There is broad agreement that the European states should do more for their own security and defence, but little consensus on how to achieve this goal, or on what role strategic autonomy may have in delivering it. In the EU, perhaps the most likely framework for creating the necessary capacity, the Member States have signed up to a higher level of military ambition, but their employment of military force through the Common Security and Defence Policy has remained modest.
Defence will be high on the agenda in the EU in 2022. France, a forward-leaning Member State when it comes to defence currently holds the Presidency of the Council and will convene a flagship European Summit on Defence. The EU’s new strategic vision—the Strategic Compass—is expected soon. And the Permanent Structured Cooperation initiative will see its five-year anniversary.
Command and control of military operations, in particular the question of whether the EU needs a permanent headquarters at the military-strategic level—which so far has been strongly resisted by some Member States—is likely to feature in the EU discussions once again. This analysis examines the EU’s military command structure and considers whether the case for such a headquarters is strengthened in the light of the EU’s higher level of military ambition and the growing demands for Europe to do more for itself.
If the shortcomings of the EU’s present command and control arrangements are to be addressed, the case for a new headquarters appears strong. But only if the Member States are genuinely serious about the EU becoming a significant defence actor. If they are not, any new structure will become another monument to the EU’s tendency to grandstand in defence but fail to deliver on the substance.