1. POLAND is against of “Europeanisantion”
- Poland’s reluctance to engage in EU defence cooperation and efforts to snub European defence companies are reducing its potential to emerge as a significant force in European defence. Political and personal considerations largely drive Polish leaders’ scepticism of EU attempts to develop genuine defence cooperation.
- Much of the EU perceives the Polish government as needy, demanding, and lacking in solidarity, as well as often in violation of the rule of law. Defence is one area in which the government could offset some of these negative perceptions, by demonstrating its commitment to one of the signature initiatives of the EU.
- For Poland, the risks of European defence cooperation are real, but the dangers stemming from a failure to cooperate are greater.
After decades of relying on the United States for protection, the European Union’s member states are finally moving towards greater defence integration with one another. The European security environment has become unstable in recent years, due not least to a series of terrorist attacks in Europe’s major cities and the activities of a belligerent Russia – which invaded Ukraine and has sponsored disinformation campaigns and radical parties that attempt to undermine the liberal democratic order on the continent.
Transatlantic relations are still the cornerstone of European security, and will remain so for years to come. But the US has significant problems outside Europe, viewing its main security challenges as being in parts of the world such as East Asia and the Middle East.
EU member states have for some time had compelling reasons to strengthen their self-reliance and capacity to defend themselves. Nonetheless, in the decades since the establishment of the Common Security and Defence Policy, they have engaged in little defence integration. In fact, their cooperative defence efforts even declined during this period. However, the EU and its member states now seem truly committed to addressing the deterioration of their security environment by working together.
In response to multiple security challenges, France and Germany proposed in 2016 a joint white paper on the development of EU defence integration. The document served as the basis for a European Commission proposal that, by late 2017, had led to the establishment of the European Defence Fund, as well as permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) – an initiative that includes, among other measures, mechanisms for boosting the European defence industry. In short: the momentum is there.
As Europe moves towards an integrated defence policy, one of the key questions to emerge from this process concerns the role of countries formerly in the Soviet bloc. Among these states, Poland has the largest population, defence budget, and domestic industrial base.
However, Poland was conspicuously excluded from the September 2016 Franco-German proposal to create an EU defence union – even though, only a few years earlier, Warsaw joined Paris and Berlin in pushing forward the idea of PESCO.
Poland’s exclusion is mostly self-inflicted, caused by its turn inwards and the deterioration of its relations with most EU member states, including France and Germany, since the election of the Law and Justice party (PiS) in autumn 2015. In addition, the Polish defence sector has been poorly integrated with the mainstream European defence industry. This paper assesses Poland’s attitude towards EU defence initiatives, including both Warsaw’s policy on a defence union and the prospects for the “Europeanisantion” of the country’s defence industry.
Although media coverage of it focused on the decades-old idea of setting up a headquarters for planning EU operations, the September 2016 proposal also called for joint defence procurement and acquisition of strategic capabilities. The latter initiative is likely to provide a major boost to European defence integration, which had been progressing even before the announcement.
The European Commission responded to the initiative by launching in November 2016 the European Defence Action Plan, which is essentially a package of measures that include the creation of the European Defence Fund. The fund is meant to improve collaboration among European defence industries by providing resources that stimulate research and encourage the joint development of defence capabilities.
Launched in December 2017, PESCO stimulates European defence efforts by nudging states that sign up to the initiative towards greater cooperation with one another. As part of the arrangement, states commit to increasing their defence spending and may even be suspended from the initiative if they fail to do so.
Moreover, PESCO encourages states to engage in large-scale procurements in collaboration with other participants in the initiative, stipulating preferential treatment for European defence companies and thereby driving cross-border industrial collaboration.
- Progress on EU defence integration was at best rather slow until 2016, but it has accelerated since then – and the resulting momentum is likely to be sustained in the coming years. The main reason for this is geopolitical.
- The EU’s security environment has deteriorated as rising conflict on Europe’s southern border has brought terrorism to European cities and spurred large-scale migration into EU states.
- At the same time, Russian activity in Ukraine and persistent tensions on Europe’s north-eastern frontiers – not least those stemming from incidents in European airspace – have exacerbated instability on the continent.
All of this has changed EU states’ threat perceptions. While Europeans remain divided in their views of what constitutes a threat to their security (most are more afraid of terrorism and immigration than of Russia), their overall sense of vulnerability has grown.
The growing belief that Europe can no longer fully rely on the United States for protection only compounds this unease. Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel, normally known for her caution, has expressed this sentiment. In fact, the US began to pivot away from Europe under previous American administrations. But it was the arrival of Donald Trump as president – with his open disrespect for transatlantic ties – that made Europeans aware that their days of excessive reliance on the US were coming to an end.
These factors have combined to halt the decline in EU defence spending evident in recent decades. Between 2005 and 2015, EU member states’ collective military expenditure decreased by 11 percent, to €200 billion. On average, Europeans were spending only 1.4 percent of GDP on defence, despite multiple commitments to spend no less than 2 percent of GDP.
By comparison, in 2015, Russia spent 5.4 percent of GDP on its armed forces. In 2017, the trend in Europe changed: EU defence spending rose by 4.3 percent, albeit with only a handful of European NATO states – Poland among them – meeting the Alliance’s target of spending 2 percent of GDP on defence.
- The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at: eu