The Covid-19 crisis has once again proven the need for more cooperation between European member states in times of crisis. It is also an example of the EU's ability to overcome its differences and design a common response, as demonstrated by the 750 billion euro recovery plan that member states managed to agree on after all.
While attention today is rightly focused on public health, Europeans should not overlook the other sources of risk looming over their security. The strategic environment has deeply deteriorated since the 2000s, with a global confrontation between the United States and China, Russian aggression backed by the restoration of its military power, Turkey’s increasing involvement in its neighbourhood, and the spread of jihadism, from the Gulf of Guinea to the Philippines. Global military spending is rising significantly: from $1,114 billion in 2000 to $1,917 billion in 2019, with a 3.6% increase between 2018 and 2019 (the largest annual increase since 2010). Europe is facing a growing number of crises: financial crises, cyber attacks, pandemics, terror attacks, information manipulation, and foreign investment in strategic infrastructure, assets and technologies.
In this context, the response needs to be European. While the community approach is often arduous, when it bears fruit, it is the only one that puts the EU in a position to respond to global challenges. In a world increasingly dominated by superpowers like the United States, China, Russia and India, and revolving around power politics, European states stand a better chance by sticking together.
A long road ahead
It is therefore essential that we persevere in European defense cooperation: we have no alternative. However, the debate around European defense has remained largely theoretical, with a focus on terminology ("strategic autonomy" versus "European sovereignty"), and despite a strong political ambition displayed by Ursula Von der Leyen’s "Geopolitical Commission", some issues of tension persist.