Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission

Speaking in Strasbourg, the second time she participates in debates on the State of the Union, the President of the Commission defended an exclusively European presence in military missions

“There will be missions in which Nato and the United Nations will not be present, but Europe must be present”, defended the head of the community executive, pointing to examples of European missions.

“Our soldiers work side by side with police officers, lawyers and doctors, with humanitarian workers and human rights defenders, with teachers and engineers,” he specified, suggesting “combining military efforts with diplomats with the [ajuda ao] development”.

Peace Protection

“We have a long history of building and protecting peace, but what we need now is the European Defense Union,” said Von der Leyen, hoping for “the debate” over expeditionary forces, “of what types and to what extent”, that has occupied the last few weeks, give way to the construction of an EU of defense

political will

“You can have the most advanced forces in the world. But if you never prepare to use them, what use are they? What has pulled us back so far is not lack of means, it is lack of political will.” , lamented.

The president of the Commission justified herself, saying that Brussels should “provide stability in the neighborhood [europeia] and in different regions”, because, “due to its geography, Europe knows better than anyone else that if it does not deal with the crisis in a timely manner, the crisis will come to meet it”.


One of von der Leyen’s arguments is that “the nature of the threats we face is evolving rapidly: from hybrid attacks or cyber attacks to the growing arms race in space”.

“It is no longer necessary to have armies and missiles to cause massive damage. It is possible to paralyze industrial facilities, local administrations and hospitals using just a laptop. A smart phone and an Internet connection are sufficient means to compromise electoral processes”, mentioned.

Once the question of “political will” is over, the former defense minister of the German government understands that “the bases for collective decision-making” should be created – what she calls “situation knowledge”.

“It is essential to improve cooperation in the field of information, (…) bringing together the knowledge of all services and all sources”, he said, pointing to the examples “of the assets already available” ranging from “space, to training from law enforcement agents. From open sources, to development agencies.”

To “take advantage of all possible synergies”, Von der Leyen goes beyond “the possibility of not charging VAT when purchasing defense equipment developed and produced in Europe”.

“This would allow not only to increase interoperability, but also to reduce our current dependencies”, he stressed.

Von der Leyen wants the EU to be a leader in cybersecurity too, with “cyberdefense tools developed in Europe”, and “and a European cyber defense policy, including legislation that sets common standards under a new cyber law -European resilience”.

Challenge to States

The president of the European Commission considers that states also “must do more”, starting with a “common assessment of the threats we face and a common approach to address them”

The debate on the European role in defense matters will mark the French presidency of the European Union, which kicks off in January. During the semester, France will host a European defense summit.

Von der Leyen believes that “it is time for Europe to move to the next level”, particularly after the “recent events in Afghanistan”, which have revived the debate on the role of the European Union in the military field.

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