Commentary on Anne-François de Saint Salvy's article: Only modernisation and closer co-operation will forge EU naval power
Maritime Security is a hot issue that will require shared solutions. Analysis suggests that EU countries may well have the naval capabilities to safeguard Europe’s security. Together we possess a large number of frigates and general purpose vessels that could ensure European navies are able to carry out maritime security tasks effectively.
The development of a common European defence and security dimension has for some time been an ambitious goal, and it hardly needs saying that navies’ capabilities need to be properly exploited to ensure our maritime security.
But in this period of austerity, we have to be aware that navies are not only highly expensive but also a comparatively rarely used crisis tool. Nevertheless, they provide capabilities on which the EU has to be able to count on every day if it is to provide continuous maritime security.
An integrated European maritime security structure needs two clear elements. At EU level, all the bodies concerned need to realise that maritime security is multi-dimensional in that it involves both the civilian and military worlds, and also concerns EU countries’ national voters and theatres of operation much further afield. Navies have, of course, been dealing for centuries with threats at sea and are an essential cornerstone of overall security. The European Union Military Staff (EUMS) is working to promote European navies’ contribution to the Common Security and Defence Policy and clearly has more to do to overcome mistaken perceptions of their value.
At the national level, we need Europe’s navies to develop inter-service frameworks that will fit neatly into a common European maritime security and surveillance architecture.
Many of them are now working together on initiatives like Euromar for, SIAF-SILF, the European Amphibious Initiative (EAI) and the European Carrier Group Interoperability Initiative (ECGII).
All these initiatives aim to further develop Europe’s military capabilities and strategically the countries involved are expected to commit to enhancing our overall strike projection by combining assets that include aircraft carriers, fleet air arms, landing forces and combatant ships. European navies should also focus on developing more robust cooperation on critically important operational enablers, like surveillance in all its different dimensions, and intelligence-gathering. Cooperation in the field of submarine warfare is especially critical.
These core activities are essential to any future common European maritime defence that can draw on forces from national navies. Obviously, major EU countries will be able to contribute their broadly-balanced fleets and make available any kind of unit, while smaller ones could exploit the pooling and sharing concept.
In these economically sensitive times, it is imperative that we should optimize our resources and seek new alliances while strengthening existing ones. European navies must stick to the task of modernisation if they are to respond to today’s challenges.
What is clear, though, is that a maritime security regime at EU level is increasingly essential for our countries.
Admiral Luigi Binelli Mantelli is the Chief of the Italian Navy. email@example.com