A Window of Opportunity for European Defense

MADRID – With budgets exceptionally tight in Europe nowadays, worries about European defense have been growing. Paradoxically, however, developments in 2010 offer hope for the future.

The defense agreement signed in November by France and the United Kingdom is composed of two treaties, which cover joint deployment of their armed forces, nuclear deterrence, and improved equipment and communications. This initiative has the firm political backing of both countries’ leaders, and expresses a clear determination to unite against common threats.

Implemented correctly, these treaties could become a hopeful precedent for the entire European Union. By transcending strictly national limits, these treaties chart the future path of European defense and will help determine the course of Europe’s relations with the United States and NATO.

To better judge the treaties’ worth, we must remember the context in which they were conceived. In 1998, the Saint Malo Declaration by French President Jacques Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair indicated both countries’ determination to reinforce the EU’s security and defense capabilities. Originally reluctant to accept a Europe with autonomous military capacity, the United Kingdom had learned from the intervention in Kosovo that the EU must be able to respond to crises rapidly and efficiently.