Keynote debates circled around the following topics:
• The deployment of armed forces to solve the refugee crisis and to fight terrorism;
• Labour rights, gender equality and rights of association in the armed forces; and
• European Defence – quo vadis: Sovereignty, cooperation or integration?
A major challenge: Army personnel performing atypical tasks in migration management and anti-terrorism
The deliberation on ‘Deployment of armed forces to solve the refugee crisis and to fight terrorism’ was informed by Thomas Sohst, President of the Trade council and affiliate of CESI’s member organisation ‘Deutscher Bundeswehrverband’ (DBwV; the German armed forces association). The deployment of armed forces to manage migration flows at the EU’s external borders and to help the police fight terrorist threats internally has been a topic of growing concern for the Trade council. Army personnel often feel ill-placed and ill-equipped to perform atypical tasks like these.
For better working conditions: A right to association for army personnel in all EU Member States
Johan Vermeire, the Permanent representative to the Council of Europe of CESI’s member organisation Eurofedop, spoke on recent developments in ‘Labour rights, gender equality and rights of association in the armed forces’. The improvement of the working and living conditions as well as of fundamental (social) rights of the personnel in the armed forces in Europe is one of the central aims of CESI’s Trade council ‘Defence’. The Trade council considers that achieving a proper right to association and to form trade unions in the defence sector is an important objective to be realised to this end. Currently, not all Member States grant this right.
Security for Europe through a Defence Strategy that takes into account the needs of army personnel
Gerrit Schlomach, Political advisor to the MEP and defence policy expert Michael Gahler (EPP, DE), intervened on the topic ‘European Defence – quo vadis: Sovereignty, cooperation or integration?’ During the discussion that followed, it emerged that an encompassing European Defence Strategy is sorely needed to ensure the EU’s security. It was stressed that in order to be successful, such a strategy must be flanked by well-equipped armed forces in terms of manpower and resources.