At the Munich Security Conference today, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker reiterated his plea for the greater use of qualified majority voting on foreign policy issues in the European Union, stating that it was needed for the EU to play a stronger role in the world. However, there doesn’t seem to be unanimous agreement on such a change at present.
The European Commission is scheduled to publish a communication on the matter in September 2018.
“Need for unanimity stops us from being able to interact in international politics.”
Juncker said that a move to qualified majority voting didn’t need changes in the EU Treaties, but could make use of Article 31 of the Treaty on European Union, which allows for a move to qualified majority voting in foreign policy if all member states agree. He highlighted he especially wanted to move in that direction when it comes to defence missions.
“We can’t have it that we always need unanimity in security and foreign policy. This need for unanimity stops us from being able to interact in international politics. Time and again we see that we are not able to come to a unanimous decision.”
The President pointed out that the European Union doesn’t have a single position on the issues in the South China Sea or on human rights in China, for example, and that this was why the decision-making process needs to be made much easier.
European procurement needs to be made simpler and more effective
The European Union’s proposed integration in the field of defence was also touched upon. He praised that the EU had made more progress in defence in the previous few years than the preceding 20 years before that.
Juncker stated that Europe is very inefficient when it comes to equipment, and that there’s a lot of duplication. He mentioned that while the USA only has 6 aircraft types, Europe has 20, and that there are more helicopter manufactures in Europe than there are governments that could potentially buy these helicopters.
The President said that the procurement system in Europe needs to be simplified and improved. He reiterated that €90 million has been allocated for defence research in 2018 and 2019, and called for €1.5 billion per year to be spent on research after 2020. He asked member states to be more active in this area, especially considering that 80% of research spending is currently done on the national level.
“We cannot rely on allies alone.”
The Commission President also made reference to the USA’s recent concern about European defence integration coming into conflict with NATO, saying that the EU does want to emancipate itself, but not against NATO or the USA.
“Over many years we have been accused by the Americans that we wouldn’t be doing enough for our own defence, but now we do make efforts, we do do more, and they are not happy with that either.”
“We cannot rely on allies alone. We have to do something ourselves in order to protect our security interests, and we want to do that. But that does not take place in an effort against NATO.”