General Mikhail Kostarakos, chairmain of the European Union Military Committee visited the National University of Public Service on 28 September, 2017. The head of the European Union Military Committee shared his thoughts on the joint European defence in the Széchenyi Assembly Hall of the Ludovika Campus.
In his introduction, Mr. Kostarakos firstly thanked NUPS for the opportunity to share the experiences of his long service with the audience, especially since it was full of young cadets and officers. He followed this up with an ancient Greek quote highlighting how much the Greek national has sacrificed for the defence of Europe throughout the centuries. The General continued with a remark on the euphoric times that were seen on the Old Continent at the turn of the century, during the early 2000s. This resulted in negligence as far as defence forces were concerned, military budgets were reduced and subsequently defence capabilities suffered from this. The effects of this cost cutting can still be felt nowadays.
Without mentioning any specific examples, Mr. Kostarakos showed that, if we read the news we can all see how the World has changed since these euphoric times, and that the issue of joint European defence is a really serious one these days. The BREXIT referendum in 2016 further changed the conditions of Europe and decision makers had to react to this. "We have done more in the last 16 months for European defence, than we had done in the last 16 years" - remarked General Kostarakos. He also stressed that the security of Europe cannot be imagined without NATO, since NATO is the most successful defence organisation in history. As far as defence was concerned, he detailed the term, and explained that he did not only mean defence by military means, but also strengthening the coast guards, border guards, and ensuring the security of citizens. He considered it vitally important to also remind the audience that NATO and the European Union are working together on the defence of Europe, in stark contrast to what some experts say, when they claim that the EU is working on undermining its own security.
Gen. Kostarakos mentioned Smart Power, when describing the efforts of the above mentioned defence alliances are doing to ensure security. This method combines all the good traits of soft power - such as diplomacy and economic aid - with that of hard power, which are military means. This new method was created based on the experiences, which showed that none of the powers alone can ensure total security. During the course of history, political powers could never be solved via military means. At the same time, he also underlined that some act aggressively against our Western way of life, either by attacks on the member states of the European Union or attacks on our greatest ally, the United States, and these aggressive actions can only be answered by military force.
In conclusion, the General remarked that the most important thing is the will to do something in this case. Although there is a need to further improve defence capabilities, European countries already spend a substantial amount of the military, and the key is not to only talk about defence, but also to do something about it in a joint, coordinated way using Soft Power.
Mikhail Kostarakos was born in Thessaloniki, and started his military career in 1974 at the Hellenic Military Academy. He served at the HAWK surface to air missile battalion for considerable time, and later fulfilled various NATO roles. Later, he was the leader of the Joint Operation Centre of KFOR.