EUROMIL held its 102nd Presidium Meeting on 29-30 October 2010 at the European Trade Union House
EUROMIL President Emmanuel Jacob opened the 102nd Presidium Meeting with a speech acknowledging that “in an age of austerity, it is not realistic to simply demand the best of everything, and lots of it, without considering the financial implications […] It is, however, the task of representatives of soldiers to ensure that the standard is set as high as possible, and that soldiers will never be called upon to perform operations for which, they are neither equipped nor trained”.
President of the European Council Herman van Rompuy (via video) stated that “for the future a stronger Foreign and Security Policy is key”, and that promoting global security is crucial for an EU with the ambition to be an effective global actor stemming its share in global security.
General Håkan Syrén, Chairman EU Military Committee reminded the audience that in CSDP the “Member states remain firmly in the driving seat” and that the political will determines the security and defence role of the EU. According to him, a change of mindset is needed. Money needs to be spent more wisely by pooling, specialising and co-operating in defence if the EU wants to fulfil its political ambitions and wants to remain relevant and to avoid that European force structures fall below a level that puts entire capability categories at risk.
Colonel Johan Andries, Head of the Task Force Defence of the Belgian EU Presidency reported that the outcome of the informal meeting of EU Defence Ministers in September was clear and promising: there is a need for more and “smart” co-operation in order to reconcile EU ambitions in CSDP with the budgetary constraints of most EU Member states. Harmonisation and standardisation are key to enhance CSDP. According to Andries, especially Permanent Structured Co-operation (PESCO) has merit for further exploration and eventually exploitation. However, in the current phase of transition after the Lisbon Treaty came into force, "spectacular progress in CSDP cannot be expected".
All three panellists in the workshop “Impact of Budget Cuts on the Armed Forces” painted a bleak picture, predicting a great reduction in defence expenditure and cuts in manpower as most simple solution. Dr. Hilmar Linnenkamp, German Institute for International and Security Affairs advised military unions and associations to accept personnel cuts and co-operate with the authorities to make transformations the least painful and socially acceptable for affected soldiers. Colonel Roger Housen, Belgian Ministry of Defence, criticised the “can-do-mentality” of military leaders towards superiors and politicians and called for more realistic pictures of what can be done with today’s capabilities. Dick Zandee, Head of the Planning & Policy Unit, European Defence Agency, stated that the majority of EU Member states are facing defence cuts between 5 and 10 percent and that co-operation is key, i.e. harmonise military requirements, combine investment in R&D and construct common armaments programmes. Zandee stated that the modern soldier needs more skills as e.g. during the Cold War; as diplomat, mediator, development aid worker and fighter. Thus, the quality of soldiers needs to rise while the quantity will fall. In his opinion the current level of investment into force protection in international operations is a shame.
In a second workshop on “International Humanitarian Law (IHL)” Roeland Neyrinck, Legal Adviser of the Belgian Red Cross, gave an introduction to IHL, stating that “on the whole, IHL remains the relevant framework to regulate armed conflict”. However, compliance with existing rules should be enhanced for effective application and sanctions. Jean-Pierre Bovy, former Military Representative of Belgium to NATO shared his experiences with (Military) Operations Other Than War (OOTW). Asymmetric warfare is characterised by asymmetric morality; while terrorists and insurgents often disobey IHL, the public expects that soldiers will nevertheless abide IHL and rules of engagement (RoE) and perform according to the highest ethical standards. Therefore, Bovy promotes “international knowledge centres” that include education in IHL, RoE and even cultural knowledge to bring regular military training up-to-date. Colonel (ret.) Bernhard Gertz, EUROMIL Vice President, confirmed that regular armed forces are obliged to respect IHL, even though insurgents systematically violate IHL to gain advantages for their actions. Should, however, IHL be adapted to specific counter insurgent or counter terrorism warfare to be more effective against insurgents, brings the great danger that IHL cannot any longer provide for its the original purpose - the protecting of civilians.
Deborah Bruschi, representing the Italian General Confederation of Labour (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro), spoke on behalf of Vincenzo Bonaccorso, Chairman of Pastrengo (Associazione Carabinieri in Servizio Pastrengo). He was sentenced by a military court to arrest as result of exercising his basic right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests (Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, Art.12.1). Bruschi explained that the Italian government and military authorities continue to deny, under threat of prosecution, their soldiers the right of association and freedom of expression.
GENERAL INFO ON EUROMIL
EUROMIL represents 39 national military associations and unions from 26 countries. EUROMIL is the main Europe-wide forum for solidarity and co-operation to secure, promote and advance the human rights, fundamental freedoms and socio-professional interests of military personnel of all ranks in Europe. EUROMIL supports the inclusion of military personnel into EU social and labour legislation.
EUROMIL is committed to the principle of the "Citizen in Uniform" and demands same rights and obligations other citizens are entitled to for soldiers.
Military associations entirely respect and abide by the chain of command, and neither condone or support insubordination and mutiny. Associations do not intend to comment on strategic or operational matters.
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