CER has a blog of varying interest but it is always useful to read their postings to find out what the europhiliac agenda is or to have it confirmed. Here is the entry on the Strategic Defence and Security Review. No messing around here. Clara Marina O'Donnell goes straight for the important question: is this good for European defence integration?
After the usual blah about pragmatism being europhiliac whereas euroscepticism that points to the various problems in the whole concept of European defence integration being sectarian, extremist and generally reprehensible, we get to the meat.
The coalition government's plan to work more closely with its allies is both positive and long overdue. For decades, Britain and other European countries have wasted a lot of money by duplicating the development of military equipment. Depending on the outcome of the Franco-British summit, the new UK government might go further in promoting the cause of European defence co-operation than any of its predecessors.Just one problem with the whole notion and Ms O'Donnell does not deal with it: exactly what will be the purpose of a not very advanced integrated European defence force?
But London must invest the same political energy it has devoted to France towards exploring additional savings with other European countries. In the SDSR, the government opens the possibility of closer defence co-operation with Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. But other countries could also offer niche savings, including Poland and Sweden which have shown a keen interest in improving their military capabilities in recent years. The UK should also actively encourage its European allies to strengthen co-operation amongst themselves. As Britain's own military preparedness diminishes, it has a greater interest in other European countries taking up the slack.
The second piece of good news in the SDSR is the rather constructive attitude of the UK towards EU defence co-operation. Before the general election last spring, key members of the Conservative party – in particular William Hague, now the Foreign Secretary, and Liam Fox, now in charge of defence – voiced serious reservations about EU efforts in defence. Liam Fox worried that federalists within the EU were trying to develop a European army. He openly opposed some of the steps towards a stronger EU foreign policy foreseen in the Lisbon treaty. And he was keen to withdraw the UK from the European Defence Agency, a body which encourages common efforts amongst EU countries in developing defence capabilities.