Bratislava, 27 September 2016 – According to Minister of Defence Hannes Hanso, European Union Member States must take national defence seriously and boost investments in national defence.
“Citizens are waiting for the European Union and its Member States to provide them with better protection,” said Hanso after today’s meeting of EU Defence Ministers in Bratislava. “My message to my colleagues is that the Member States of the European Union must increase monetary contributions towards developing their national defence capabilities.”
According to Hanso, there are significant differences when it comes to defence expenditures, as only five countries – Estonia among them – are spending at least two per cent of GDP on defence, with some countries not even spending one per cent of their GDP on defence. “On a positive note, national defence expenditures by European countries are once again on the rise after many years of decline.”
According to the Minster of Defence, the European Union will only be able to assert its strength if Member States possess adequate military capabilities, that they are prepared to use for the benefit of the European Union, for example, in military operations.
Hanso said that the EU Member States have no plan to create a joint EU army, as has been discussed in the media. “In general, ministers of defence in Europe are somewhat hesitant about whether there is a need to create a military structure that duplicates NATO. Instead, already existing structures – such as the European Union's Battlegroups – should be better used.”
The ministers of defence discussed the proposal to create an EU military headquarters and found that there is no clear need. “Management of European military operations must be improved, although the question is whether the creation of a new headquarters is the best solution,” said Hanso.
Today, at the meeting of defence ministers, the European Commission presented proposals regarding the creation of a common defence industry market. According to Hanso, if implemented, these proposals could bring tangible benefits to Estonia's defence industry. “Our defence industry would be able to participate in the defence procurements of bigger European countries, and our Universities would also be able to participate in international research and development projects.”
The next discussion on defence cooperation proposals will be in October, when the foreign ministers of European Union Member States meet; and in November, Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, should prepare an operational programme for the proposals.
27 September 2016 – Proposals for enhancing defence related cooperation between European Union Member States are being discussed at the informal meeting of the defence ministers of the European Union, taking place today in Bratislava. One of the proposed ideas is the creation of a European Union military headquarters.
EU military operations are currently being directed from five international headquarters, located in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Greece. According to the proposal, submitted by Germany and France, mission control would be consolidated into a single headquarters.
According to Minister of Defence Hannes Hanso, Estonia supports closer military cooperation between European Union Member States. “EU military operations, in which Estonia is also participating, are a good example of how the countries of Europe can together assert themselves when it comes to the field of security,” said Hanso before the meeting of ministers. “If the creation of a military headquarters allows EU Member States to cooperate more efficiently in the matter of defence, the proposal is worth considering.”
According to Hanso, Estonia proceeds from whether all new initiatives in the field of defence, which are made within the framework of the European Union, must provide clear added value to the cooperation taking place within NATO. “The European Union should not duplicate what is already being done by NATO.”
The ministers of defence are meeting today in Bratislava, capital of Slovakia, which also currently holds the presidency of the EU, where they will be discussing the implementation of the foreign and security strategy of the European Union, European Union and NATO cooperation, and EU military operations in the Mediterranean and the Sahel region of Africa.
Minister of Defence Hannes Hanso met today, in Oslo, with Norwegian Minister of Defence Ine Eriksen Søreide, where the two discussed the security situation in Northern-Europe, further security related cooperation between Estonia and Norway, and the long-term plans of both countries for developing national defence.
“A common border with an aggressive and unpredictable Russia forces us to make a serious effort in the name of security,” said Minister of Defence Hanso after the meeting. “Estonia and Norway are both concerned by the intensifying security situation and the increased Russian military presence in Northern-Europe and the Arctic. Norway has proven to be one of the most consistent contributors to NATO’s collective defence and deterrence measures in our region.”
In 2017, Norway will contribute an infantry company to the increased Allied presence in Lithuania, thereby increasing the security of our entire region.
Minister of Defence Hanso also met in Oslo with Øyvind Hallerakeri, First Deputy Chair of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence of the Parliament of Norway, as well as committee members.
Yesterday, in Norway, Minister of Defence Hanso visited the Rena Military Base, where the Chief of Staff of the Norwegian Army, Brigadier General Ingrid Gjerde, provided an extensive overview of the compulsory conscription of women in Norway. According to Minister of Defence Hanso, the proportion of women involved in Estonia’s national defence must definitely increase, since, in essence, half of Estonia’s population is not sufficiently involved in national defence.
Minister of Defence Hannes Hanso visited Rena Military Base, in Norway, where Norwegian Army Brigadier General Ingrid Gjerde provided an extensive overview of the development plans for Norway’s Army and conscription for women in Norway.
The female Norwegian officers and conscripts serving at Rena introduced Hanso to Norway’s gender neutral compulsory conscription and changes in the attitudes held by Norwegian society over the past few decades, which led to the introduction of compulsory conscription for women.
“Norway’s three decade's long, consistent and comprehensive approach to achieving gender equality, when it comes to including women in national defence, has been impressive,” said Hanso after the meeting. “Creating equal opportunities for women to participate in national defence is a topic also worthy of as broad a discussion as possible in Estonia.”
According to Minster of Defence Hanso, there is obviously no reason, yet, in Estonia, to discuss transitioning to a system of compulsory conscription for women, as is the case in Norway, since Norwegians have travelled a long road in attaining gender equality.
“The role of women in national defence in Estonia must definitely increase,” said Minister of Defence Hanso. “In essence, half of our population is not adequately involved in national defence. This definitely needs to change.”
The Minister of Defence also met with special operations forces, who spoke to the Estonian delegation about how Norwegian conscripts complete special operations forces training.
Today, Minister of Defence Hanso will be meeting with Norwegian Minister of Defence Ine Eriksen Søreide, in Oslo, and holding security policy talks.