In the run-up to the European Elections happening later this month, the ATA has asked the groups in the European Parliament what their stances, priorities and policies are in the field of security and  defence.

Please note any information contained in this guide is the view of the groups of the European Parliament or expressed through the documents available online and do not indicate endorsement from the ATA Network in any way. In case of inconsistencies or questions do not hesitate to reach out to us at: 

Why did we ask Political Groups in the European Parliament?

Freedom, security and justice are shared competences or powers, this means that competences are shared between the EU and the member states (Article 4 of the Treaty for the Functioning of the European Union) This means that the member states can act only if the EU has chosen not to.

Most groups in the European Parliament have a vision and strategic documents related to the fields of Security and Defence, however in certain cases they have opted to leave this field to the national parties. Where the latter is the case this is clearly indicated. A link is provided to the national parties belonging to the groups where those interested can find the security and defence policy priorities of the national parties.

To understand the EU’s role in security and defence watch a 5 minutes podcast of the European Parliaments Research Services below:

Specific Competence of the European Union: Common Security and Defence Policy

 To have a quick overview in three minutes on the issue of Common Security and Defence in the EU, have a look at the video prepared by the European Parliament Research Service below:

Security and defence policy in the European Union is predominantly a competence of the Member States. At the same time, a common security and defence policy, which could progressively lead to a European defence union, is enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty. Since 2016, there has been significant progress in that direction, with several initiatives in the area of security and defence having been proposed and initiated under the current mandate of the Commission (the EU’s executive branch) and the European Parliament (the EU’s legislative branch). The idea that the European Union should deliver in the area of security and defence has become more and more popular with EU citizens. The crises in the EU’s eastern and southern neighbourhoods, such as the occupation of Crimea and conflicts in the Middle East, have created an environment of insecurity in which the EU is called upon to do more. Following the Council decision of 2013 and particularly since the launch of the EU global strategy in 2016, the EU had been working to respond to these needs predominantly by implementing in full the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty. In recent years, it has begun the implementation of ambitious initiatives in the area of security and defence, such as:

  • A permanent structured cooperation (PESCO)
  • the European defence action plan including a new defence fund to finance research and development of EU military capabilities
  • closer and more efficient cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO),
  • a plan to facilitate military mobility within and across the EU
  • a revision of the financing of its civilian and military missions and operations to make them more effective.

These new initiatives are illustrated in the relevant proposals in the new multiannual financial framework (2021-2027) and the accompanying off-budget instruments. Given EU leaders’ current support for further initiatives in EU security and defence policy, important debates are likely to take place in future on the possible progressive framing of a European defence union.

The common security and defence policy (CSDP) sets the framework for EU political and military structures, and military and civilian missions and operations abroad. The CSDP has recently undergone major strategic and operational changes to meet security challenges and popular demand for increased EU responses. For more information, please click here.

Role of the European Parliament

In short, the role of the European Parliament can be summarized as follows: Parliament scrutinizes the CFSP and contributes to its development, in particular by supporting the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU Special Representatives (EUSRs) and the EU’s delegations. Parliament’s budgetary powers shape the scale and scope of the CFSP, as well as the EU financial instruments that sustain the EU’s foreign activities.

What does this mean concretely?

Parliament has the right to scrutinise the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and to take the initiative of addressing the the High Representative (HR/VP) of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the European Council on it. The High Representative This is the chief co-ordinator and representative of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) within the European Union (EU). The position is currently held by Federica Mogherini.

The European Union also exercises authority over the policy’s budget (Article 41 Treaty on European Union). Twice a year, Parliament holds debates on progress in implementing the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), and adopts reports: one on the CFSP, drafted by the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) and including elements relating to the CSDP where necessary; and one on the CSDP, drafted by the Subcommittee on Security and Defence (SEDE).

Since 2012, the European Parliament and the Member States’ national parliaments have  organised  two  inter-parliamentary  conferences  each  year  to  debate  matters relating to the CFSP. Inter-parliamentary cooperation in these areas is provided for by Protocol 1 to the Lisbon Treaty, which describes the role of the national parliaments in the EU. Innovations in the Lisbon Treaty have provided an opportunity to improve the political coherence of the CSDP. The High Representative occupies the central institutional role, chairing the Foreign Affairs Council in its ‘Defence Ministers configuration’ (the EU’s CSDP decision-making body) and directing the European Defence Agency. The political framework for consultation and dialogue with Parliament is evolving in order to allow Parliament to play a full role in developing the CSDP. Under the Lisbon Treaty, Parliament is a partner in shaping the Union’s external relations and addressing the challenge.

After the elections, one of the first tasks of an incoming Parliament is to elect a new President of the European Commission (the EU’s executive body). Member states nominate a candidate for the post, but in doing so they must take account of the European election results. Moreover, Parliament needs to approve the new Commission President by an absolute majority (half of the existing MEPs plus one). If the candidate doesn’t obtain the required majority, the member states need to propose another candidate within a month’s time (European Council acting by qualified majority). Since the 2014 elections, Parliament introduced the system of lead candidates. Each European political party put forward a candidate for Commission president and the party which became the biggest in the elections could propose Parliament’s candidate for the nomination for the Commission leadership.

Issues of interest to the European Parliament

Parliament holds regular deliberations, hearings and workshops, devoted to topics including: civilian and military CSDP missions, international crises with security and defence implications, multilateral frameworks for security, arms control and non-proliferation issues, the fight against terrorism and organized crime, good practices to improve the effectiveness of security and defence, and EU legal and institutional developments in these fields. Following the VP/HR’s  2010 declaration on political accountability, Parliament participates in Joint Consultation Meetings (JCMs) held on a regular basis to exchange information with the Council, the EEAS and the Commission.  Given the key role that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) plays in underwriting European security, Parliament participates in the NATO Parliamentary Assembly with a view to developing the EU-NATO relationship while respecting the independent nature of both organizations

Groups represented in the European Parliament

The Members of the European Parliament sit in political groups – they are not organised by nationality, but by political affiliation. There are currently 8 political groups in the European Parliament.

25 Members are needed to form a political group, and at least one-quarter of the Member States must be represented within the group. Members may not belong to more than one political group.

Some Members do not belong to any political group and are known as non-attached Members.

If you would like to discover how all groups and parties voted during the previous election cycle, please visit:


Current groups in the Parliament

The information provided below is extracted from the website of each group or provided to the ATA by their members and do not represent any official ATA opinion.

Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) 

Please take into account that the information below represents exclusively the views of the EPP Group in the European Parliament and not the EPP Party.

The EPP defines itself is a centre-right group, committed to creating a stronger Europe, built on its people. They state that ‘our people are our economy and the people of Europe are the largest economy in the world.’

Their goal is to create a more competitive and democratic Europe, where people can build the life they want. They want to give everyone an equal chance to succeed including family firms, small businesses, innovators, inventors, researchers, scientists and self-employed, amongst others. Equally, they want to provide a safety net for anyone who is struggling. To find out more about the group, please click here.

On the issue of Defence and Security the EPP group has recently published a position paper which you can find here. Some of the main priorities highlighted are:

  • this time, EU Institutions and Member States deliver on their commitments to increase the security of our citizens. It is important that Member States strengthen their level of trust and implement the jointly-expressed political will; the EU brings its unique experience in soft power to the security equation, however it needs to continue strengthening its hard power;
  • EU Member States take advantage of synergy effects resulting from increased cooperation and coordination in the realm of defence (e.g. defence planning, research and development, procurement, maintenance and consolidation of the armaments industry). This can lead to significant savings freeing-up resources for further long-term investments;
  • EU Institutions and Member States need to increase efforts in framing a common Union defence policy (Article 42 (2) TEU). In a space where people, goods, services and money move freely, security cannot be entirely guaranteed by Member States acting alone. Member States should plan together, as one, and then decide which contribution every individual state will make. This should lead to sustaining Europe’s strategic autonomy and to developing a common defence;
  • the current EU Global Strategy should lead to an EU White Book on Security and Defence and the definition of a roadmap with realistic and practical steps towards the establishment of a European Defence Union. This Union should encourage a stronger alignment of strategic cultures and a common understanding of threats, which in turn requires developing joint situational awareness capabilities. The White Book needs to link our strategic thinking to the development of military capabilities;
  • the EU commits itself to establishing new or enabling existing structures and mechanisms to better support Member States to cooperate more closely on military matters;
  • that EU members foster a competitive and innovative defence industrial base. We demand the launch of a European Capability and Armaments Policy as the umbrella for the internal aspects of CSDP efforts; framing on-going efforts to establish supportive measures and synergies in the areas of defence research, capability development procurement and space (e.g. space observation capabilities, drones, cyber defence capabilities, main battle tanks and fighter jets);
  • the Member States and the European Commission make the intended Defence Fund a success which leads to the prioritisation of an EU security and defence budget in the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF); the European Defence Fund must be sufficiently sourced, for which the envisaged €500 million per year on research and €1 billion on development and acquisitions are an absolute minimum;
  • the European Parliament and the Council swiftly pass the draft regulation for a European Defence Industrial Programme in view of an operational CSDP. We need bold implementing measures on how the EU can contribute to financing cooperative projects aimed at better defence;
  • the European Commission sets up a Directorate-General for Defence within the remit of the VP/HR in order to coordinate EU internal defence measures, to guarantee an efficient defence market and a functioning European-wide security-of-supply regime; a single market for defence would help critical research and the emergence of start-ups to develop the key technologies Europe needs to meet its security challenges;
  • there is a further increase in national defence spending towards 2% of EU GDP by Member States. Moving towards Europe’s strategic autonomy requires spending more on our defence;
  • sustaining Europe’s strategic autonomy, as the capacity to act on its own when necessary, requires Member States to spend better and more together on defence, in particular on common procurement projects, standardisation and certification, utilising the existing framework. We should bring Member States’ defence apparatus into line with each other as foreseen by CARD;
  • in peacetime, the EU should make use of the legal possibilities to finance defence efforts such as training and education, procurement and maintenance, infrastructure or research, technology and development; EU members should show political commitment, increase investment, share information and create synergies in order to better protect Europeans;
  • given the complexity and fragmentation of information systems at European level for border control and security, the EU should encourage ways to improve the interconnection and interoperability of information systems and to avoid duplication and overlapping; in order to better protect its external borders and to combat terrorism, the EU should foster a more effective and efficient data management, while boosting a European security industry;
  • The European Commission and co-legislators must work to ensure that EU financial markets are not used by terrorist organisations to fund either their terror activities or their very existence (ECON).
  • the EU shall finance civil-military as well as defence research and technology projects facilitating future European collaborative programmes within the European Defence Agency (EDA) or other executive agencies; technological advancement and the surge in users has made cybercrime and terrorist use of the web a new frontier in warfare;
  • some European collaborative programmes should be launched envisaging NATO programmes such as the Ballistic Missile Defence for Europe or the Alliance Future Surveillance and Control System so that a direct European industrial involvement in NATO programmes may be assured, thus reinforcing the European role in NATO while strengthening the European strategic autonomy;
  • there will be a defence research programme in the next MFF. EU funding as an add-on resource needs to be complimentary towards national research investment. We expect to have future defence research activities in a specific programme within the next MFF;
  • Permanent Structured Cooperation has become the cornerstone of the future Defence Union. It should also serve to coordinate isolated islands of military cooperation within Europe but not only be considered as a tool for project coordination;
  • concerning the participation in the EU Defence Fund (EDF), the European Defence Action Plan (EDAP) and PESCO Member States clarify how to secure broad participation and a high-level of ambition and commitment at the same time;
  • the EU unleashes the full potential of the Treaties in the realm of security and defence (Article 41 TEU – start-up fund; Article 42 TUE – collective self-defence clause; Article 44 TEU – entrusting of CSDP missions to a group of Member States; Article 222 TFEU – solidarity clause);
  • that Member States apply full burden-sharing on CSDP operations and missions by enhanced common funding so that Member States will be encouraged to contribute with capabilities and forces, not being restricted by their financial limitations; it is of the utmost importance to review the Athena mechanism for financing the common costs of EU military operations and future deployments of European Union Battle Groups (EUBG). The partnerships and cooperation with countries that share the EU’s values can contribute to the effectiveness and impact of CSDP operations and missions;
  • that the EU establishes a fully-fledged Civilian-Military Strategic Headquarters created from the existing Civilian Planning and Conduct Capability (CPCC), Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC), Crisis Management and Planning Directorate (CMPD) within the European External Action Service;
  • the EU increases its efforts as a regional security provider and becomes a strong European pillar of NATO. The protection of Europe will become a mutually-reinforcing responsibility of the EU and NATO. We need to strengthen synergies between the EU and NATO avoiding unnecessary overlaps.
  • the EEAS East StratCom Task Force to be turned into a permanent EU structure with adequate funding and significantly increased personnel”.

To find out which members currently make up the EPP group in the European Parliament please click here.

Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament 

The S&D Group is the leading centre-left political group in the European Parliament and currently the second largest, with 187 members from all 28 EU countries. The S&D Group stands for an inclusive European society based on principles like:

  • Freedom
  • Equality
  • Solidarity
  • Diversity
  • Fairness

To find out more please click here.

In the field of Defence and Security the S&D Group published a position paper in September 2017 which is available here.

Some of the key priorities highlighted are:

  • The role of the EU should be mainly that of a ‘soft power’, using its economic and cultural strengths in the global order, focusing especially on: enlargement, neighborhood and development policies, civilian conflict prevention and crisis management. These tools & policies should be constantly strengthened and further developed.
  • The European Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy must be firmly enshrined in the framework of the United Nations.
  • It is necessary to enhance the cooperation between NATO & the EU as territorial defense is a task of both NATO and EU Member states. Cooperation between NATO and non-NATO EU Member States should be strengthened and a greater EU role is needed in capability and joint military & civilian missions.
  • EU cooperation and intelligence sharing should be strengthened while promoting and protecting fundamental rights and freedom. There is a need for enhanced cooperation involving border management, law-enforcement, judicial and intelligence authorities at national and European levels as well as with third countries.
  • To promote a more integrated internal market for defence goods and EU support for coordinated research and development.
  • The S&D Group wants to expand the EU’s role on global disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons ranging from small arms to nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles. In this context, they want to strengthen the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)
  • Greater Parliamentary Control of the Common Foreign and Security Policy with greater decision making power for the EU on missions and operations

These priorities are also visible in a 10 point S&D Group position on EU Security and Defence which is equally available here.

European Conservatives and Reformists Group 

The ECR Group is a centre-right political group in the European Parliament, founded in 2009 with a common cause to reform the EU on the basis of euro-realism, respecting the sovereignty of nations, and focusing on economic recovery, growth and competitiveness. From its 8 founding Member States with 54 MEPs in 2009, they have now grown to become the third largest group in the European Parliament with over 70 members from 19 EU countries hailing from 26 different political parties.

The ECR group strongly believes that defence and security issues should remain a core competence of Member States and NATO is and will be the cornerstone of the European security. Therefore, they oppose any duplication that may arise from developing separate EU defence structures, but they of course welcome initiatives on the EU level that would boost the defensive capabilities of Member States and therefore would be beneficial to NATO. One good example is the Military Mobility, where good solutions can only be found on EU level. Ms Anna Fotyga, Member of the ECR Group, chaired the SEDE subcommittee for the last five years, so the issue was always high on our agenda.

You can find more information related to the priorities of the ECR on their website:

Members of the group can be found here.

Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe

 ALDE wants a stronger and more stable European Union, with the means to tackle the concerns of Europe’s citizens on the big issues where Member States alone cannot. The EU needs to complete its Internal Market in energy and digital services whilst leveraging capital markets to help fund the new infrastructure that will power our economy in the years ahead and create new and sustainable jobs. Europe must also remain true to its values and uphold fundamental rights of freedom, equality and non-discrimination. The EU also needs to change institutionally, eliminating waste and operating more efficiently.

In the sphere of Security and Defence the ALDE Group have published a roadmap towards EU integrated military forces which is available here.

The main priorities within the roadmap are:

  • strengthen defence of the EU territory in complementarity to NATO, which must remain the key cornerstone of EU security architecture.
  • Enable the EU to act autonomously in operations abroad, to stabilize its neighbourhood. Ability to act autonomously is the critical missing pillar of EU comprehensive approach
  • In case of an attack against EU territory the European defence capabilities and integrated forces would act as complementary reinforcement of the NATO response.

The European Defence Union envisioned by the group would be possible through:

  • Adoption of a strategic concept / security agenda
  • Progressive integration of Member States military forces, 
based on the eurocorps model
  • Development of European capabilities and an integrated defence market
  • Development of a clear decision making framework, with political leadership 
and one budget

With regards to NATO-EU Relations, the ALDE Party (one of the two parties that make up the ALDE Group in the Parliament) adopted a resolution in 2016 in relation NATO-EU Relations which you can find here.

The main points within the position of the ALDE Party are that:

  • NATO remains the backbone of military cooperation and guarantor of collective defence for Europe
  • Respect for the different sovereign defence policies of EU and NATO Member States.
  • the right of non-NATO EU members to exercise their own particular defence policies.
  • the autonomy of countries in respect of a common European defence policy.
  • the efficient, coherent and synergic use of specific capacities of each organization for countering new and emerging threats to security in full respect for the institutional framework, inclusiveness and decision making autonomy of the two.

To find out more about the defence and security policies of the second party making up the ALDE Group, EDF, please click here.

Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left 

The Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) is a confederal one where each component party retains its own identity and policies while pooling their efforts in pursuit of common political objectives. The Group includes members from all corners of Europe.

GUE/NGL is fighting for more and better jobs and educational opportunities, for social security and social solidarity, for a respectful way to deal with our earth and its resources, for cultural exchange and diversity, for sustainable economic development and for a consistent and strong peace policy. These must constitute, from their point of view, the ultimate goals of the European integration process.

The European Union must become a project of its people and cannot remain a project of the elites. We want equal rights for women and men, civil rights and liberties and the enforcement of human rights. Anti-Fascism and anti-racism are also a strong part of the tradition of left movements in Europe.

On the topic of defence and security, as GUE/NGL is a confederal group, they don’t have a manifesto as our delegations and the European Left fight their own elections. The Manifesto of the European Left can be found here.

With regards to security and defence the European Left clarify that they ‘want a Europe free from  the antidemocratic and neoliberal policies of WTO and IMF, refusing NATO, foreign military bases and any model of a European army leading to increasing military competition and arms race in the world. We want a Europe of peace and solidarity, free from nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction, a Europe that rejects war as an instrument to settle international conflicts.’

The Confederal group’s overall policies can be found here.

With regards to security and defence their policy is defined as follows: ‘EU foreign and security policy must be based on the construction of a peaceful world. We seek widespread demilitarisation and advocate international nuclear disarmament and tighter regulation through global agreements. Our MEPs are at the forefront of peace campaigns, opposing military action and encouraging dialogue as a solution to conflict. We continue to oppose the establishment of the EU military-industrial complex and the role the EU plays as a driving force for armament within and outside Europe.’

The full list of members of the confederal group can be found here.

Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance 

The Greens/European Free Alliance is a political group in the European Parliament made up of Green, Pirate and Independent MEPs as well as MEPs from parties representing stateless nations and disadvantaged minorities.

In this form, the group was established in July 1999, when these two progressive European political families agreed to join forces in the European Parliament.

The Greens/EFA project is to build a society respectful of fundamental human rights and environmental justice: the rights to self-determination, to shelter, to good health, to education, to culture, and to a high quality of life; increase freedom within the world of work, not only by tackling unemployment but also by widening people’s choices, releasing human creative potential ; deepen democracy by decentralisation and direct participation of people in decision-making that concerns them, and by enhancing openness of government in Council and Commission, and making the Commission fully answerable to Parliament; build a European Union of free peoples based on the principle of subsidiarity who believe in solidarity with each other and all the peoples of the world; re-orientate the European Union, which currently over-emphasises its economic conception at the expense of social, cultural and ecological values.

The Greens/European Free Alliance is working for :

  • economic and social reforms to make development sustainable for both human beings and the natural world;
  • a democratic process linking trade, security, economic and social issues to environmental, cultural and democratic rights;
  • high ecological, social and democratic standards to ensure the quality of life;
  • solidarity, guaranteed human and citizen’s rights for everybody, including people who have come from non-EU countries ;
  • a foreign policy designed to resolve problems by peaceful means rather than by military force;
  • improved structures for democratic participation in political decision-making, involving NGOs, Trade Unions, citizens and civic authorities at all levels, with measures to ensure equal participation of women;
  • guaranteed equal rights and opportunities, as well as cultural and linguistic diversity
  • a policy of employment and redistribution of work with special attention to gender issues, in order to end the existing unbalanced division of labour and share the workload more fairly between women and men, ensuring that women are fully able to take part in the formal labour market as well as in political life.
  • the involvement of the relevant elected authorities that have constitutional powers in the decisions of the Council of Ministers relating to matters that fall within their competence.

On the occasion of NATO’s summit in July 2018 the group issued a press release outlining some of their priorities in the field of defence and security. You can find the press release here.

These priorities can be summarized as follows:

  • The European Union must define its own priorities to security and stability and should not be dependent on the United States
  • The Security Policy should become more efficient and avoid overlap in expenditure. Furthermore, working with a set percentage for defence expenditure (2%) will only lead towards an arms race and increased conflict.
  • European defence and security should focus on interoperability, quality, deep and long term cooperation; in this sense having trans-national cooperation in the security & defence sector would be benefitial.
  • At the same time, security and defence should focus more on civil conflict prevention and on combating the root causes of increased security risk-prone environments due to for example migration and climate change.

With regards to the groups priorities in the field of security and defence you can refer to their dedicated page here.

To find out about the groups’ priorities for the upcoming elections, please click here.

To find out who are the members of the group, click here.

Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy Group 

The Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy Group is open to Members that subscribe to a Europe of Freedom and Democracy and acknowledge the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights and parliamentary democracy. The Group subscribes to the following program:

  • Freedom and co-operation among people of different States
  • More democracy and respect of People’s will
  • Respect for Europe’s history, traditions and cultural values
  • Respect for national differences and interests: Freedom of votes

For more information, click here.

In 2015 the group produced a video on Freedom, Justice and Security highlighting some of their priorities and viewpoint available below

The EFDD group does not have a public policy on security & defense or on relation with NATO however, the President of the group Nigel Farage recently expressed his views on Angela Merkel’s call for a European Army which you can view below

the transcript of his intervention is available  here.

All the policies  of the group are available here.

To meet the members of the group, please click here.

Europe of Nations and Freedom Group 

Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) is a political group in the European Parliament launched on 15 June 2015. With 37 members, the group is the smallest in the European Parliament. Their vision reads as follows:

‘We want a Europe of sovereign states. We want a free Europe. We want a Europe that respects national individuality and national identity.

Our European cultures, our values and our freedom are under attack. They are threatened by the crushing and dictatorial powers of the European Union. They are threatened by mass immigration, by open borders and by a single European currency: one size does not fit all.

Nation states must be able to establish their own budgets, draw up their own laws, take control over their own borders, protect their own languages and cultures and have their own currencies. Therefore we want a different kind of cooperation.

The EU cannot deal with differences because it does not want sovereign nation states. But actually the foundation of the success of Europe has been the differences between states resulting from competition, cooperation, conflicts and peace. Beneath the surface of all the differences, there is the huge undercurrent of our common cultural heritage. Anyone who acknowledges the importance of our common legacy also acknowledges our differences and appreciates the significance of sovereign states.

We stand for a Europe of economic cooperation between nation states.’

The ENF group does not have a public position / stance on defense and security or NATO but continuously advocates for more power to individual member states, therefore those interested should consult national delegates.

All the groups policies & stances are available here.

To discover the members of the group, please see this page.


This guide was compiled by Simon Herteleer, Communications officer at the Atlantic Treaty Association