Austrian soldiers on a European Union Force mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina. (© picture alliance/AP Photo/Kemal Softica)

  European defence policy

  39 Debates

In an interview with Fakt, Poland's President Andrzej Duda said the country was ready to host the nuclear weapons of Nato partners to strengthen the alliance's eastern flank against Russia. Although the idea had apparently not been previously coordinated with the government, Prime Minister Donald Tusk has expressed his willingness to discuss it with Duda. The Polish press takes a critical stance.

Nato was founded on 4 April 1949 in Washington, D.C. with the ceremonial signing of the North Atlantic Treaty. Initially composed of twelve member states, it now encompasses 32. On its 75th anniversary, Europe's press takes a look at the challenges the alliance now faces.

Seven Eastern European states - Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Slovakia - joined Nato when it expanded eastwards for the second time in 2004. Media from these countries praise the step as forward-looking - but also criticise shortcomings in defence measures and loyalty to the alliance.

Romania's President Klaus Iohannis wants to be Nato's next Secretary General. As key Nato states were rallying behind Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to succeed current Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg, it was leaked that Iohannis was considering running, and last week he made his candidacy official. Romania's press debates his strengths, weaknesses and chances of securing the post.

It's official: after almost two years of suspense, Sweden finally became a Nato member yesterday. But the commentary in the national press shows that the mood in the country is far from euphoric. Rightly so?

The EU Commission presented a new strategy and legislative proposal for the European defence industry last week. It foresees an initial investment of 1.5 billion euros in the defence sector. In addition, 50 percent of EU spending on weapons and ammunition is to go to manufacturers within Europe by the end of the decade, compared to the current 20 percent. More joint EU purchases are also planned.

It's official: Sweden is to become Nato's 32nd ally. Hungary gave its approval on Monday, removing the final hurdle. Budapest gave up its resistance after the purchase of four Swedish JAS 39 Gripen fighter jets for Hungary's armed forces was finalised during a visit by Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson on Friday. What does accession mean for the alliance and for historically neutral Sweden?

The dominant topic at the Munich Security Conference this year was once again Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also attended and blamed the lack of success in the defence strategy on a shortage of weapons and ammunition. Europe's press sees urgent need for action.

A debate over European defence capabilities has broken out after Donald Trump threatened to only grant alliance protection to those Nato states that meet the agreed target of two percent of GDP for defence spending. Commentators discuss what should be done in the event that the US really does cease to guarantee the continent's security.

There is also a debate about military service in Finland: in an interview last week, Finnish Defence Minister Antti Häkkänen stated that a way must be found to prevent reservists from leaving the army. However, his statement backfired as there was a sharp increase in resignations shortly afterwards. The national press suggests other measures.

Romania's Chief of Defence, Gheorghiță Vlad, has warned that the country's troops are not prepared for an emergency. The army is short of personnel and many reservists are too old, he said, and proposed that adults up to the age of 35 be allowed to volunteer for basic military training - also to be prepared to take on Putin. Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu reacted promptly and played down the seriousness of the situation.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's Fidesz party and its coalition partner, the Christian Democratic KDNP, have boycotted a parliamentary session convened by the opposition to vote on Sweden's accession to Nato. After Ankara's yes vote, Hungary is now the last hurdle blocking Sweden's accession - contrary to what the country's leader had promised. Commentators are dismayed.

The Turkish parliament on Tuesday voted by a wide margin in favour of Sweden joining Nato. Turkey has opposed the move for a year and a half, after blocking Finland's membership for months on end. Now that President Erdoğan has signed, only Hungary's approval will still be pending.

According to President Maia Sandu, the Republic of Moldova is considering a "two-step" accession to the EU - initially without the separatist region of Transnistria, which is under Russian influence. The new Franco-German report on enlarging and reforming the EU likewise discusses the possibility of excluding disputed territories from the accession process. Proposals for partial accession to Nato are also circulating. Commentators weigh up the options.

Stian Jenssen, chief of staff to Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, suggested in a panel discussion that Ukraine could be offered Nato membership in exchange for ceding territory to Russia, according to the Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang. Under what conditions negotiations could begin would be up to Ukraine, Jenssen reportedly added. Kyiv described the remarks as unacceptable. Commentators weigh in.

Although the leaders at the Nato summit in Vilnius did not set out a concrete scenario for Ukraine's accession, the alliance has pledged comprehensive support for the embattled country. The newly established Nato-Ukraine Council as well as bilateral agreements with the G7 states will ensure this support. Nato members also agreed to a new pledge to spend at least two percent of their GDP on defence in future. The results of the summit draw a mixed response in the press.

The news came on the eve of the Nato summit in Vilnius on 11 July: Turkey had announced it would no longer block Sweden's accession. After a lengthy discussion with Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, President Erdoğan declared that he would submit the accession protocol to the Turkish parliament for ratification as soon as possible. Commentators analyse Turkey's position.

The leaders gathered at the Nato summit which began on Tuesday in Vilnius have presented their stance on Ukraine joining the alliance. In answer to a speech by President Volodymyr Zelensky making the case for Ukraine's speedy admission, the alliance held out the prospect of accession only if certain conditions are met, such as the war having ended and further democratisation. Commentators weigh up the significance of the decision.

As delegations from Sweden and Turkey met in Ankara on Wednesday, Turkish President Erdoğan again dampened expectations that Sweden will join Nato soon. Although Sweden's counter-terrorism laws have been tightened and the Supreme Court recently approved the first extradition of a PKK supporter, Turkey's demands have not yet been met, Erdoğan said. But his real focus is the US, commentators suspect.

Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is slated to leave his post at the end of September. A successor is expected to be chosen at a Nato summit in July and many member states would like to see a woman in the post this time. Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has been invited to meet US President Joe Biden today, Monday. Commentators put two and two together.

A new anti-terror law comes into force in Sweden today. Any support, organisation or financing of terrorist groups, which at EU level also includes the PKK, is now punishable. Stockholm hopes this will dispel Ankara's opposition to Sweden joining Nato. Commentators are sceptical.

A group of nine EU members is calling for national veto rights to be abolished and replaced by majority decisions in foreign and defence policy in order to speed up decision-making processes. Hungary and Poland are apparently among the countries that want to stop the initiative, but others may follow.

Finland is now officially the 31st Nato member state. On Tuesday in Brussels, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto signed and presented the accession document to his US counterpart Antony Blinken, who will place it in safekeeping in Washington. Meanwhile Sweden's accession continues to be blocked by Turkey. Europe's commentators take different views of the enlargement.

After eight months of repeated postponements, the Hungarian parliament ratified Finland's bid for Nato accession on Monday by 182 votes to 6. It did not take a decision on Sweden's accession, however. Turkey's ratification for the two Nordic accession candidates is also still pending. Commentators assess the current state of play.

Finnish President Niinistö has travelled to Turkey today, Friday. There President Erdoğan is expected to tell him that nothing more stands in the way of the ratification of Finland's application to join Nato. Hungary's Prime Minister Orbán, whose government has so far delayed ratification, met with Erdoğan in Turkey on Thursday to discuss the issue. Commentators are somber in their assessment.

For months Hungary has been delaying its ratification of Sweden and Finland's bid to join Nato. A delegation led by Csaba Hende, Hungary's deputy parliamentary speaker, visited the two countries this week to discuss the issue. Commentators review the reasons for Orbán's delaying tactics and whether this strategy could succeed.

"I believe Ukraine deserves to start negotiations on EU membership this year," Volodymyr Zelensky said in the run-up to Friday's EU-Ukraine summit. Now the summit is over without any mention of a timetable for accession. The debate about desirable perspectives and realistic expectations continues in the commentary sections.

Sweden and Finland are still waiting for Turkey to approve their accession to Nato. An incident last Friday has put the dispute back in the spotlight: during a demonstration outside the city hall in Stockholm, activists hung a puppet of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The Swedish government has apologised.

Finland and Sweden submitted their Nato membership applications in May and in the meantime 28 of the 30 Nato member states have ratified them. Turkey has so far refused to give its approval, citing concerns about Sweden in particular on the grounds that the country allegedly supports terrorist organisations. Hungary, too, has yet to ratify the applications. How can the issue be resolved?

Shortly after the meeting between the US and Russia in Geneva, high-ranking representatives of Russia and Nato met on Wednesday for the first time in two years. But there was no sign of a breakthrough on the issues of Ukraine and Nato's eastward expansion: Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg spoke of "significant differences". What position will Europe take here?

The EU must "learn the language of power", EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen demanded after her election. As High Representative for EU Foreign and Security Policy, Josep Borrell has presented the Strategic Compass, a blueprint for the EU's military defence and security strategy. EU foreign ministers will discuss the draft in the coming weeks. The press already points to lines of conflict.

There was a lot of anger in Paris when Australia let a planned submarine deal collapse two weeks ago. Now Macron has reason to smile once more. Despite high government debt, Greece is purchasing three French frigates as part of a 'strategic partnership'. Greece's press is ambivalent about the deal.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has delivered her second annual State of the Union address, preparing the public for a new era of intensified international competition and promoting among other things a European defence union. For some observers the speech shone with optimism. Others lament that ultimately the EU Commission's hands are always tied.

Nato began its mission in Afghanistan 20 years ago. Today, most experts consider the strategy of building a democratic state on the basis of military support to have failed. More than 3,500 troops belonging to Nato and its allies lost their lives in Afghanistan. While some commentators point to lessons to be learned from the fiasco, others say the self-criticism has gone too far.

Britain is realigning its foreign and defence policy after Brexit. Prime Minister Johnson presented the new strategy, called Global Britain, in the House of Commons on Tuesday. It places increased emphasis on nuclear weapons in response to new threats and aims to expand the country's influence in the Indo-Pacific region, which it says has become the world's "geopolitical and economic centre of gravity".

Paris and Berlin are at odds over Europe's future security policy. Both expect that even under Joe Biden the US will be less active internationally than in the past. But while French President Emmanuel Macron wants to invest in a sovereign Europe that can defend itself without the help of Nato and the United States, Germany's Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has said it would be an illusion to believe the continent could go it alone in security policy.

In a keynote speech on the nuclear weapons doctrine, French President Emmanuel Macron emphasised the importance of nuclear deterrence. He called on the European partners to engage in a strategic dialogue and to participate in French military exercises. Commentators disagree on whether Paris can replace Washington as Europe's security guarantee.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have both recently promoted the idea of creating a European army. Commentators examine why the two leaders are keen on the initiative and hope that they will pursue it with resolve.