Wednesday, July 24, 2024

EU Parliament subcommittee on defence unlikely to be promoted

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The European Parliament’s subcommittee on security and defence (SEDE) is expected to remain as such, despite pressure from EU Liberals and the European People’s Party (EPP) to turn it into a full committee, several sources told Euronews.


Although MEPs are discussing how to restructure the internal configuration of the European Parliament – and whether to create new committees for the new five-year mandate – in the end it seems that nothing will really change.

Apart from the possible upgrading of SEDE, there have been proposals from various political groups to create a specific committee on health, separate from the existing environment configuration, and to turn the subcommittee on human rights (DROI) into a full committee, to name but a few.   

All in vain, as the three subcommittees are likely to remain as they are, several sources told Euronews, pointing to the current lack of the necessary majority to change the committees’ competences.   

But with a war raging on Europe’s borders and the bloc lacking much-needed defence capabilities, both the EPP and the Renew Europe groups are still pushing for security and defence issues to be given a greater focus in the coming years.   

“The time has come for the EU to create a Defence Union,” MEP Rasa Jukneviciene (Lithuania/EPP), vice-chair of SEDE from 2019-24, told Euronews, noting that the committee would encompass important topics such as military mobility, EU defence industry development and capabilities, cyber defence, foreign interference and cooperation with the NATO military alliance.  

“Increasing its institutional relevance from a subcommittee to a committee in the European Parliament would be a way to make visible the strategic importance of defence and strategic autonomy for the EU during this mandate,” MEP Javi López (S&D/Spain) argued.  

The S&D group did not initially reject the idea and the group said it would be ready to consider turning SEDE into a full committee under specific conditions that haven’t yet been met.  

“We believe that the current structure of the European Parliament’s committees is fit for purpose,” the group said in a statement, stressing that the changes to the rules of procedure adopted at the end of the last mandate will make it even more efficient.  

On the other hand, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group supports national and international defence cooperation and prioritises increased defence spending, interoperability, joint procurement and effective mission development and deployment, MEP Witold Waszczykowski (ECR/Poland) told Euronews, adding that all this can be done at subcommittee level. 

“There is no significant advantage of a full SEDE committee other than its potential to aid joint procurement efforts while the cons of adding another layer of EU bureaucracy into defence planning are numerous,” Waszczykowski stressed. 

Decisions on military deployments and defence procurement must remain firmly in the domain of member states, the Conservative MEP added.   

However, the EU liberals and the EPP believe that giving the security and defence subcommittee a greater institutional role and more powers is the right step forward to strengthen the bloc’s cooperation with NATO and match its capability ambitions. 

“If there is going to be a Commissioner for Defence [as proposed by the EU Commission president], the parliamentary dimension must also be present; there should be a corresponding matching of competences from the Parliament’s side,” Jukneviciene stressed.  

López also sees the advantage of having a direct line to the potential defence commissioner, as well as a more institutionally based oversight.  

For European socialists, López says, it is important to strengthen the bloc’s capacities and decision-making mechanisms in order to become more effective, agile and functional in this area and to protect ourselves from growing threats.  

For The Left, the idea of a full committee on defence is a no-go, while the Greens did not respond to a request for comment.   

Negotiations are still ongoing, but irrespective of whether SEDE becomes a committee or not, it will again be chaired by the EU liberals, according to the preliminary agreement reached by the different political parties earlier this week, as reported by Euronews.   

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