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European defence partnerships. Stronger together

By Jan Joel Andersson, Senior Analyst at the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS)

European defence is built on cooperation: between NATO and the EU; between the EU and its partners; and a myriad of multilateral and bilateral defence cooperation agreements among EU Member States and beyond. But is this intricate architecture a confusing mishmash of duplications and inefficiencies, or a web of steel providing the foundation for stronger European defence?

In Europe, the EU’s most important defence partner is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). With 21 – soon 23 – EU Member States also being NATO Allies, the two organisations are the key pillars of the European security architecture (1). This architecture, however, also relies on the EU’s partnerships with key countries outside the Union as well as on EU Member States’ own multilateral and bilateral defence cooperation arrangements.

 

European defence is built on cooperation: between NATO and the EU; between the EU and its partners; and a myriad of multilateral and bilateral defence cooperation agreements among EU Member States and beyond. But is this intricate architecture a confusing mishmash of duplications and inefficiencies, or a web of steel providing the foundation for stronger European defence?

 

Accordingly, this Brief is structured in two parts. The first part analyses some of the EU’s most strategic partnerships and suggests ways in which these could be further tailored and enhanced, for instance, through a so-called ‘Strategic Partnership Plus’ format. The second part shifts the focus to EU Member States’ various multilateral and bilateral defence cooperation arrangements, introducing the analytical concept of ‘institutional nesting’ to reduce overlap and ‘meeting fatigue’, while increasing efficiency, coherence and output. The Brief concludes with reflections on how to ensure that European defence partnerships lay the foundations of a stronger Europe.

 

Read the research paper on the European Union Institute for Security Studies website.

 

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