Strengthening the cooperation between the EU and NATO, the development of the EU's defence capabilities, cyber security and strategic communications were discussed by the participants in the Interparliamentary Conference in Sofia


Strengthening the cooperation between the EU and NATO and the further development of the EU's defence capabilities, cyber security and strategic communications were discussed by the participants in the Interparliamentary Conference on the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the Common Security and Defence Policy.

The Chairman of the Defence Committee of the National Assembly General (ret.) Constantin Popov noted that the coordinated annual defence review and the capability development plan are both expected to help strengthen the defence capabilities and to identify new areas for joint projects within the Permanent Structured Cooperation on security and defence (PESCO).

The work on the European Defence Fund and the adoption of a regulation on the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP) continues, which will create the opportunity for all Member States to participate in various projects, said Gen. Popov. He added that incentives for the participation of small and medium-sized enterprises should be created.

In the context of contemporary security challenges, cyber security and strategic communications are becoming increasingly important, noted the Chairman of the Committee on Defence of the National Assembly.

The Director of the Directorate for Crisis Management and Planning of the European External Action Service Gabor Iklodi said that further integration and fostering cooperation in the field of defence will help strengthen the European Defence capabilities. In a broader sense, it will affect our communities by strengthening the trust in those processes, he added.

According to Gabor Iklody the political attention nowadays is again drawn to the defence and it is placed high on the agenda of Europe. He noted that since the end of last year there has been a Permanent Structured Cooperation in the field of defence (PESCO) and participating countries have undertaken legislative commitments and are obliged to increase their expenditure on defence. In his opinion, defence budget should be better spent, because its usefulness would be limited if there is no political will.

Today we live in a different world, and our relations with NATO are much more practical, more pragmatic in recent years, added the Director of the Directorate for Crisis Management and Planning of the European External Action Service. We must join our efforts in order to provide efficient support to our members and to our allies, noted Gabor Iklodi.

The Deputy Head of the European Political Strategy Centre and former Minister of Defence of Romania, Mihnea Motoc recalled the statement of the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker that European defence and security should become part of the political agenda of the EU. His standpoint led to the creation of a package of measures which have built a significant future for Europe's defence, said Mihnea Motoc. According to him, it is important to discuss the participation of the governments and of the defence industry for an in-depth cooperation in the field of defence. What we need is not necessarily more money, because these finances can be incorrectly assigned, specified Mihnea Motoc. It is necessary to examine the deficit in the European defence capabilities and to consider how it could be avoided, he said.

We need to concentrate our efforts on one very important area of defence – Cyber Defence, because it represents an answer to a threat, which will need a strategic response from now on, Mihnea Motok stressed. Cyber and hybrid threat affect all countries in and outside the EU, no private or public sector is protected against them, he added.

The former Minister of Defence of Bulgaria and Former Ambassador of the country to NATO Boyko Noev noted that EU countries are facing serious threats such as migration, terrorism, cyber-attacks and hybrid war. These are problems that need to be resolved and measures need to be active, he stressed. According to Boyko Noev, the EU should deepen the strategic partnership and cooperation with NATO; new opportunities should be provided for NATO operations in Europe and cooperation should be expanded not only within NATO, but also with the United States, the United Kingdom, Turkey and some other states.

I am convinced that we need an "article 5" of the EU, there is a similar article in our contract, but it needs to be enriched and to it shall be added such wording to include social issues and economic life, said Boyko Noev. We have to be more decisive, when we promise help in the field of security, he added.

The former Minister of Defence Prof Todor Tagarev pointed out that the pursuit of a stronger and more European defence requires public support and it should be sustainable. In his words  there should be a regular annual review of the participation and contributions of Member States and, if it is determined that one or more of them does not contribute or are excluded from any component of the European defence, the European Parliament may adopt policies and promote a balanced and equitable contribution of each Member State.

For the effective cooperation of the EU with NATO our procedures and planning should be coordinated, but we also need to improve the cooperation in various fields in terms of roles and development of defence capabilities within the EU and NATO, said Prof Tagarev. He pointed out that the European powers need to play more advanced roles - to protect from terrorist operations, to guard the borders in case of mass riot, to ensure cyber protection of critical elements of the infrastructure, to provide strategic communications. According to him, the continuous reliance on the military to perform these roles may have a negative effect on law enforcement authorities, as well as on other units.

Earlier on this day the participants in Interparliamentary Conference took part in workshops on various topics.

The discussion within the framework of the workshop "Strategic Energy and Transport connectivity of the Western Balkans," was summed up by Assen Agov Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Assembly (1997-2001). During the workshop it was mentioned that many of the people aged 40 want to leave the Western Balkan countries, because they don’t see any good opportunities for their future. Energy connectivity of this region is not just a strategic objective, its implementation will facilitate the lives of all consumers in these countries, was noted during the discussion. It was underlined that transportation links between the Balkan countries are not well developed, and they are a major factor in the growth of the economy and trade and the creation of new jobs.

The President of the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria and Foreign Minister of the country in the period 2001-2005 Solomon Passy summed up the discussion in the workshop "EU-China relations". It is necessary to deepen the cooperation between the EU and China on many issues, has been noted during the discussion. Participants in the seminar have come together around the opinion that it is necessary for the EU to put an effort to organize and participate in the establishment of a China-EU Council.

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