EU says it will co-operate closely with Nato and US on security and defence

Leaders agree bloc must ‘take more responsbility’ in the face of global instability

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said security threats had not diminished ph: Johanna Geron/Pool/EPA

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said security threats had not diminished ph: Johanna Geron/Pool/EPA

 

The European Union will work closely with Nato and should take “more responsibility” for its own security in an era of deepening global instability, the bloc’s national leaders said in a joint statement on Friday, declaring their commitment to transatlantic co-operation with the United States.

“We are committed to co-operating closely with Nato,” the joint declaration read following a discussion by video conference by the 27 leaders on security and defence.

“We look forward to co-operating with the new United States administration on a strong and ambitious transatlantic agenda that includes a close dialogue on security and defence. This global co-operation will benefit from a stronger EU in the field of security and defence.”

The leaders agreed that the EU needed to bolster preparedness and its ability to “effectively tackle all security threats and challenges”, while noting that “in the face of increased global instability, the EU needs to take more responsibility for its security”.

Reset

The statement comes amid hopes of a reset in EU-US relations under the administration of president Joe Biden following a difficult period for the transatlantic alliance under his predecessor Donald Trump, who was cool towards Nato and the EU.

The security and defence debate in the EU has been split between an eastern-led block of member states who view a strong alliance with the US as an essential bulwark against Russia, and those who argue the bloc should seek the self-sufficiency to stand alone if needed – an idea championed by France.

The joint statement seeks to reconcile both ambitions, suggesting that so-called “strategic autonomy” and a strong transatlantic alliance can go hand in hand. But there are indications the bloc may struggle to find a cohesive position on challenges including power struggles in the Mediterranean, security on its eastern border, and a global rivalry between China and the US.

Attending the meeting, Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said security threats had not diminished during the pandemic.

“Russia’s aggressive actions, more brutal forms of terrorism, sophisticated cyberattacks, the rise of China, and the security implications of climate change... no country or continent can face these challenges alone,” Mr Stoltenberg told reporters.

Apart

Five EU member states in addition to Ireland stand apart from military alliances and are not Nato members: Austria, Cyprus, Finland, Malta and Sweden. Most, however, have agreed to take part in strengthening EU defence and security through the EU’s Permanent Structured Co-operation project or Pesco, which seeks to find ways to integrate co-operation between national armed forces.

Some Irish MEPs have raised concerns that the initiative risks encroaching on Ireland’s neutrality, though any deployment of troops would only be possible with the support of the Dáil, the Government, and the authorisation of the United Nations.

Pesco should be part of efforts to deepen defence and security preparation by “increasing defence investment and enhancing civilian and military capability development and operational readiness within the Union”, the EU leaders pledged in their joint statement.

Co-operation should also be increased on defending against cyberattacks and “hybrid threats” including disinformation, they said.