[A-List] EU integration struggles: defence
michael.keaney at mbs.fi
Tue Dec 3 03:49:14 MST 2002
Europe should call off its mission impossible
By Anand Menon
Financial Times: December 3 2002
It is time to abandon attempts to endow the European Union with a defence
policy of its own. Proponents of the idea claim it is necessary to allow
Europe to contribute more to the overall western defence effort and to exert
some influence over US foreign policy. The paradox is that in choosing the
EU as a vehicle through which to further European defence ambitions, they
risk failing on both counts.
The latest Franco-German proposals to further the EU's defence ambitions
highlight the follies of the project. In effect, Paris has acquiesced to
Germany's military ineffectiveness in return for Berlin's acceptance of
French institutional obsessions that would disconnect the EU from Nato.
Its supporters have long argued that the so-called European security and
defence policy will provide greater legitimacy to calls for increased
defence spending in Europe. Certainly such spending is necessary. The
capabilities gap between the two sides of the Atlantic has reached a point
where the Europeans cannot fight alongside their American allies - even if
invited to do so - because their military hardware is too backward. Yet
building an EU defence capability is not going to remedy this. The
popularity of the Union among its public is about as low as it has ever
been - so this is hardly a propitious time to increase spending in its name.
Moreover, it is precisely those states - Germany for example, where one
would have expected the legitimising force of the EU to be greatest - that
are proving most unwilling to raise defence expenditure. In Britain, where
spending in order to strengthen the EU is hardly a vote- winner, the
military budget has recently risen quite steeply.
Should Europeans acquire the requisite hardware, they will then need
adequate structures within which to pursue military co-operation. Here
again, the EU seems a curious choice. For one thing, it is hardly an
institution that has proved capable of taking important decisions rapidly.
Defence is not an area where one can afford to wait 20 years for consensus.
Divisions between member states over defence are arguably more profound than
in other EU policy areas, given the presence of several neutral countries.
In a world of amorphous and unpredictable security challenges, military
operations will increasingly be carried out by "coalitions of the willing"
assembled on an ad hoc basis. The EU, however, lacks the necessary
flexibility. After years of theological wrangling, it has conspicuously
failed to come up with an effective mechanism to enable a small group of
member states to act without the others. Moreover, the EU has never been
good at involving non-members in its work. The exclusion of Russia and
Turkey does not bode well when the most likely area of instability, and
hence western intervention, is the Middle East and adjoining regions.
Most important, whatever their pretensions to a greater military capacity,
the Europeans will for the foreseeable future depend on US military
assistance. Yet the Americans suspect that European defence ambitions are
motivated by a desire for competition with the US, not co-operation. French
demands for European autonomy in military planning do little to assuage US
Nato, while far from a perfect organisation, suffers from few if any of the
drawbacks that encumber the EU. The alliance by design allows the Europeans
to work closely with the Americans. It does not include the neutrals. It
manages to avoid decision-making paralysis through US influence and a
culture of problem solving. Its secretary-general - currently Lord
Robertson - will prove far more effective than EU bureaucrats at cajoling
its members into greater defence spending. And Nato is tremendously
flexible. Its greatest achievement since the end of the cold war has been
its success in blurring the distinction between members and non-members.
Some or all of more than 40 states can carry out a mission using Nato
The most obvious course open to Europeans if they want to wield more
military power is to work through Nato. The EU certainly has an important
role to play in international affairs but this should not include serious
military operations, for which it was simply not designed. This is not a
counsel of despair, or an acceptance of US hegemony. On the contrary, with a
firm commitment to Nato, European leaders could argue more credibly that the
US, too, needs to work within multilateral institutions in pursuit of its
international objectives. The EU should abandon its defence policy or its
military decline will accelerate.
The writer is director of the European Research Institute at the University
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