The European Union Ministers for Defence and Foreign Affairs discussed the first version of the European Union Strategic Compass on Monday evening. In the face of increasing global competition and growing threats, the EU must develop into a reliable and credible security player, which takes greater responsibility and is able to act autonomously in cooperation with partners and where necessary.

The Strategic Compass must enable the EU to take greater control of the security and defence of the European Union and its citizens. To this end, the EU must allocate itself the necessary resources and develop solid capabilities to respond to crises in its neighbourhood: with a rapid reaction capability which will be operational by 2025 for evacuation or stabilisation missions in hostile environments, with a hybrid toolbox to respond quickly and adequately to hybrid threats in the Member States, with more cooperation and investment in the area of capabilities (for example, cyber) and with an increased focus upon all aspects of foreign interference and influence.

After a year of formal and informal consultations at various levels within the EU, this first version will now be further refined and finalised on the basis of comments from EU Member States.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sophie Wilmès, said: “We are approaching the end of a long process which will enable us to adopt specific and ambitious objectives for the European Union in the area of defence and security. Belgium will ensure that the level of ambition of the project presented on Monday evening is maintained and that political follow-up is ensured at the highest level – with an annual report to the European heads of state and government – so that the implementation of the Compass is a success. Ultimately, this implementation of the Strategic Compass will consolidate European defence, which can only be beneficial to NATO. When a partner becomes stronger, it is to the advantage of all his partners. Following on from recent events in Afghanistan, I would add that our country is particularly pleased that the text recognises the absolute need to develop additional capabilities in order to intensify and better coordinate efforts when it comes to the rescue and repatriation of our citizens abroad during crises. This point has been widely argued by Belgium.

Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder said: “In a rapidly changing world with hybrid threats, new technologies and palpably increased geopolitical tensions, the EU must be able to defend its own interests and those of its citizens. A strategically stronger European Defence can and must develop its own accents and resources in the field of Defence and Security, in cooperation with NATO, but also with the US, with partners on the African continent and with other strategically important countries for the EU. The development of the Cyber Component within the Belgian Defence is an important step for being able to withstand the hybrid threats of today and tomorrow. Belgian Defence is also a pioneer in terms of European cooperation and interoperability with Luxembourg, the Netherlands and France, among others, and looks beyond borders to further invest in research and development of new capabilities within a strengthened European industrial base.