“Alternative Europa!” discusses the Defense Union with youth in Magdeburg

The project “Alter­native Europa!” was invited to discuss the recently published reflection paper “European Defense” with young people in Magdeburg on 10 June 2017. Within the framework of a two-day seminar at the Otto-von-Guericke University, organized by the Young European Feder­alists (JEF) Sachsen-Anhalt, young people from all over Europe gathered to reflect on the White Paper Process launched by the European Commission. Alongside the question of the future path of European integration posed by the EU Commission with its five scenarios for the future of the EU, the workshop partic­i­pants also discussed the four reflec­tions papers which have been published up until now.

Martin Luckert, Federal Secretary of the JEF, together with Julian Plottka, Research Fellow at IEP,  gave an overview of three scenarios for the creation of the defense union brought up for discussion by the Commission in its reflection paper. All partic­i­pants in the workshop declared themselves in favor of a swift deepening of integration in the realm of defense policies. It was clear in the discussion that today, defense policy is no longer restricted to military policy, but rather also encom­passes critical infra­structure such as telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions networks, energy security, and policies for stabi­lization achieved through civilian means. The policy area also has a broad overlap with questions regarding domestic security. This wide spectrum of topics must be reflected in further steps towards integration in the realm of defense policies.

Whether such advance­ments could be achieved in the near future, partic­i­pants remained skeptical. It was scruti­nized whether or not suffi­cient political willingness exists for an expedi­tious imple­men­tation of the more extensive proposals. Yet it was stated that, given the ambiguous attitude of the United States’ new admin­is­tration towards NATO, the conflict in Ukraine, the assessment of Russia as a strategic challenge and the dangerous situation in the Middle East, political pressure currently exists which could be used in order to strengthen the EU’s defense policies. However, the goal which Europe puts forward in the inter­na­tional realm with a single voice is constrained by differing national strategic cultures. It could take gener­a­tions for a continent-wide consensus to be reached concerning the tasks for which the military should be engaged.

Whether or not forms of differ­en­tiated integration might offer a way out remained an equally contentious question within the debate. While such groupings of member states would make it easier to establish a consensus and shared under­standing about the role of the military, having individual groups of member states forge ahead also always carries with it the risk of dividing the Union. Whether or not “strag­glers” would ever catch up remains unanswered.

Report: Julian Plottka.