EU defence ministers discussed new technologies

The topics of discussion during the Informal Meeting of Ministers of Defence were artificial intelligence and new technologies, hybrid threats, maritime security and the effects of climate change on defence. The meeting, held in Helsinki on 28–29 August, was chaired by High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini. Finland was represented by Minister of Defence Antti Kaikkonen

New technologies are changing the defence sector

The meeting started with a working dinner, where the defence ministers discussed, together with representatives from NATO, the UN and a group of private sector experts, the opportunities of artificial intelligence and other new technologies. During its Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Finland aims to stimulate discussion on the effects of digitalisation and artificial intelligence on the defence sector.

“New technologies such as artificial intelligence are transforming the defence sector, too. The EU needs cooperation to keep up with global competition and to ensure common and sustainable rules in Europe. “Through cooperation we can lead by example within and beyond the borders of the EU,” says Minister of Defence Kaikkonen. 

Strong support for developing defence cooperation

On Thursday 29 August the ministers discussed EU defence cooperation from three perspectives: hybrid threats, maritime security and climate change.

EU foreign and defence ministers discussed countering hybrid threats over a joint working lunch. The EU ministers deemed hybrid threats an important topic and welcomed the comprehensive and practical approach of the Presidency.

“Hybrid threats are a permanent part of our security environment, and we need to counter them both in Finland and in the EU. The EU and its member states must strengthen their capacity to counter hybrid threats, and this is something that Finland wants to advance during its Presidency,” said Kaikkonen. 

The EU defence ministers also held a working session on maritime security. It is an important topic for Finland because of our dependency on well-functioning maritime transport. A number of ministers expressed their support for the developing of maritime security. 

In the spirit of the meeting’s overall approach to developing defence cooperation, a working session on the impact of climate change on defence was also held. Climate change plays a part in fuelling the cycle of conflicts and fragility. This cycle has a direct impact on the security and prosperity of EU citizens. Among other topics, the ministers discussed efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of the defence sector. Climate change mitigation is one of the key objectives of the Finnish Presidency.

“Climate change is an all-encompassing global phenomenon, and the defence sector is no exception. Today we discussed climate change in the context of defence; the discussion is both new and essential. Cooperation is essential so that we can respond to the effects of climate change, and that is why NATO and the UN, which are important partners for the EU, also took part in the working session,” said Kaikkonen.