Moldova and the EU: a Comprehensive Overview of Security and Defence Partnership

On the occasion of the establishment of the civilian CSDP EU Partnership Mission in the Republic of Moldova (EUPM) in April 2023, Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR/VP) noted: “As one of the countries most affected by the fallout of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, we witness increased and continued Russian attempts to destabilise Moldova with hybrid actions” (Council of the EU, 2023). In light of geopolitical tensions and persistent threats from Russia, Moldova and the EU are seeking to establish greater cooperation in the field of security in defence. After the deployment of the EUPM in May 2023, the representatives from the EU and Moldova signed the Security and Defence Partnership (SDP) on 21 May 2024. Moldova is the first third state to sign such an agreement with the EU (Euractiv, 2024). The Partnership is envisaged to enhance the resilience of the country, allowing the EU and Moldova to jointly address shared security challenges and explore new areas of cooperation and dialogue (EEAS, 2024). The EU’s goal is to create a network of selected partners in the field of security and defence, boosting cooperation in fields ranging from cyber security, hybrid threats, disinformation, training, and capacity building (Benakis, 2024; Euractiv, 2024). Moldova’s alignment with European standards, fostering interoperability and robust cooperation, is important for reinforcing regional security and advancing Moldova’s European integration aspirations. This paper gives a comprehensive overview of EU-Moldova cooperation in security and defence. It proceeds as follows: The first section briefly outlines the relations between Moldova and the EU against the background of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The second part explores and contextualizes the newly established Security and Defence Partnership.

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A New Beginning for European Defence Fund, Reinforced by a Programme (EDIP) and a Strategy (EDIS)

The European Defence Fund (EDF) needs to review its strategy and programming after only three years of existence. It was created in 2021 under the European Union Global Strategy (EUGS), thanks to the push made by EU Member states at the time. The political will to invest in European security has gained significant momentum thanks largely to the EDF, particularly in strengthening the European Defence and Technology Industrial Basis (EDTIB). The objective is to fund armament and spend in common. The European Defence Industrial Strategy (EDIS), proposed by the Commission in March 2024, is more precise than the EUGS on defence matters and marks the EU’s first-ever defence strategy. The EDIS was created to achieve industrial defence readiness by 2035 and strengthen the European Defence and Technological Industrial Basis (EDTIB) (European Commission 2024b). This strategy will influence the EDF’s programming and its presentation in the next Multi-Financial Framework.

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The application of the Law of the Sea to the EU legal system and its implications for European Defence

States have long been considered the primary, but not only, subjects of International Law. To be considered a State, Article 1 of the Montevideo Convention (1933) sets out four criteria: a permanent population, a defined territory, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other states (Montevideo Convention, 1933). A State's sovereignty is here limited to its territory, over which its legal system has complete jurisdiction. However, defined territory is not uncomplicated, as States control their airspace and have a border to outer space, and coastal State’s territory encompasses maritime zones surrounding their land (Gioia, 2019). This article analyses the International and European legal framework regulating States in their maritime areas. Then, it will focus on the interaction between those legal sources and their implications for European Defence.

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SpaceX Involvement in Military Operations and EU Space Policy

The space sector in the EU has long been geared toward civilian, scientific, and commercial use. Accordingly, private companies and scientific associations have played a substantial role in space technology innovation (Kriege & Russo, 2000, p.34). However, space is becoming increasingly securitised and militarised, and armed forces are investing more consistently in space assets (Calcagno et al., 2022). Moreover, space technology’s dual-use and slow-to-develop nature leads to a tendency to adapt existing space products and assets to military use and the direct involvement of private and non-defence space companies in military operations. SpaceX, in particular, has become central to several states’ militaries through Starlink, a large-scale low-orbit satellite internet and communication service (Rousselle, 2024). After seeing widespread Ukrainian civilian and military use of Starlink, SpaceX services have been considered by several governments and regional organisations. The EU itself has recently turned to SpaceX to launch four of its Galileo satellites. However, planned and ongoing American military use of SpaceX technologies and assets raises questions over how appropriate EU reliance on SpaceX for rocketry and connectivity would be. First, the agreement with SpaceX undermines the EU’s strategic autonomy, as it delegates fundamental launching services to a private company outside EU jurisdiction. Secondly, it increases dependence on the US both because it is the country that has jurisdiction over SpaceX, and because the launching operations take place from American soil. Thirdly, relying on SpaceX and on the US undermines the autonomist intent of the EU Space Programme, especially of the Galileo project which was meant to become a European alternative to the American navigation system. Fourthly, increasing SpaceX's involvement in US military operations entails broader implications for European defence by increasing the risk of an orbital arms race.

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