The second day of the Conference of Speakers of the European Union Parliaments was dedicated to European security and defence. The speakers emphasised the need for reinforcing the defence capabilities and cooperation.
President of the Riigikogu Eiki Nestor said that the partnership between the security policy of the European Union and NATO was necessary, but the security cooperation inside the EU could never be an alternative to NATO.
Speaker of the Saeima of the Republic of Latvia Ināra Mūrniece spoke about the EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation on security and defence (PESCO). In her opinion, it is not just a framework, but a cooperation process of the European Union that enables to make use of the strong sides of each member state. As an example, she pointed out the leading role of the Baltic States in IT, digitalisation and cyber security research.
“In today’s situation, no country can act alone, we need allies,” Mūrniece said. “The defence initiatives of the European Union can strengthen NATO, because they reinforce common defence capability.” She called on strengthening the cooperation between the EU and NATO first of all in cyber defence. Regarding the defence budget, Mūrniece said that it was important that all member states kept the level of at least two percent of GDP.
President of the German Bundestag Wolfgang Schäuble said that the citizens expected the EU to pay more attention to defence and security. He added that there was still a large gap between the needs and the possibilities, and therefore Europe had to take more responsibility for its security.
Schäuble pointed out the role of national parliaments in ensuring security, for which it was necessary to strengthen mutual cooperation and engagement. “We share the understanding that in today’s complicated security situation, we have to move on with the Common Foreign and Security Policy,” he said. “Finding common interests, priorities and strategies may be the hardest challenge for us.” In his opinion, the only solution is readiness for compromise and openness towards the ideas of other member states.
President of the Austrian National Council Wolfgang Sobotka also thinks that Europe needs common foreign, defence and security policy. “Today more than ever before, Europe has to speak unanimously on security and defence issues,” Sobotka said. He believes that security is a priority in increasing the trust of the citizens towards the EU. Like Schäuble, he is of the opinion that the EU has to take more responsibility for ensuring its security.
In his speech, Sobotka also spoke of fight against terrorism and cyber attacks, defence of external borders, illegal migration, spreading of false information and social media, and radicalisation and ensuring security in the neighbourhood of the European Union.
Sobotka said that one of the priorities of the Austrian Presidency of the EU Council, which begins in summer, was bringing the Western Balkan countries closer to the EU, and they wished to reach accession negotiations with Albania and FYR Macedonia.
The delegations of the European Parliament, and Albania, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland also participated in the Conference of Speakers of the European Union Parliaments. The photo and video materials and the conclusions of the Conference can be found on the web page parleu2017.ee.
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