While everyone is (understandably) focused on Brexit, there is much more going on in Brussels that needs attention. Near the top of that list has to be plans for closer EU security and defence cooperation. Big decisions are due before December and – as of yet – the arguments have not had much of an airing.
The reasons for this intensified activity are clear: the security threats to EU member states and citizens are multiplying even as traditional defence structures come under pressure. As Donald Trump veers from dismissing NATO, to embracing Russia, to threatening North Korea and Iran, Europeans look to what they might do together to strengthen their own security. As terrorism strikes indiscriminately across Europe, governments seek new ways to counteract those threats. As budgets in Europe have tightened, defence departments search for creative ways to share costs and coordinate planning. As cyber attacks proliferate – crashing national computer systems or undermining democratic elections – EU governments hunt for means to secure these and other critical infrastructures. Another catalyst for all this activity has been Brexit itself. The withdrawal of British military capacity from the EU is a big hit, but this will be offset by the disappearance of long-standing British vetoes against further security and defence cooperation.