For a genuinely European Defence
Globalisation, the emergence of new threats to security, particularly terrorism, and the need to adjust our security thinking to the post-Cold-War situation have given impetus to much debate and new thinking concerning security and defence.
The European Union has sought to answer these challenges by assigning its High Representative Javier Solana to draft a European Security Strategy. The draft strategy paper called ”A Secure Europe in a Better World” has been widely discussed and commented. A revised version incorporating these comments is set to be adopted at the European Council in mid-December.
The EU strategy paper seeks to address the new threats to security which have taken over the spectre of traditional war between states as the main challenge. Some of these new threats have no military dimensions. Those that may have one have also become more multifaceted. It is obvious that even in cases where action has been necessary and justified, as it was against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, it is at best only a partial solution to the threat, as is witnessed by the post-war situation in Afghanistan. Of all international actors, the EU is uniquely qualified to tackle these new security threats using the full range of instruments at its disposal: trade, economic assistance and cooperation, reconstruction and development aid, civilian crisis management as well as military crisis management.
The EU strategy recognises poverty and underdevelopment as a key challenge to security and, vice versa, security as a precondition of development. It puts what it calls effective multilateralism at the heart of its endeavours: Europe does not seek a unilateralist go-it-alone strategy vis-à-vis any potential partner, with the United Nations and the Transatlantic relationship as the determining framework for cooperation.
It calls for a more active, more capable and more coherent Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) for Europe. Strengthening of the CFSP is a key aim of Finland in the ongoing Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) which is drafting a new Constitutional Treaty for the Union. This is, indeed, the unanimous view of all EU Member States.
To this end the Convention’s proposals, which are the basis for our work in the IGC, included a solidarity clause, beefing up the EU’s foreign policy under a new EU Foreign Minister who would assume the present tasks of the Commissioner responsible for external relations and of the High Representative, more use of qualified majority voting in the CFSP, a commitment to more demanding peace-keeping and conflict prevention than before and establishing a European Armaments, Research and Military Capabilities Agency. All 25 Member States will participate in these and they have received unanimous approval. Actually the decision to establish such a capabilities agency was already made at the latest General Affairs and External Relations Council meeting and it will start well before the new treaty is in force.
The European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) is already an operative part of the CFSP. The EU has employed its military crisis management capabilities in the former-Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The NATO operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina may be the next operation for which the EU will take responsibility. But because we are extending the scope of our responsibilities in line with the Security Strategy and as the Constitutional Treaty will commit the Union to take responsibility for more demanding tasks in crisis management, we need to develop the ESDP accordingly.
This is the spirit in which we in Finland approach the defence issues in the IGC. We do also recognize that the Convention proposed to take the common European defence another half-step closer to reality as it changes the Treaty’s present wording to one which indicates a more firm commitment to ”the progressive framing of a common Union defence policy”, which ”will lead to a common defence, when the European Council, acting unanimously, so decides”. This is not likely to take place in the near future, and not before the next IGC in any case.
This is not because the idea of a common European defence is new. It is, indeed older than the Treaty of Rome which established the EEC. But it is not necessarily clear what is meant by common defence. Is it more than a military alliance where everyone retains their own national defence structures, even if they are coordinated? Does it entail building up genuinely multinational and integrated forces, leading to a European Army? Would such an army also take over responsibility for the nuclear arms of the UK and France as well? Whose finger would then be on the button? What would be its relation to NATO; independent, complementary or subservient to it? And then there is the very pertinent question, what is the idea of a European defence for in the post-Cold War world?
It has to be said that Finns find the idea of a European defence rather attractive, at least as long as they can interpret it to mean whatever appeals to them best. This is in stark contrast to the idea of membership of NATO, which based on successive polling results say Finns consistently reject with an average 3 to 1 or 4 to 1 margins. My own view is not dependent on these polls, but it coincides with them.
This, it must be stressed, does not make us anti-NATO. We fully support and understand the need to foster the transatlantic relationship within NATO. We are active participants in the partnership and have contributed significantly to some NATO-led operations. The government is preparing a new defence review to be debated in Parliament next autumn. This is a regular exercise undertaken about every five years and it is not being conducted because of any preconceived need to change our policy of military non-alignment, but it does present the opportunity to evaluate global, European and regional security developments – the results of the IGC included – and draw new conclusions where appropriate.
So how do the Convention’s proposals actually serve the progressive framing of a European defence? Actually it is not at all clear that they serve it. This is primarily because they risk splitting the Union and thus weakening the CFSP.
At this point I have to make it clear that I am not influenced by the well-rehearsed argument according to which our refusal to allow those who want to do more than the Union as a whole is able or willing to do, would lead to such cooperation outside the EU framework. Why this should be understood as some kind of threat eludes me. After all we already have quite a lot of defence-related cooperation between various European countries. These include, of course, the Western European Union on the one hand, and a variety of more concrete military cooperation projects involving two or more EU countries, such as Eurocorps, the Nordic peace-keeping brigade and others. So if a group of countries comes to the IGC and says that they want to do this and that in the defence field together and, unless we allow them to use the EU’s label, they will do it anyway without any permit, is not something that seems to me more undesirable than introducing new and unnecessary divisions inside the EU which erode the credibility of the CFSP.
I am, of course, referring to the two new articles 40.6 and 40.7 as proposed by the Convention. The draft article 40.6 says, that ”those Member States whose military capabilities fulfil higher criteria and which have made more binding commitments to one another in this area with the view to the most demanding missions shall establish structured cooperation within the Union framework”. Draft article 40.7 would allow a group of countries to establish a mutual defence commitment for those who want to join.
One can say of both proposals that they would be in the Union without being of it. Both have raised substantial criticism coming from old and new member states, NATO and non-aligned countries. Such criticism is valid irrespective of the willingness or ability of any individual country, in my case of Finland, to be a member of either one or both of such small groups. Fortunately, the widespread criticism of these proposals has lead to their rejection in their original form.
The first question was, why should we have wanted to establish a self-selecting inner group of countries to continue and develop on what we have just established and made operational in the Union’s ESDP? As we move forward in this field it should involve the Union as a whole. In Amsterdam we recognized the possibility of enhanced cooperation (although not yet for defence issues), but only ”as a last resort, when it has been established that the objectives of such cooperation cannot be attained within a reasonable period by the Union as a whole”.
The Convention’s proposal started out from an opposite premise, i.e. that a smaller group has to act as the avant-garde, without trying or even wanting to involve the Union as a whole. It is difficult to understand how splitting the Union and weakening its CFSP serves to strengthen Europe’s global standing and influence.
It is not surprising, that many harbour the suspicion, that such a proposal has less to do with defence than with the secret hope of a core group of countries to retain their role as guardians of the true European faith that the newcomers are perceived to threaten.
Rather than creating artificial core groups inside the Union we should concentrate on what capabilities the Union has to develop to enhance its crisis management. Very little or nothing that has been mentioned calls for excluding any Member State from participating fully with its contribution relative to its resources and in the decision-making. This remains the case also after looking at the latest Presidency proposal on structured cooperation, which could be implemented today by the EU at 25 without any new articles.
I would find the establishment of an independent European military staff for operational planning eminently sensible, although I do recognize the delicacy of this particular proposal for the NATO countries. But then it is not actually something that has or even should be included in a constitutional document but rather be subject to separate consideration later on.
As to flexibility, we already have it to a large degree of it in the ESDP. Not all of us will be building aircraft carriers or taking part in every future EU operation. Indeed, the Union’s operation in the DRC has involved only a few Member States as forces contributors. If need be, we can develop this flexibility further to allow the Union to effectively respond to crises. There will inevitably remain two red lines that cannot be crossed. Committing forces to operations has to be approved by each Member State – in Finland’s case by our Parliament – and we cannot allow a group of countries to use the EU ”trademark” without a mandate from the Union as a whole.
The new proposals submitted to the IGC for article 40.6 come some way to meet this criticism. It is important, that any structured cooperation be open to all, and that the criteria for inclusion in such cooperation has to be decided by the EU as a whole, and that EU operations be decided by the EU as a whole irrespective of what resources each operation would require.
The new proposals for article 40.7 or the so-called security guarantee article on mutual defence has also developed in the right direction, as it no longer involves only some EU Member States but is meant to cover all EU countries. Such an article raises the delicate question of EU-NATO and Transatlantic relations. For Finland it is self-evident that real and effective military guarantees in today’s Europe can only be given by NATO. If Finland were to give up its military non-alignment – a move for which there is neither need nor popular support in Finland today – it is to NATO we would send our application.
No European option is available, nor would the proposed security guarantee article create one, as long as activating such a commitment is dependent on NATO decisions. A clear and unequivocal reference to NATO is no solution either. It is inconceivable that the EU had an article in its Constitution to which adherence would require outside consent, that is approval of the US Senate and other non-EU signatories to the North Atlantic Treaty.
However, saying no to a security guarantee that would resemble and/or overlap article 5 of NATO or the WEU does not rule out coming to agreement on some article involving also enhanced solidarity in the defence sphere also in a way acceptable to all Member States.
The first ministerial discussion in the IGC was encouragingly frank and direct, but it did not continue. Instead the emphasis shifted to the discussions between the UK, France and Germany about a compromise acceptable to all. It is understandable that these three wanted to negotiate directly between themselves, as they together answer for the overwhelming part of European military capabilities and because everyone recognizes that no proposal acceptable to all of them cannot be agreed in the IGC. But obviously they also recognize that they can not impose their view on the rest of the 22 countries. This was not their intention either. They have kept the rest of their EU partners informed about their discussions.
The three finalized their proposals on articles 40.6 and 40.7 as well as the protocol on structured cooperation just in time to enable distribution of the text at the Naples IGC Ministerial Conclave last week. These proposals have largely been met with approval, but they need to be studied more carefully. In structured cooperation, for example, it is not acceptable that it should be a closed shop where those who join initially will later decide among themselves who may or may not join later.
As concerns article 40.7, the new proposal differs only slightly in wording but not in substance from the Presidency proposal, which was based on article 5 of WEU. Finland, Sweden and Ireland have made it clear that it cannot be accepted as proposed. Instead they have proposed an alternative wording for the article enhancing the already more than just implicit solidarity of the EU Member States if one of them were to be a target of an armed attack, but not going as far as to create an automatic commitment to a military response, which, as the second paragraph of the Presidency proposal makes clear, remains the domain of NATO. Our approach was immediately supported by quite a few NATO countries – both old and new members.
The newest proposal concerning article 40.6 by the Presidency, based on drafting by the group of three, seems to be a step backwards. The selective group idea is now more prominent and the proposal even includes language on how to suspend a Member State from this cooperation. The goal of this new form of cooperation is clear: The establishment of an effective military crisis management force capable of rapid reaction. But it still is difficult to understand why this future action of the Union should be based on exclusiveness, on the presumption that some members would not participate.
The IGC must come up with a Constitutional Treaty which strengthens the voice of reason and a commitment to effective multilateralism, which people and states also outside Europe expect of the Union. I remain confident that we can find the necessary compromises that are not only acceptable to all but also ambitious enough to allow us to make real progress in Europe’s contribution for a more secure world.