The economic crisis forced several member states to cut their defence expenses and to uni-laterally withdraw their troops from EU missions. In Budapest, Minister of Defence Csaba Hende said that the Hungarian Presidency thinks the temporary disadvantages can be turned into advantages if member states come up with innovative solutions to develop and maintain capabilities.
The negative effects of the economic crisis have highlighted the need to use the existing European resources in a more cost-efficient, coordinated and organized way, Minister of Defence Csaba Hende told an expert seminar on the current issues of the EU’s capability development. Roughly 150 representatives from 27 member states gathered in the Ministry for Defence to discuss the possibilities of the proposal.
Hungary’s 9 percent increase in defence expenditure is exceptional as such costs have dropped in most EU member states due to economic difficulties by 2011. At the same time, the incidents in the immediate neighbourhood of the EU’s southern states in the past weeks have highlighted that the region’s security challenges are not decreasing, but increasing, which makes cooperation more important than ever.
An efficient means is the grouping and distribution of capabilities, the “pooling and sharing” method. The Hungarian Presidency’s goal is to popularize this innovative use of capabilities among member states in this semester. This was a major subject at the informal meeting of defence directors in Budapest at the end of January 2011, and the Presidency proposed it to be a topic at the Meeting of Defence Ministers in Gödöllo in late February.
Mr Hende said Hungary is in a special situation as the Presidency must carry out its tasks in the new institutional environment created by the Lisbon Treaty. Thus Budapest is holding an irregular, “supportive presidency”, carrying out its duties not in competition with the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security but with his guidance.
After the speech of the Minister for Defence, the most renowned European experts and researchers of the field gave presentations in three sections. The morning session revolved around the theoretical background of the pooling and sharing method. The speakers included Hilmar Linnenkamp, former deputy director-general of the European Defence Agency (EDA), and Jon Mullin, the current capabilities director of EDA.
The speakers agreed that the pooling and sharing method is the main theme of current European defence policy, but Nick Witney, former director-general of EDA, said that member states cannot afford to stop developing their military forces due to the economic crisis and lack of interest. According to the expert, this will inevitably lead to Europe’s loss of significance in global politics.