Defence cooperation in the EU strengthens the defence capability of Member States and the basis of the European defence capability, as well as the EU as a security community and a global actor.

The nature of defence cooperation within the EU has changed in the past five years. Changes in the security environment have affected the expansion of the EU’s defence policy objectives in the global strategy on the EU’s foreign and security policy published in 2016. In addition to the external action of the EU, European security is emphasised, and the strengthening of the defence capabilities of Member States is widely supported.

The Treaties of the European Union include a clause on mutual assistance that demands that Member States have the ability to give concrete help and supports the activities of Member States in preventing possible threats. Together with other EU commitments and strong interdependency, this reduces the possibility of exerting pressure on individual Member States.

Finland supports the development of EU defence cooperation, for example, in order to respond to hybrid threats, create European-level security of supply arrangements and strengthen the foundation of defence industry and technology. Support for European defence research is central in this work. Finland creates the necessary preconditions for the enforcing of the clause of mutual assistance and the giving and receiving of international aid.

The work carried out in the EU, NATO or other smaller groups of countries (such as NORDEFCO) is not competitive. The strengthening of defence cooperation in the EU supports the further development of cooperation between the EU and NATO. EU and NATO activities complement and benefit each other.

EU operations

The Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) of the EU, which is an integral part of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and external action of the Union, will remain as a cornerstone of defence cooperation in the EU. The most visible sections of the CSDP are the crisis management operations implemented by the EU.

The focus of the EU’s military crisis management is currently in the Horn of Africa and Sahel. The on-going operations (EUNAVFOR Atalanta, EUTM Somalia and EUTM Mali) are connected to the efforts of the EU to improve the security situation in Somalia, Mali and the surrounding areas. The EUNAVFOR Atalanta operation supports the vessels of the World Food Programme (WFP) and AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia) and other vulnerable sea transport against piracy. The training operations EUTM Somalia and EUTM Mali support the training of the security and armed forces in these countries. The EUTM RCA mission in the Central African Republic promotes the implementation of the EU’s comprehensive approach and security sector reform in the country.

The EU’s other naval operation EUNAVFOR MED Sophia is active in the Mediterranean. The mandate of the mission is to disrupt and prevent the operational conditions of human smugglers operating particularly from Libya and to reduce illegal immigration to Europe.

The EU is also involved in the EUFOR Althea operation in Bosnia-Herzegovina with security and stabilisation tasks and providing training and support to the authorities.

In addition to military measures, the EU aims to stabilise the security situation in the countries of the region through civilian crisis management.  The EU benefits from being able to use all means of external action: from diplomacy to development cooperation and from military crisis management to trade policy. A military crisis management operation led by the EU should not be looked at as a separate operation, but as part of the overall activities of the EU in the area. Cases in point include the EU presence in the Western Balkans, the Sahel region and the Horn of Africa.

Further information on the operation and Finnish involvement can be found on the website of the Defence Forces.

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