Taking EU-NATO cooperation to a new level

Joint Op-Ed by President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

  • 13 Dec. 2016 -
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  • Last updated: 13 Dec. 2016 10:56

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Donald Tusk, President of the European Council

Rising from the ashes of World War II, NATO and what is now the European Union were created with one goal: to prevent the horrors of another war in Europe.

And, in the years since, we have striven for – and achieved – peace and prosperity for our hundreds of millions of citizens.

We are different but complementary. NATO, a unique alliance between Europe and North America, has been the cornerstone of our security. It is this security that has enabled the European Union to deliver peace, prosperity and political cooperation for the continent. We have replaced trenches with negotiating tables.

But more than ever in a changing world, soft power alone is not enough. Security begins at home and that is why the EU is committed to doing more to protect and defend its citizens, and to help those Member States who are Allies to play their full part in NATO. The European Defence Fund announced last month aims to boost investment in the key defence capabilities needed to deter and respond to external threats.

The imperative to work together is also more acute and relevant than ever. We not only share 22 members but also the same values, the same devotion to freedom, democracy and the rule of law, and the same challenges, too.

For two decades, we have worked increasingly closely – cooperating in the Western Balkans, Afghanistan, and off the coast of Somalia to bring greater stability to our neighbourhood and so keep our nations safe.

Now, facing the greatest security challenges in a generation, we must take our cooperation to a new level. 

The challenges confronting us are severe and complex: terrorism stemming from turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East, a Russia willing to break international law, the refugee and migration crisis, and cyber-attacks. These are urgent concerns requiring us to work not just side-by-side, but hand-in-hand.

That is why the three of us signed a joint declaration in Warsaw in July, pledging to find new ways of working together at a new level of ambition.

Following decisions taken in recent days by EU and NATO ministers, we are stepping up how we work together in a whole range of areas – be it in operations at sea, strengthening our cyber defences, or working with partner countries in our southern and eastern neighbourhoods.

When it comes to hybrid attacks, for example, we have agreed to pull together if one of us is threatened – to increase the resilience of our societies, to share our understanding of what is happening on the ground, and to combat and dispel propaganda.

On cyber defence, we are sharing information and strengthening cooperation on training. That's important because in a deeply-integrated economy like Europe’s, an attack on one country hurts its neighbours too.

Building on our achievements in countering piracy off the Horn of Africa, we are increasingly working together to cut the lines of human smuggling in the Mediterranean. We are using exercises to learn from one another – including in planning, and sharing the lessons we have learned, to destroy the business model of those wilfully exploiting the misery of refugees.

But our security so often depends on stability beyond our borders. That is why we are working with countries like Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, as well as Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, and in the Western Balkans – helping them to strengthen their institutions and sustain their reforms. This cooperation with NATO is a key strand of the EU's Global Strategy to build bridges with partners around the world and protect citizens at home.

Put simply, all of this means we are becoming better prepared to deal with clear and present dangers as well as an uncertain future. Neither of us nor any of our member states is capable of tackling the challenges we face alone. Together, we can react faster and more effectively to a rapidly changing security situation. Our combined efforts are far greater than the sum of their parts.

By cooperating closer than ever, the EU and NATO are making a profound difference to the welfare and security of the many millions of people we exist to serve and protect. We owe them nothing less.

This article was published on Monday and Tuesday (12-13 December 2016) in newspapers belonging to the LENA group. Any use of this opinion piece should give attribution to the publishing outlets.