I considered to be the most influential think tanks in Brussels when it came to energy policy?
Immediately I responded that it was either CEPS or Bruegel, depending on the issue and angle at hand. However, as the conversation progressed I noted to my surprise, that think tanks are not as influential in driving the Brussels agenda as their US counterparts.
So what defines an ‘influential’ think tank? Why are think tanks in Brussels less impressive than in the US? And why are CEPS and Bruegel more impressive than their peers?
Having studied at an American university, where a writing policy paper in an influential think tank was deemed second only to a high political posting in a student administration, I expected that the EU versions of Brookings, Carnegie and CATO would drive the policy debate, while also acting as something like ‘stop gaps’ for politically affiliated high achievers.
However, once in Brussels, I realized that the “think tank culture” is not as well developed as across the Atlantic. In a piece that stirred much controversy in the Brussels bubble a few years ago, the Charlemagne columnist for the Economist provided two very valid explanations 1) too many Brussels think tanks accept large chunks of their funding from EU institutions and national governments 2) Others depend on big corporate sponsors, so that the lines between research and lobbying become easily blurred.
Thus, the root of the problem from an EU perspective certainly does seem to be money, or rather the lack of ‘no strings attached’ money, which funds independent research in the USA. However, despite facing similar structural disadvantages, what is it that makes Bruegel and CEPS stand out from the crowd?
Granted both seem to be better funded than their peers. According to a Commission study conducted in 2012, CEPS and Bruegel have an excess budget of 6 and 4 million euros respectively. (In addition to public funding, their corporate donors can be accessed here and here).
In addition, both have a diverse funding base. A diverse funding base is seen as critical, as otherwise one may end up being overly reliant on one source; and however benevolent that one may seem on the face of it, it could create trouble at some point in time in the future. Nobody likes to bite the hand that feeds it. (A diagrammatic illustration of CEPS diversified funding sources can be accessed here)
However, I would argue that it is both their manpower and relevant expertise with the policy issues at hand that raises them above the rest. With a town that features more lobbyists than Washington, knowledge of the EU Energy & Climate policy agenda and being able to adapt ones research programme accordingly, is a key component for success.
Knowledge and adaptability are the weaknesses of CEPS’ and Bruegel’s competitors, since too often the temptation to overindulge in big picture of geo-political energy issues and report on conferences supersedes the need to provide insights and analyses of issues such as the ETS, 2030 Climate & Energy Package or Fuel Quality Directive, which are relevant on the ground and which all lobbyists in Brussels require.
Indeed, a well thought and timely idea can go far (note the explosion of the TED talks series). In addition, EU policymakers are always open to taking them on board. The most striking example in recent times was the Commission’s proposal to reform the EU carbon market, published on January 22nd. The proposal was largely based on the International Emissions Trading Association’s (IETA) consultation submission calling for the creation of an EU ETS structural reserve, with the deflationary and inflationary capabilities somewhat akin to what the European Central bank has on monetary policy.
Looking ahead, while the calendar of the institutions may be increasingly bare in advance of the upcoming elections, for think tanks, the next few weeks will be crucial. This week Bruegel will be hosting the new Directorate General of DG Energy Dominique Ristori on the ‘Instruments for Energy Transition’, while CEPS will be looking at the current ‘big issue’ on the policy agenda; drivers of energy prices for energy intensive industries.
Both events promise to be timely and relevant policy discussions, dealing with issues of priority for the Brussels energy agenda.
The top 5 Brussels think tanks on energy policy
- CEPS: The crème de la crème of Brussels energy think tanks. Very much on the pulse of the Brussels policy agenda, CEPS has particular expertise in climate change issues such as carbon pricing, carbon leakage and the drivers of energy prices.
- Bruegel: More hardcore economics based than CEPS, the reputable George Zachmann tends to focus on issues such as market design, renewable support schemes and the EU ETS.
- Friends of Europe: Its annual Friends of Europe Summit is probably the number one energy event in Brussels.
- German Marshall Fund: Coming from a foreign and security policy background, GMF is particularly strong on energy security aspects, hosts a number interesting workshops on energy security both the CEE and Baltic region.
- Institute Francais des relations internationals (IFRI): More an academic think tank than an advocacy one, it has a strong team of experts, providing geopolitical energy analysis.
(Think tanks without special energy practices excluded)
What is a thinktank?
For those who are interested in analysing the definition of ‘think tank’ Steven Boucher defines them as bodies which:
- are somewhat permanent;
- specialise in the production of public policy solutions;
- have in-house staff dedicated to research;
- produce ideas, analysis and advice;
- communicate its findings to policy-makers and public opinion;
- not be responsible for government operations;
- maintain research freedom and independence from specific interests;
- not grant degrees or have training as its primary activity;
- seek, explicitly or implicitly, to act in the public interest.
In addition, he specifically highlights four main types of think tanks:
- academic think tanks (or universities without students)
- advocacy think tanks (which McGann prefers to call “engagement” TTs)
- contract research organisations
- political party think tanks
Source: S. Boucher (ed.), Europe and its Think Tanks: A Promise to Be Fulfilled, Notre Europe, Paris, Studies and Research, no. 35, October 2004.
February 24, 2014
FleishmanHillard Brussels flew the Irish flag over their offices (well, metaphorically speaking) last week when over 70 of Ireland’s diaspora gathered to meet 20 of Ireland’s candidates for the upcoming European Parliament and Local Council Elections, in support of the Irish NGO, Women for Election.
The event presented a unique opportunity not just to meet the candidates ahead of the elections on the 23rd May, but to hear keynote speeches from three European figures on their own campaign experiences.
New European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly spoke of her trials and tribulations in running her campaign last year, while Swedish MEP Mikael Gustafsson (Chair of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality) and German MEP Silvana Koch-Mehrin, illustrated the ups and downs of running for parliamentary positions.
The discussion also touched on the imminent challenges facing the European Parliament and all MEP candidates ahead of the elections, such as connecting with the people of Europe and generating greater clarity on the role, relevance and responsibilities of the EU.
Our host partners for the event – Women for Election co-founders Niamh Gallagher and Michelle O’Donnell Keating – underlined the specific difficulties women face in entering politics and described their efforts as a non-partisan movement to achieve gender equality in government both in Ireland and at the European level.
In a year of institutional change, this particular gathering revealed some of the issues facing both individual MEP candidates and Europe’s political leadership as a whole in the run up to the elections.
February 18, 2014
Earlier this week I attended the Berlin Energy Forum, previously known as the “Berlin Fossil Fuels Forum”. Beyond the valuable networking opportunity, the event came with a reaffirmation of Germany’s central place for EU energy policy and some questions about the role and status of fossil fuels in policy discussions.
Germany: not just one amongst others
In Brussels we want to believe that large Member States have equal chances of influencing EU policy discussions. When it comes to energy policy, it is however hard not to notice the huge impact that Germany has over the policy debate.
In 2011 Germany launched the most radical energy reform with its Energiewende. On Monday Sigmar Gabriel, the new Vice-Chancellor in charge of economic and energy policy, set out the reasons behind this truly bold political decision. And he is convinced that other countries will follow. Of course this ‘Energy Turn’ is first known as the complete phase-out of nuclear by 2022 but it is also more generally the complete change in power sources, with a large and rapid boost for renewable energies. Three issues have emerged as a result and are now at the heart of EU energy policy discussions:
1) Energy Costs: Germany’s push for renewable energies led to what was described by the Commission in Berlin as ‘overcompensation’, especially for solar. Does it not seem strange that, of all sunny places in the world, 35% of global solar capacity is now located in Germany? As a result of this massive increase in renewable subsidies, a German household pays an extra €260 a year on its electricity bill.
2) State Aid: DG Competition recently brought a case against Germany and the exemptions from the EEG (Renewable Energy Act) for energy-intensive industries. Should they stop being exempted, German energy-intensives could face a net increase in electricity price of up to 50€/MWh. Exemptions from renewable surcharges are also a major topic of the draft State Aid Guidelines for Energy and Environment, open to consultation until tonight.
3) Coal vs. Gas: To provide stability and back up intermittent renewables, Germany is burning more cheap coal (lignite), whilst German gas power plants are being mothballed. Experts argue that Germany will miss its 40% GHG reduction target by 2030 because of this ‘coal renaissance’ in the country.
Due to the issues described above, the Energiewende is considered from abroad with a degree of scepticism. The future will tell us if the German energy revolution delivers on its promises. One thing is sure: it will continue to set the energy policy agenda in Brussels.
Fossil Fuels: In or Out?
This year, the Commission considered that the previous focus on Fossil Fuels was no longer relevant or appropriate and decided to focus instead on more horizontal topics, roughly corresponding to the inevitable energy triangle: sustainability, security of supply and competitiveness. It doesn’t mean that fossil fuels were kept out of the programme. Nuclear, coal and natural gas representatives were largely involved in discussions. However, the Berlin Energy Forum didn’t address the challenges of primary energy supply, largely focusing instead on the power market. This led to some confusion, especially as the Commission had planned an additional session outside of the official programme to discuss oil and gas supply.
Clearly the Commission wants to send a signal that Europe needs to move away from fossil fuels. This is part of a broader story of progress, of Europe reducing emissions and declaring its “energy independence” (as quite provocatively described recently on the Commission’s Twitter account). Some may argue that this story also needs to be grounded in reality. And the reality today is that, as Fatih Birol pointed out during the debate, fossil fuels still represent 82% of the global energy mix, only expected to fall to 76% by 2035.
Whilst the Commission should more clearly acknowledge that fossil fuels cannot simply be dismissed from discussions, it is also the fossil fuels industry’s role to demonstrate they can be a part of this story of progress, by emphasising their immense innovation and technological expertise and by demonstrating they can be used in more energy-efficient ways in the future. They may not have their own separate forum anymore, but this gives them a great opportunity to show to the Commission that they can contribute to discussions in a constructive manner.
February 14, 2014
A few weeks ago, Aaron and I presented at the European Public Affairs Action Day, the “grand-messe” of public affairs professionals. We talked about different approaches to political communications and presented our 5 golden rules to political communications to win votes. For those who couldn’t join, here is a summary!
Aaron and I have been lucky to closely follow the recent reform of the European Common Fisheries Policy for the Swedish foundation BalticSea2020. After 2 years of intense campaigning, we could draw a number of conclusions from the success of the campaign (you can see what the campaign was about here).
What made this campaign different? How did we win? You learn a lot spending 17,520 hours campaigning on one issue, but I think it can be summarised into 5 golden rules.
The number of stakeholders in Brussels can be quite overwhelming – yet, once we had done the necessary background research and network analysis (a good book here on understanding the power of social networks), we were able to identify the maximum 200 people who mattered for our client’s issues, at the EU and national levels.
These are the ones we then focused on and built relationships with to create the broader winning coalition. Also, we realised it was not worth spending too much energy on the opponents, but rather help our supporters – which luckily we had with Fish For the Future, and also potential new followers.
This might sound simplistic, but understanding what makes people tick is your key to success. As Chris Rose explains in his book, you need to understand where your audiences are coming from and what will make them listen to you.
Being in the shoes of the politicians can be very useful – we are all too prone to use jargon and technicalities. To be fair to them, politicians cannot be experts in every issue they deal with on a daily basis, from banking regulation to horsemeat scandals and marine protected area. Being able to communicate important and useful information in a way they understand will make your contribution valuable and acted on. See here how fisheries can be made simple and sexy.
- Be Reactive and Adaptable
Although it was tempting to have a two year strategy plan, we have to admit that we don’t have a crystal ball and we are not psychic. Instead, we had rolling three-month action plan which allowed us to regularly review our short to mid-term strategy, adapt to new opportunities, and adapt our work. The ability to adapt and react to changing situations allowed us to remain relevant to our audiences. It also allows any client to have a clear picture of how things really are progressing.
As Aaron likes to say: “telepathy doesn’t work”. You need to get out there, talk to the people who matter, hear their questions and answer them in an understandable way. We were lucky enough to have a client who was an excellent spokesperson for his organisation.
You need someone who can gather support, motivate and convince. Some people are naturally more at ease talking on behalf of their companies. In truth, with a small amount of coaching, most people can become persuasive advocates for their interests.
- Invest the Necessary Resources
Success requires resources: time, people, and money. It requires commitment and endurance. But, it is all worth it to win a vote
Sophie and Aaron
February 12, 2014
With the new Energy and Climate Framework, the European Commission strikes a fine balance between climate protection and competitiveness, with the latter taking precedence.
Last week, the European Commission came forward with the most wide-ranging set of energy and climate proposals since 2008. The proposals, encompassing binding and non-binding commitments in GHG reductions, energy efficiency and renewable energy, will provide a framework for EU energy and climate policy for the next 15 years. To find out about the details of the package, read the FH analysis here. The 2030 Communication and the other proposals issued last week are reflective of two broad trends that are currently driving EU Climate and Energy Policy, 1) How difficult it is becoming to find a ‘grand bargain’ on key Energy and Climate issues at the EU level and 2) How the policy focus has shifted towards competitiveness.
Sticking a difficult compromise
Designing a new Climate and Energy Framework was always going to be contentious but after five years of expensive carbon abatement policies, coupled with recession and deindustrialisation, the political environment makes agreements on energy and climate matters increasingly challenging. For the 2030 Framework, tricky compromises had to be built between Member States with dissimilar energy mixes, between Directorate-Generals with non-complementary portfolios and between different industries who feel that their concerns have been ignored for too long.
- Compromising amongst Member States: Within Europe Member States have very different energy mixes and thus interests. By proposing a 27% renewable energy target but non-binding individual national targets the Commission has sought to strike a compromise between Member States such as the UK who wants maximum competency to determine its energy mix and Germany, who has decided to phase out nuclear energy and produce 45% of its energy from renewables from 2030.
- Compromising within Commission Directorates: Within the European Commission, varying DGs have very different priorities. While DG Climate Action was set up to turn the EU into a leader in the protection of the planet against climate change, other DGs such as DG Enterprise and DG Energy have grown increasingly weary of DG CLIMA’s policies. Indeed, the presentation of the package only came after a last-minute agreement between Commissioner Hedegaard and Oettinger. The Energy Commissioner was initially in favour of a 35% GHG reduction target.
- Compromise in the industry: The Commission was also keen to demonstrate its commitment to boosting industry in Europe, and show that the EU could stay ambitious on climate without the industry being hit. While lacking substance, the Commission did release an industry Communication “For a European Renaissance”. Most telling however was the Commission’s decision to reform the ETS through a supply adjustment mechanism which would not intervene in phase 3 of the ETS and which in their own words would be designed in such a way so as to “mitigate impacts on industry and sectors exposed to carbon leakage”. The Commission also announced that it would maintain its existing framework for determining sectors exposed to carbon leakage and continue to base its assessment on a 30 euro carbon price. This was a key request from DG Enterprise in the grand bargaining process and goes against Ms Hedegaard’s ambitions expressed last year to significantly reduce the number of sectors exposed in order to reestablish balance in the system.
Has the balance tipped towards competitiveness?
Looking back at the last decade, the proposals seem to represent a new policy focus for President Barroso, if not a policy u-turn: after making jobs and growth a priority with the Lisbon Strategy in the beginning of his mandate and spearheading climate change policy in 2008, the end of his term will be marked by a shift towards competitiveness. At an event last week Dominique Ristori, who has recently succeeded to Philip Lowe as Head of DG Energy, said that in 30 years industry has never been listened to as much as now. He might be right. The 2030 Communication does indeed reveal a shift towards competitiveness to alleviate industry concerns. Even if the Commission noted in a new study that energy prices and the ETS had little impact so far on industrial competitiveness, it also anticipates an upward pressure on energy costs in the EU.
Next steps now
The documents issued last week by the Commission will form the basis of the institutions’ agenda for the coming year. It is unclear at this stage what could be the focus of the mandate received by the Commission from European leaders at the March Council, as the 2030 consultation revealed divergences on targets and the level of ambition. Whilst some Member States are against a new GHG reduction target before any global climate agreement (Poland, Czech Republic, Romania), a majority is likely to support the 40% target proposed (UK, France, Spain, Denmark). It will also remain to be seen if Member States can support the flexible approach proposed by the EU executive on renewables. Will it be considered robust enough by Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Portugal, whose Environment ministers had called for a renewable energy target in a letter to the European Commission in December? On the other hand, the wait-and-see approach to energy efficiency should suit Member States.
Next week in Strasbourg MEPs are likely to confirm their call for 3 binding targets: 40% GHG reduction, 30% renewable energy and 40% energy efficiency. Based on initial MEP reactions and past experience, the Parliament will likely push for a much more ambitious package than proposed by the Commission. Will this be confirmed by the next Parliament, who will be asked to react to concrete proposals put forward by the Commission later this year? Let the bargaining begin!
Cillian O’Donoghue and Clara Lemaire
January 28, 2014
This question could not be timelier given the recent momentum in the area of security and defence, with the European Council last December discussing defence for the first time since 2005 (!).
Last Wednesday, we were honoured to welcome Rini Goos, Deputy Chief Executive of the European Defence Agency; Robert G. Bell, U.S. Secretary of Defense Representative, Europe and Defense Advisor to the U.S. Mission to NATO; and Dr Jamie Shea, Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges at NATO to our offices as speakers to discuss exactly that question at a roundtable event. FH’s Dan Baxter, SVP and Partner as well as Global Manufacturing and Industrials lead moderated the discussion.
Pooling and sharing of defence capabilities was a recurring theme, as expected; in an age of austerity defence cooperation makes sense to provide the efficiencies and savings that Member States so desire. Whilst regional alliances and coalitions of willing Member States were encouraged in terms of cooperation, we were also reminded of how we are still far off from an ideal situation (or even a definition of what such a situation might look like).
Although there are still challenges facing Europe such as capability shortfalls, affecting its ability to lead and partner with its allies, the EU is increasingly being recognised as a credible actor in the security and defence arena. Huge steps have been taken since the inception of the CSDP, but the question of a wider strategy or ultimate goal remains. Will the EU remain active in its current niche, with smaller missions largely focused on Africa? Will it set a goal of strategic autonomy, whether that means a full spectrum of capabilities or a range of tools for peace-keeping and security, or will progress be reversed? The question was, perhaps, actively avoided by Baroness Ashton at the recent Council in order not to impede progress on smaller, incremental steps to a common approach.
During the discussion it also became apparent that the premise of European defence cooperation, greater transparency, and joint planning is not accepted by all. Some argued that regional and alliance cooperation does not necessarily require EU involvement, nor do all citizens and nations share the view that European aggregation of defence capabilities is the best way forward.
As for the near future, the Greek Presidency has promised to focus on maritime security and the forthcoming Italian Presidency has promised to keep defence on the agenda as well. The European Council in June 2015 will then take stock of what progress has been made since December 2013. As one participant so ably put it, everyone knows what needs to happen to make European security and defence cooperation work. We just need to get into action and that remains easier said than done.
Lorraine and Pamela
January 28, 2014