The European Union security chief Julian King has requested the “closest possible cooperation” on defense and security issues after the U.K. leaves the 28-member union.
“On some issues you will always have those who agree, and those who disagree, but a mutual, shared self-interest in terms of security and defense,” King said.
Despite the failure of last week’s EU summit in Salzburg, Austria, to back British Prime Minister Theresa May’s latest Brexit proposals, King remains “optimistic” the U.K. and EU could carry on and come together on security and defense.
Some have questioned the effectiveness of European defense and security after the departure in the U.K. Britain could be the second-largest net cause of the EU, and its exit will lead to profit shortfall of about €84 billion (U.S. $99 billion) for EU’s next spending period 2020.
Another issue troubling President Trump is the continued “unwillingness of some member states to contribute more” to NATO.
Speaking with a security debate in Brussels, King highlighted cyber, as well as the ongoing threat from terrorism, as key locations the two sides must cooperate post Brexit, that can occur at the end of March 2019.
“Of course, you can still find several things still to eliminate between now and March, as well as the economic side will likely be tough. But we’d like the nearest possible cooperation in tackling the safety challenges both of us face, and I am optimistic we could do this,” he was quoted saying.
“Those people who find themselves trying to harm us do not produce a distinction between member states.”
We are facing shared threats, that happen to be best tackled whenever we act together. This is true today, and it will probably be true after March 2019. It is this shared self-interest that I believe will drive cooperation on the security side,” he added.
There was “no dispute” around the should support member states in the safety and defense field, as outlined by King, but rather the process is finding ways to strengthen such collaboration.
He praised recent EU investment in new security and defense initiatives, such as the Permanent Structured Cooperation and also the Coordinated Annual Review on Defense, which, he described, involve “tens of vast amounts of euros.”
While the EU was “doing OK” in tackling the twin threats presented by cyber-warfare and terrorism, he conceded that there is “an enormous amount still to accomplish.”
One example, he said, involves addressing artificial intelligence. This could be a force for both good and bad, he suggested, but the EU may be “slow” in responding to the difficulties resulting from AI.
King’s comments were echoed by Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO secretary general from 2004-2009, who said actually is well liked hopes that, post Brexit, the EU and U.K. will like the “closest possible cooperation” on defense and security issues. “Yes, we all want the EU to adopt more responsibility in the defense sphere, however you have to ask: ‘What is European defense devoid of the U.K.?’ ”
Both were speaking during “A Brave New World,” a debate organized by Friends of Europe, a leading Brussels-based think tank.
Elsewhere, a top U.K.-based academic warned that the “Salzburg impasse” puts EU-U.K. security cooperation at an increased risk. Last week’s summit of EU leaders in Salzburg ended acrimoniously with all the EU saying May’s trade proposals “would not work.” This has led May to demand “more respect” from your EU side.
Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, a professor on the University of London, said that “reaching a fresh security agreement independently from the main Brexit negotiations will be easier said than done.”
“The threat of the ‘no deal’ Brexit would seriously disrupt U.K. and EU capabilities within the fight against terrorism and organized crime, at the time once the EU is devoted to improving its efforts to enhance judicial and police cooperation in Europe,” he said.
Speaking separately, Gordon Sondland, the modern U.S. ambassador for the EU, has pledged to work with the EU “honestly and constructively to handle the worldwide security threats that look to destroy our shared history, values and culture.”
“Whether defeating the Islamic State, countering North Korea’s belligerency or ensuring energy supplies should never be used for political coercion, we’ll stand together,” the diplomat said. “There is really a useful issues we can tackle together. From malign Russian activity, starting from disinformation campaigns to invasion and occupation of sovereign nations, to data privacy, to Iran, yes, even Iran, we work best whenever we be employed in tandem.”