Since 2014, Europe has had to face a series of major shocks that were completely unforeseen. Instead of reacting in a coherent way, the EU has divided into East and West.
With the exception of the USA where the 9/11 attacks put the country on a war footing – and excessively so –, security used to be bottom of the list of concerns for democratic nations after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Democracies shared the belief that this was the end of history and of violence. This was particularly true in Europe which had been pursuing unilateral disarmament since the 1990s whilst global expenditure on arms increased by 255%.
Since 2014, Europe has had to face a series of major shocks that were completely unforeseen: the annexation of Crimea and the intervention of Russia in Ukraine; the beginning of the largest wave of migration since 1945; and the proliferation of Jihadist attacks. Instead of reacting in a coherent way, the EU has divided into East and West, and walls have been built. Now it is faced with Brexit which is further reducing its weak strategic capabilities. Since the beginning of 2015, France – with 230 dead and almost 800 injured – has ranked third in the list of countries most affected by terrorism outside war zones.
Security has now changed its status. Once marginal, it now occupies a central position as one of the main preoccupations of European citizens alongside the revival of growth and employment. It was a major issue in the British referendum on Brexit and in the German regional elections, and will be decisive in the upcoming electoral cycle, including the Austrian elections, the Italian referendum, the German parliamentary elections in the fall of 2017 and the French presidential elections.
Islamic terrorism constitutes both an external and internal threat and is a completely new phenomenon. Reaching beyond the Middle East and Africa, it is happening within the very heart of our own societes. Démocratures (i.e. nations that are a combination of democracy and dictatorship) like Russia and Turkey share their hate of democracies and a love of power-grabbing. They excel at generating hybrid conflicts to satisfy their thirst for power. Cyberspace is helping to deprive nations of their monopoly of violence.
In order for democracy to triumph over Jihadists and démocratures, we need a profound change in our strategy, doctrines, culture, organisation and in the resources we are prepared to devote to security. This goes for France as well as for Europe. There are five priorities to which we must now adhere in order to remedy our weaknesses and faults:
- Global risks mean global security. And yet public policy on security is disparate and uncoordinated; government departments work within their pigeonholes, and partnerships between the public and private sectors are the exception not the rule. Hence the urgent need to create a National Security Committee directly responsible to the President of the Republic.
- Almost a million people – representing a cost of 63 billion euros – work in the public and private security sectors in France. Their responsibilities and the tenets they work by are imprecise, there is conflict between their different statuses and fields of operation, and interventions are compartmentalized – as exemplified by the Intelligence Service which includes six departments headed by three different ministries. The Ministry of the Interior must be given a permanent centre of operations; the Intelligence Service and task forces must be reorganized so as to provide every French person with more or less the same level of security.
- France spends 34% of its GDP on social transfers, as opposed to 1.5% on defense and 0.7% on internal security. There must be a change in investment, to bring defense expenditure up to 2% of GDP by 2025 (i.e. an increase of 2.2 billion per year, equal to the equivalent German budget), and the internal security budget should be increased to 1% of GDP.
- Companies – as both targets and stakeholders – must invest. The defense industry is the perfect sector for speeding up innovation and internationalization. But ordinary people must also become involved by training themselves to deal with emergencies, becoming members of an operational reserve force, and by supporting the – minimal – rerouting of social expenditure towards the modernization of the sovereign state.
- After Brexit, it is crucial to counteract the dissolution of Europe by launching a Security Union whose mission would include the fight against terrorism, the protection of essential infractustructures and control of the EU’s external borders.
France is the only European Union country that has a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, is a nuclear power, and has a capability for command and projection. This is a major responsibility. We cannot wait until we are beaten to show that we are worthy of it.
(Column published in Le Point, 12th September 2016)