In a world where threats are becoming more diverse and require collective efforts, where the US is disengaging from Europe and its neighborhood, where Europe is struggling with limited resources and decreasing defence funding, and where the EU lacks the capabilities that NATO has, Europe needs to use the strengths of both the EU and NATO. For this to happen, and as the Member States of the organisations are essentially the same, it is vital that better cooperation between the EU and NATO be achieved.
Attempts to strengthen cooperation have been made, but these have not been enough. The attempts always hit the same walls: both between the EU and NATO, and within these organisations. There are only vague statements of ‘a strategic partnership’, but no official relationship that would be truly useful in building capabilities and operability. This is mostly due to the political problem between Cyprus and Turkey that precludes any official EU–NATO cooperation.
Unfortunately, as the Cypriot Presidency of the EU in the autumn of 2012 has shown, this problem is far from being eliminated. Both the EU and NATO need to adjust their attitudes to promote better cooperation and to take their strategic partnership to a whole new level as a precursor to creating a joint political and strategic agreement on the division of labour regarding what is to be done in conflict zones and the organisation of security and defence policy in Europe as well as to creating permanent and official decision-making and consultation structures on all levels. To achieve this, reforms are needed within the EU: the EU Member States need to become more united; deepen their foreign, security and defence integration; and centralise their decision-making procedures to overcome short-sighted unilateral policies. Or the EU simply needs to allow some countries to move faster in the direction of greater defence integration.
The year 2013 offers several opportunities for improving EU–NATO relations, such as the European External Action Service review and the European summit on defence. Cyprus now also has a new president who has shown some willingness to take steps forward. Possible closer relations with NATO might offer the country the new dynamism necessary to solve the political problem.
All EU Member States and the organisations themselves must now take responsibility in an effort to end the futile competition between the EU and NATO that is undermining European security.