EU Military Staff (EUMS) 20th anniversary Ceremony: Speech by High Representative Josep Borrell

It is a great pleasure. I am very pleased to speak to you today to celebrate today the 20th Anniversary of the European Union Military Staff (EUMS). Since it was established, militaries from our Member States have served under the European Union flag to provide security and stability around the world, from the Balkans to the Central African Republic, the Horn of Africa, to the Sahel. Their work is crucial to stabilise and manage conflicts, to secure free and open sea-lanes and to protect European citizens and their interests.  

Today we are gathered here together to honour the work of these women and men who have served and continue serving in the European Union Military CSDP Missions and Operations. And, above all, we honour and remember those who gave their lives in the pursuit of peace and international security. We are here to honour our colleagues, and it is our duty to keep up their work and continue fighting for the causes they died [for]. 

The work of our soldiers and our Missions is today more important than ever. You know, as I know, that the international landscape around us is deteriorating quickly and that we are witnessing growing strategic competition and the return of power politics. The way the world is the way it is and not the way we, Europeans, would like it to be. We face a more hostile security environment, and we cannot take our security as business as usual because business is no longer as usual. It is very much different, more dangerous, more challenging. We need to defend our interests, our values and to protect our citizens. That is why we are here. Above all, we need to increase our capacity and willingness to act. Both are needed, capacity and will. Will without capacity is not very useful. Capacity without will, neither. We need both. That is why, precisely, these days we have launched what we call the Strategic Compass. I presented it to the Member States, and we will start discussing it from now until March.  

It is good that today, here, gathered all of us to remember the ones who died defending the values, the interests and the citizens of Europe. It is good that we use this opportunity to think about a little bit what we want to do with this Strategic Compass. We want to do many things, but among them, we want to be able to develop a Rapid Deployment Capacity that would allow us to deploy up to 5,000 troops. And I think this would give us flexibility to provide a quick and effective response to the fast-evolving crisis. Today, while we remember the ones who went, the ones who are out, we have to look at the future and start working from the present to be better prepared to face the future.  

This is certainly not the only proposal I put forward in the Compass. We should reinforce our military missions and operations. We should provide these Missions with a more robust, more flexible mandate promoting rapid and more flexible decision-making and ensuring a greater financial solidarity. And we must strengthen our action to work in the maritime and space domains. The outer space will be one of the battlefields of the future. We have to extend our coordinated maritime presence as we are doing. We have to be more present in many other areas to develop our strategy for security and defence.  

I have also stressed the need to strengthen our command and control structures in Brussels. I want to stress how important it is in front of all of you. We have to strengthen our command and control structures here in Brussels in particular the Military Planning and Conduct Capability, to ensure that our Missions and Operations have the necessary resources, intelligence and preparation to fulfil their task. You understand better than I [do] what I mean by that and how much needed it is to increase this planning and conduct capabilities. We should make sure that by 2025 the Military Planning and Conduct Capability in which you are working will be fully able to plan, to control and to command the executive and non-executive tasks as well as performing live exercises.  

Certainly, we are making progress, our European Union Military Headquarters already assume command of the four European Union Training Missions in Mali, Central African Republic, Somalia and, recently, Mozambique. But, as the threats that we face evolve and become more difficult to detect, we need to be better prepared. And that is why we must boost our intelligence capacities to address hybrid threats in an integrated way and further develop the European Union Cyber Defence Policy. This should help us to tackle foreign information manipulation and foreign interference more effectively, including cyber-attacks, which are more frequent. The European Union Military Staff, together with the European Union Military Representatives of our Member States here present, have a key role to play in all this initiative. 

Let me take this opportunity to thank General Graziano, Chairman of the European Union Military Committee, and Vice-Admiral Bléjean, Director-General of the European Union Military Staff for their leadership and outstanding work over the last years. They are doing it now, but others did [it] before. We are here also to honour on this occasion the ones who were the previous Director-Generals of the European Union Military Staff. Allow me to remember them: General [Jean-Paul] Perruche, General [Ton] von Osch, and General [Esa] Pulkkinen as well as the widow of the deeply missed General [Wolfgang] Wosolsobe. To all of them, thank you very much for their work and commitment. It is with professionals of your calibre that I am convinced that we can successfully deliver on an ambitious European Union defence agenda.  

Ladies and gentlemen, today we remember our colleagues who made the ultimate sacrifice for a more secure and better world. Let us honour their memories and continue the work to make the European Union a credible international actor and a force for good as a global security provider. This is our ambition. This is our work. This is our commitment. Thank you for that and for your attention.  

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