What do you see as the committee’s principal priorities for the next couple of years?
The first role of the Security and Defence Subcommittee (SEDE) is to monitor the activities of the European institutions in defence and security. This starts with the EU missions and operations abroad; from the moment they are created to when they are completed. I believe we must pay special attention to operations and missions closely linked to the security of our continent. New instruments have been created, such as the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), the European Defence Fund (EDF) and the European Peace Facility (EPF). SEDE will follow these new developments closely in order to ensure they achieve their objectives and deal with the new threats and challenges the EU faces. We also need to focus on the military dimension of space, the impact of AI in the defence industry sector, hybrid threats and cybersecurity, amongst others.
What are the biggest challenges facing the committee and how do you plan to tackle them?
We need to make sure that the Parliament in general, and the SEDE Subcommittee in particular, are fully involved in the drafting, decision making and implementation of key decisions on the security and the defence of the EU. The creation of new instruments designed to increase our strategic autonomy is a new development and thus needs the required accountability to the European Parliament. European citizens are asking for greater efforts to improve European defence and we must respond to this request. But we also need to ensure that these new measures are subject to the necessary level of democratic control.
In which policy areas do you think citizens want to see the greatest benefit from your work over the next couple of years?
We will spend European money to encourage a European industrial and technological defence base. However, supporting research and development in the defence industry must come with results. We need to improve the way we prevent and fight cyberattacks. We need to see significant progress in the fight against jihadi terrorists in the Middle East and Africa. Europe is a continent of peace, one which is respectful of others, but it also wants to be respected and protected.
"European citizens are asking for greater efforts to improve European defence […] we also need to make sure these new measures face the necessary level of democratic control"
As part of any final deal, do you expect the UK to remain part of the EU’s security and defence apparatus? If so, how do you see this developing?
I regret the British decision to leave the EU. I think in our current world, as dangerous and unpredictable as it is, unity is needed more than ever; division will only weaken us. However, I respect their decision and we now have to negotiate a new relationship, where we protect our common interests, but also our respective sovereignties. This will be the purpose of the forthcoming negotiations on the future relationship. It is in our common interest to have a strong defence and security relationship between the EU and the UK, but one where each side will protect its decision-making autonomy.
As the NATO alliance becomes increasingly fractured, how important is it that the EU develops its own security and defence capabilities?
EU defence efforts are not against NATO, they complement the alliance. The EU treaties clearly state that for its members, NATO remains the cornerstone of European security. But we have to face it; NATO cannot only rely on the commitment of the United States. There needs to be a stronger European pillar in NATO, both for reasons related to burden sharing and to have our voice heard. We must also concede that the alliance doesn’t answer all the security challenges we face, as some Member States are not NATO members. Some of the threats we face cannot be dealt with solely by NATO. In addition, given some of the strategic choices made by Turkey; in Syria, in the Eastern Mediterranean or in Libya, we now face a tough time within the alliance.