The European Union’s foreign and defence policy should proceed with closer EU defence ties and a strong response to international threats, according to the European Parliament.

MEPs on December 13 welcomed the fact that, following their repeated appeals, EU defence integration is getting under way with the launch of a European Defence Fund. This is an EU operational headquarters, a Permanent Structured Cooperation and an annual review of member states’ defence plans.

“We have ‘white smoke’ on EU defence after eight years,” said Parliament’s rapporteur on CSDP Michael Gahler (EPP, DE). “The launch of the Permanent Structured Cooperation is a major step in the EU’s policy. This is a clear sign to citizens that the EU is willing and able to act in the area of security and defence policies.”

The MEPs agreed that the European Commission should set up a Directorate-General for Defence, which would coordinate defence initiatives and also facilitate, amongst others, the free movement of troops and equipment within the EU.

MEPs also want the member states to devote 2% of their GDP to defence within the decade, and to set up a start-up fund for a fast deployment of operations. They also suggested establishing an EU defence budget under the next EU long-term budget.

In another resolution reviewing key EU foreign policy choices, MEPs listed major challenges that threaten the EU’s security: proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, conflicts in the Eastern and Southern neighbourhood, proxy wars, and hybrid and information warfare.

The MEPs also deplored Russia’s multiple violations of international law and its hybrid warfare (a combination of conventional, irregular and cyber warfare), hinting that, only once this aggression has ceased and agreements already committed to have been complied with, can doors for deeper EU-Russia ties be opened.