EU/Presidency: Portugal wants EU defence, security partnership with UK

The Portuguese government believes that the European Union (EU) should create “broad structures of partnership” with the United Kingdom on defence and security policy, defence minister João Gomes Cravinho said on Friday.

Speaking at a high-level conference to discuss the future of EU security and defence, he stressed the need to “partner better and more strategically” by intensifying “cooperation” and “new dimensions” in working with traditional partners.

Giving the examples of Canada and Norway, the minister said that, “in the future”, the EU should create “necessary corporate mechanisms and broad partnership structures” with the United Kingdom as well.

At the same time, he advocated the need for a “stronger” relationship with the United States, especially in areas such as “hybrid threats” or “capability gaps”, among others.

“The EU is the USA’s most effective ally, so we believe that there should soon be a security and defence dialogue between the two regions at ministerial level,” he pointed out.  

As for multilateral organisations such as NATO and the United Nations, Cravinho believes that there should also be “regular strategic dialogues at ministerial level”.

He said that the Strategic Compass, which covers three phases – an analysis of threats to the EU, the establishment of strategic objectives to strengthen the EU as a security and defence actor and the creation of political guidelines for military planning procedures – should be articulated with “a review of NATO’s strategic concept”.

In addition to partnerships with other countries, he also referred to the other three pillars of the future common strategy of the EU, namely “crisis management”, “resilience”, and “capabilities”.

Cravinho highlighted the “ability to develop EU common security and defence policy missions and operations that match European needs”, and he considered that “more practical requirements, more robust control systems, better planning based on crisis scenarios, and more robust mandates for missions” are needed.

According to the minister, the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted “the need to do better in dealing with complex emergencies” and, in this context, resilience should include two aspects: “anything that is subject to enemy action, which requires us to be very dynamic in identifying possible enemy actions”, and “anything that may require the extensive application of military capabilities”.

However, he also believes that the pandemic has shown “examples of good practice that should be the basis for joint civil-military medicine” that serves as a “response to complex emergencies”.

“We should hold regular exercises to speed up procedures. We need to develop mechanisms, for example, that allow us to rapidly incorporate military capabilities from one country into another [country] in response to civil emergencies,” he stressed.

The minister also proposed constructing an “EU cyber unit” to “supplement and coordinate national efforts” of the 27.

Cravinho participated in a high-level virtual conference entitled “Towards a Strategic Compass? Reflections on the Future of EU Security and Defence” and organised by the Ministry of Defence and the EU Institute for Security Studies (EU-ISS) under the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the EU on Friday.