September 2, 2021
Defence ministers brought the situation in Afghanistan to the forefront of the discussions at the informal meeting.
They emphasized that the experience from Afghanistan had revealed the need to accelerate the building of the EU’s defence and military capabilities in order to ensure its strategic autonomy. These efforts will be based on the developing Strategic Compass, which will also provide guidelines for the enhancement of the crisis resilience.
The experience from Afghanistan has shown that our inability to respond comes at a price. The EU must therefore strengthen its strategic autonomy by creating first entry force capable of ensuring stability in the EU’s neighbourhood. – Josep Borrell Fontelles, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
The ministers’ debate on the EU’s operational activities focused on the situation in Afghanistan. Ministers emphasized that the evacuation from the country is not yet complete and that we must continue to provide diplomatic, humanitarian, and development support. They discussed the security and defence implications of the crisis, which could have a direct impact on the security situation in Europe, and agreed that important lessons should be learned from it, also for the functioning of EU missions and operations in Mali / Sahel, Mozambique, Libya and the Western Balkans. According to the ministers, Operation Althea in Bosnia and Herzegovina is crucial for the security and stability of the region, which remains in the focus of the Slovenian Presidency.
First of all – peacekeeping missions are long-term projects. Despite some new mechanisms, such as the European Defence Fund, the EU does not have the capabilities to operate in very demanding situations. And last but not least, if we want to be a credible guarantor of peace, we must expedite political decision-making. – Matej Tonin, Slovenian minister of defense
Although the central part of the meeting was dedicated to the debate on the enhancement of resilience as the last of the four areas of the Strategic Compass, the ministers agreed that the area had already been discussed in more detail at other levels. They have decided that probably in late October Slovenia will host a special seminar at the ministerial level to discuss open issues concerning the Strategic Compass.
Strategic Compass is a document that will set political guidelines for the development of European defence and security in the following decade in the areas of crisis management, capability development, partnerships and resilience.
In the discussion on common geostrategic challenges and cooperation with NATO and the United Nations, which also included the participation of NATO Deputy Secretary-General Mircea Geoanᾶ and United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix, ministers agreed that all three organizations face the same global challenges. It is therefore important that common themes, such as climate change, emerging and disruptive technologies, and “women, peace and security”, are addressed in a unified way. Especially in the light of the recent developments in Afghanistan, it is important that we work together effectively and in a coordinated manner while respecting the individual particularities of each organization.