Annual CESI Defence Trade Council meeting: Need for more rights of military staff highlighted ahead of EU Defence Summit

At this year’s meeting of CESI's Defence Trade Council, its expert committee on military topics, the importance of common rights for common missions was underscored - especially in the context of the upcoming EU Defence Summit.

Annual CESI Defence Trade Council meeting: Need for more rights of military staff highlighted ahead of EU Defence Summit

The heads of state and government of the EU Member States will meet in June for the next EU Defence Summit. Under the lead of the EU’s High Representative Federica Mogherini, they will not only analyse Europe’s current security situation more generally but also assess the state of play, internal organisational efficiency and funding effectiveness of the EU’s Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP).

It was against this backdrop that CESI’s Defence Trade Council met today. In order to provide input to the upcoming EU Defence Summit, it discussed and adopted resolutions on different aspects of the EU’s defence and security situation. Central aspects of the meeting related in particular to the need for a more widespread commitment among European policy makers to step up the rights of the staff members of the armed forces.

After all, fundamental rights for members of armed forces -such as freedom of association- are still not equally well respected and applied throughout Europe. While they are rather advanced in countries such as Germany and Greece, other states restrict these rights for the members of their armed forces, saying that granting more rights would impede the discipline in the armed forces. However, recent decisions of the European Court of Human Rights clearly incite states to grant rights like the freedom of association to employees of this armed forces sector, too.

The CESI Defence Trade Council members discussed this with representatives of the relevant European Parliament committee secretariats (AFET/SEDE) as well as with Colonel Klaus Jenschik, assistant to the chief of the EU Military Staff (EEAS). These representatives stressed that since defence policy is (still) a competence of the Member States, the EU does not possess much legislative power when it comes to ensuring the rights of the workers employed in the national armed forces.

Replying to this, the CESI Defence Trade Council President Thomas Sohst (DBwV) argued that soldiers that take part in common European missions must clearly be entitled to benefit from common rights as well. According to him, it is not acceptable that different people in the same common military operation are subject to different standards and enjoy (or not) different rights. Above all, he stressed, soldiers that defend the idea of democracy and human rights for Europe have to enjoy them themselves, too.

The Trade Council members concluded that even if in the short term the Commission President Juncker’s idea of a common European army will unlikely be realised, any further step towards a better cooperation and/or deeper integration of national armed forces in Europe must be accompanied by an increase in workers’ rights and parliamentary control at the EU level. The CESI Defence Trade Council is going to adopt a position paper which calls on the June EU Defence Summit to be more ambitious to this end.