Meeting of TC Defence: Consider the human factor when framing a European Defence Union!

On June 5th, the yearly meeting of CESI´s Trade Council Defence took place, uniting those trade unions from CESI which represent military and civilian staff within the armed forces.

The exchanges of views focused on the rights of association of military personnel (in particular with regards to the recent success of the complaint Euromil and the Irish association PDFORRA at the European Committee on Social Rights) of the Council of Europe, the relations between EU and NATO, the positioning of the EU towards Russia, and, not least, the importance of the human factor in the future European Defence Union.

Experts from the European External Action Service (EEAS), from NATO and from the Cabinet of the EU´s High Representative Mogherini brought new insights to the latest developments in the field of European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP).

In his presentation, Mr. Vuorimaki, EEAS, highlighted the coherent approach of the EU in its relations to Russia based on the five guiding principles: (1) full implementation of the Minsk agreements, (2) closer ties with Russia’s former Soviet neighbors, (3) strengthening EU resilience to Russian threats, (4) selective engagement with Russia on certain issues such as counter-terrorism, and (5) support for people-to-people contacts. In the view of CESI Secretary General Klaus Heeger, contacts with Russian trade unions should be considered as being in line with the principle of ’people to people contacts’.

The representative from NATO, Mr. Chalupecky, described the current challenges of the North Atlantic Alliance, highlighting the positive signals and practices of solidarity among NATO members in the recent years. Altogether, the efforts of the EU to develop its own military resilience are seen positively, as they may lead to a more efficient use of resources. To his mind, the issue of unequal financial contributions to NATO will remain on the agenda, forcing EU countries to contribute more to military expenses in the long term.

In a final round of discussion with Mr. Rentschler, Deputy Head of Cabinet of the EU´s High Representative Mogherini, the general frame and structure of the European Security and Defence Policy was outlined and concrete possibilities to engage with representatives of the military and civilian personnel of the armed forces were discussed. Thomas Sohst, President of the TC, concluded: “You cannot frame a European Defence Union without considering the human factor. This cannot be sustainable. The personnel of the armed forces is the one giving flesh to visions and political will. To listen to them on a regular basis could be key to success. Especially the newly introduced mechanism of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) creates new possibilities in this regard.”