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EU defence policy: the Franco-German engine must set the pace

No other area of politics touches the sovereignty of the member states like EU defence policy. At the same time, the states are not always in agreement about what the destination is. Accordingly, in the past, hoped-for progress towards greater commonality has often failed to materialise. But Europe is at a turning point: fundamental challenges in foreign affairs and security policy require new approaches. Germany and France are determined to bring a new dynamic to the Common Security and Defence Policy. All of the stakeholders involved are now urged to make the ambitious projects a reality.

Summit paving the way

On the occasion of the joint Defence and Security Council session in mid-July, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron presented ambitious plans to drive European defence policy. In his keynote address on European policy on September 26, Macron reaffirmed these intentions, naming defence policy as the first of six starting points for reforming Europe. Federal policy is called upon to help drive this new awakening and make every effort to support the Franco-German engine. In this respect, the following aspects are particularly important:

  • Developing a roadmap for the new combat aircraft: it is already clear that Germany's Tornado fleet needs to be replaced with modern aircraft. And this means significantly more than a simple successor model: rather, the future combat aircraft must be a team player – designated the “Future Combat Air System”, with both manned and unmanned components, it will be operational in a wide range of situations and therefore retain and expand on all of the core capacities of the current fleet. Germany and France want to tackle this ambitious project together. The key motive: Europe's military forces will be modernised, and the continent will secure a durable sovereign defence industry. According to the resolution made in July, the two countries wish to have established a roadmap for the future combat aircraft by mid-2018. This is an ambitious deadline – German policy must now play its part.
  • Breathing life into the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) initiative: again and again, Europe finds itself confronted with structural problems when the member states want to cooperate on missions. In particular, the work during the 2014 Ebola crisis can be cited as a negative example. Germany and France want to chart a new path and position Europe as a “true global player” in security and defence. PESCO is a key element here, and of significant interest to the EU states. As early as July 21, 2017, Germany, France, Italy and Spain and six other EU states declared that they were ready to be proactive in breathing life into PESCO and invited other EU states to actively participate. The goal is to minimise friction losses due to parallel structures. Germany now needs to designate concrete projects for PESCO.
  • Euro-drone: together with Spain and Italy, Germany and France want to develop a so-called MALE drone, with a level of performance far exceeding that of the systems which currently exist. The definition phase is already underway. According to the Summit conclusions, a development contract should be concluded before 2019. Germany is leading the programme and in particular, must thus ensure project management across the countries involved. The participating industrial companies – Airbus Defence and Space, Dassault Aviation and Finmeccanica – are, on their side, adopting an industry-driven approach, in which economic aspects, feasibility, mutual reliability and efficiency are the key factors


Germany has a unique chance to work with France to define new focuses for European defence policy and to fill it with new life. The coming legislative period offers the possibility of shaping the Franco-German initiatives at a parliamentary level, and energetically launching a forward-looking debate on the future of German and European defence policy.

Status: Sep 2017


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