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Reflection paper on the future of European defence


Publication date
7 June 2017


The reflection paper sets out three possible scenarios for the future of European defence:


  • Security and Defence Cooperation scenario

EU countries would still decide on the need for security and defence cooperation on a voluntary and case-by-case basis, while the EU would continue to complement national efforts. Defence cooperation would be strengthened, but the EU's participation in the most demanding operations would remain limited. The new European Defence Fund would help develop some new joint capabilities but EU countries would still oversee the bulk of defence capabilities' development and procurement. EU/NATO cooperation would retain today's format and structure.


  • Shared Security and Defence scenario

Under this more ambitious scenario EU countries would pool together certain financial and operational assets to increase solidarity in defence. The EU would also become more engaged in Europe's protection within and beyond its borders. It would take on a greater role in areas like cyber, border protection or the fight against terrorism, and strengthen the defence and security dimension of internal EU policies like energy, health, customs or space. This would be matched by a political will to act, as well as decision-making fit for a rapidly changing context. The EU and NATO would also increase mutual cooperation and coordinate across a full spectrum of issues.


  • Common Defence and Security scenario

The most ambitious scenario foresees the progressive framing of a common Union defence policy, leading to common defence based on Article 42 of the EU Treaty which allows a group of like-minded Member States to take European defence to the next level. Under this scenario, EU countries would undertake greater commitments to each other's security, making Europe's protection a shared responsibility of the EU and NATO. The EU would be able to run high-end security and defence operations, underpinned by a certain level of integration of Member States' defence forces. The EU would support joint defence programmes with the European Defence Fund, as well as set up a dedicated European Defence Research Agency. This would also foster the creation of a genuine European defence market, able to protect its key strategic activities from external takeovers.


The above scenarios are not mutually exclusive, but illustrate three different levels of ambition in terms of solidarity.

Enhancing European security is a must. EU countries will be in the driving seat, defining the level of ambition with the support of the EU institutions. Looking to the future, they must now decide the path they want to take and speed they want to go at to protect Europe's citizens.


2 JUNE 2017
Reflection paper on the future of European defence
(660.18 KB - PDF)