PN Participates in the 10th Congress on European Security and Defense

The 10th Congress on European Security and Defence took place in Berlin on November 8-9, 2011. This year’s conference titled “The Future of European Security and Defence – Time for Change,” brought together 1,000 participants and 100 speakers to discuss the future of European security and defence policy, in relation to Europe’s most pressing security challenges, such as cyber security, terrorism, and energy security. Among the distinguished speakers was PN member Ioan Mircea Paşcu MEP and Angelika Beer MP.

The consensus among the panelists and participants was that Europe’s greatest security challenges are too big and complex for a single state to address on their own; rather, they require a collective and comprehensive approach. However, it was equally recognized that the European Union (EU) and its member states still have a long way to go in terms of creating a common European security policy capable of effectively addressing present threats and challenges.

The economic crisis figured prominently in many of the discussions and was considered both as a threat and an opportunity. On the one hand, the crisis been has a source of international economic insecurity, generating a ‘crisis of leadership,’ and resulting in budget cuts to defence and other sectors.

On the other hand, by compelling a serious budget analysis, the crisis presents an opportunity to come up with innovative ways to maximize available resources. One suggested measure to bring down collective costs is to reduce duplication at the national level wherever possible. “Pooling and sharing” was identified as one means of doing so, though this alone would not compensate for cuts to defence budgets.

In these times of fiscal austerity, some participants emphasized prevention as more cost-effective than reaction. Dr. Roman Poeschke, Director of GIZ’s Security, Reconstruction and Peace Division strongly urged participants to focus on preventive measures, even if their success is difficult to measure.

The complicated situation in Afghanistan was also a source of much debate. During a plenary session on “The Comprehensive Approach in Afghanistan: A Requirement with Consequences”, high-level panelists including Ernst-Reinhard Beck MP (Defence Policy Spokesman of the CDU/CSU-Parliamentary Group), Douglas John “Doug” Henderson (former MP and former Minister of Europe and Minister of the Armed Forces), General (ret.) Egon Ramms (former Commander Allied Joint Forces Command), and Pjer Simunovic (Croatian State Secretary, Ministry of Defence), addressed the challenges faced by the NATO mission as the 2014 deadline approaches.

Panelists expressed skepticism regarding a 100% troop withdrawal by 2014 and were concerned about the ongoing fragility of the Afghan government. On the topic of military vis-à-vis civilian operations, it was suggested that military operations are indispensible but they need to be complemented with a civilian approach as well.

Panelists agreed that a comprehensive approach to stability and prosperity in Afghanistan is the way forward, but serious obstacles remain. Mr. Henderson cited uncertainty and ambiguity as major impediments: “the essential difficulty with Afghanistan is that no one knows when we’ve won, if we’ve won, and the enemy doesn’t know when it has been defeated.”

To read the official review from the organizers of the conference, please click here.

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