Financial Times 28.10.2003
Like all its European Union partners, Finland believes that the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy needs to be strengthened. This in turn means strengthening the European Security and Defence Policy, which is a crucial part of the CFSP. Europe needs to be able to take responsibility for more demanding tasks in crisis management. However, the proposals on how to do this put forward by the EU’s constitutional convention – whose draft constitution is now being considered at the EU’s intergovernmental conference – risk splitting the Union and thus weakening the CFSP.
The convention’s proposals include a solidarity clause, which would provide for mutual support at times of crisis, a new EU foreign minister, a commitment to more demanding peace-keeping operations than before, and the establishment of a European armaments agency. These articles entail participation by all 25 member states.
But the convention also proposed two rather more divisive articles for states that fulfil certain higher criteria in defence. These would be allowed, first, to establish so-called “structured co-operation” and, second, to establish a mutual defence commitment for those who want to join. Both types of grouping would be in the Union without being of it.
The question is: why should Europe want to establish a self-selecting inner group of countries to develop its security and defence policy? Undoubtedly we need to move forward, but such efforts must involve the Union as a whole. Under the Amsterdam Treaty, which came into force in 1999, the EU recognised the possibility of “enhanced co-operation”, but only “as a last resort, when it has been established that the objectives of such co-operation cannot be attained within a reasonable period by the Union as a whole”.
The convention’s proposal starts from a very different premise – that a smaller group has to act as a vanguard without trying or even wanting to involve the Union as a whole. It is difficult to understand how splitting the Union serves to strengthen Europe’s global standing. Suspicious minds may well wonder whether the proposal has less to do with defence than with the ambition of a core group of countries to retain a role as guardians of the true European faith – a faith that the 10 countries joining next year are perceived to threaten.
Rather than creating artificial core groups, we should build up what crisis management capabilities the Union already has. There is no need to exclude any member states from the decision-making. That also goes for the question of whether or not Europe should duplicate Nato resources. For Finland that is not a theological question but a practical and economic one.
Some will argue that core groups will have greater flexibility. But we already have a large degree of that in ESDP. Not all of us will be building aircraft carriers or taking part in every future EU operation. Indeed, only a few member states have contributed troops to the EU’s operation in Congo. If need be, we can develop this flexibility further, although “red lines” will inevitably remain. We cannot allow a group of countries to use the EU “trademark” without a mandate from the Union.
The constitution’s so-called “security guarantee” article on mutual defence raises the delicate question of EU-Nato and transatlantic relations. For Finland, it is self-evident that only Nato can give such guarantees in today’s Europe. If Finland were to give up its military non-alignment – for which there is neither need nor popular support in Finland today – it is to Nato we would send our application. But saying no to the proposed security guarantees does not rule out developing the constitution’s solidarity clause in a way acceptable to all.
The discussion on these issues at the IGC has been refreshingly frank. We have been told that if we do not allow for “structured co-operation” within the Union’s framework, it will take place outside it. Why this should be understood as a threat eludes me – after all we already have the Western European Union and its security guarantees, for what they are worth, as well as various other forums for multinational co-operation in defence. There is no harm in developing these, but allowing them to use the brand-name of the EU without the full EU taking responsibility would be damaging.
Out of the IGC must come a constitutional treaty that strengthens the voice of reason and a commitment to effective multilateralism. That after all, is what the world expects of Europe.
The writer is Finland’s foreign minister