2020 has been a year of transformations leaving us with still many unknowns. The pandemic has sharpened edges, exposing the transience of the existence of the individual, societies, and states.  The COVID-19 has spread amid the already deteriorating global political landscape marked by rapidly advancing technological developments, military and trade confrontation, transatlantic relationship in disarray, concerted economic slowdown, and climate change. The world has become more dynamic and less predictable.

While this crisis is truly global, multidimensional, and transformational, it also creates an opportunity for Europe to improve its ability to act and become a more autonomous global player. There is no doubt that no EU member state can possibly confront present challenges and threats alone. Hence, it is important to acknowledge that the EU should work with its closest partners and like-minded countries. In this regards, EU-NATO cooperation is essential.

For years NATO has been and remains a cornerstone of European security. There is no doubt that EU-NATO cooperation, especially on the technical level, has been evident (74 areas of cooperation have been identified). This, of course, creates opportunities to share resources and capabilities, but it is not enough if political will – to take the relations to another level – is not there. There is no doubt that initiatives such as NATO 2030’ reflection on strengthening the Alliance in an increasingly competitive world, and the Strategic Compass that aims to enhance coherence in European defence and offer political guidance for future military planning processes, should be developed in a more synchronized way.

Besides the EU-NATO cooperation as such, the speakers have also acknowledged the importance of other partners, such as the UK or Norway, in European defence and security initiatives. As the EU’s financial and technological resources are not inexhaustible, the Union should strengthen its cooperation with like-minded countries. With regards to the UK, it is still unclear how the post-Brexit defence and security arrangements would look like. However, developing a meaningful partnership with the UK will be an important task for the EU in terms of financial perspective and/or military capability and capacity. Here, Norway could serve as a great example of how cooperation with the EU in the area of defence and security can work. As argued during the discussion, the EU partnership with Norway demonstrates that cooperation in defence and security is functional and possible.

These were some of the findings of the closed-door roundtable discussion, organized on the side-lines of GLOBSEC Bratislava Forum 2020 on 8 October 2020. This session titled “Enhanced European Opportunity Partners in the Defence and Security Initiatives” was organised in a framework of the project titled “Enhanced European Opportunity Partners in the EU´s Defence and Security Initiatives: Study case of Norway”, funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Defence. The aim of this side event was to explore the potential for meaningful third-party access in the European Integration framework and the possible ways of contributing to strengthening practical cooperation between third parties and the EU.

The challenges that not only the EU but the whole world is currently facing are an indicator of what unforeseeable times we live in. The EU should recognize this unpredictability as an opportunity to become more adaptable. It is precisely by proper adapting to the outside world that the Union will have an opportunity to become a more resilient global actor. The current challenges highlight the importance of security, its adaptation and further development of mutual cooperation.

The discussion led by Kinga Brudzinska from GLOBSEC hosted the following speakers:

  • Andrew Winternitz, Principal Director for Europe, and NATO Policy – United States Department of Defense
  • Ján Havránek, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Defence, Czech Republic
  • Ambassador Rastislav Káčer, Ambassador of Slovakia to the Czech Republic
  • Dr Benedetta Berti, Head of Policy Planning in the Office of the Secretary-General at NATO