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Gentiloni and Pinotti: “Establishing a Schengen-like Defence Agreement to respond to terrorism” ( La Repubblica, Le Monde)

The outcome of the British referendum together with a series of terror attacks have been fuelling an unprecedented sentiment of anxiety across Europe. If we want to fight against a populist trend which an anti-European sentiment is feeding, we must give our citizens efficient responses to their concerns, starting from security issues. The defence sector can provide a most fitting answer. The exit of Britain from the EU has left the Union without a member State with remarkable military capabilities. We must come up with new scenarios for common defence. By relaunching it, we could strengthen our capability to operate in areas of crises and against terrorism, but it would also carry a major political impact.
Italy has identified two paths that deserve to be explored to press ahead with our considerations. The first path refers to what today’s Treaties already envisage: providing the EU with more freedom of action through strengthening common military capabilities, enhancing cooperation between member States and boosting the EU defence industry. It would imply the full use of some provisions of the Lisbon Treaty, including article 44 (on tasks entrusted to a group of States on behalf of the EU as a whole) and article 46 (permanent structured cooperation).
However Italy urges all partners to open a discussion on a more ambitious option, ie the launching of a kind of European Defence Union by a group of member States. A group of member States could speed up the integration of this agreement into the field of defence by pooling a given number of skills and resources according to a shared model and an establishing agreement which would define its goals as well as operational modalities. It is not the creation of a “European army”, comprising all of the national armies of the participating States, we are discussing, but rather the building of a “multinational European force” whose tasks and mandate would have to be agreed upon by all parties, and endowed with a command and control structure and common decision-making and budgetary mechanisms. The skills and forces that would thus be established and shared, would be available not only to the EU  for military missions, but also to NATO and the United Nations. Initially, the project could be developed by a small number of countries, including the EU founding states, only to be opened up at a later stage to all member States according to a differentiated integration plan, which is already operational in the EU in several sectors. Finally, the goal would be to encourage a large number of member States to incorporate this plan into the Treaties as they did for the Schengen Agreement. Thanks to its long-standing tradition of being very attentive to the needs of the Atlantic Alliance and also in light of its relations with the US, Italy would be willing to commit itself to eliminate any overlapping with NATO, which we believe would greatly benefit from this plan.