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Barbara Forbes: Developments in Common European Security


I have been asked to speak today about developments in common European Security. I realise that there is bound to be a considerable range of knowledge amongst those present, and I apologise to those for whom some of this is already familiar.

I feel that this issue is of crucial importance to peace tax campaigners in Europe - although it has been in the past more usual to concentrate on the national picture, we need to be aware of how we as taxpayers are funding a move towards the possible development of a European defence bloc.

Such a development would be in contradiction to the vision of the founding fathers of the organisations which became over the years first the European Community and then the European Union - Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman created the European Coal and Steel Union specifically as a peace-keeping organisation. Their idea was not only that this would make it impossible for France or Germany to re-arm in secret, but also to create a group of countries whose economies were so inter-twined that it would be unthinkable for them to go to war against each other.

The definition of Common European Security

The phrase ' Common European Security has gained currency since the signing of the Treaty of Union (the 'Maastricht Treaty') in 1991. It is contained in the section on the Treaty headed 'Common Foreign and Security Policy'. In considering Common European Security I shall be concentrating on the European Union and its relationships with the Western European Union and thus with NATO. I shall not be discussing the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) in any detail, as I feel that it is not a seriously significant player in the area we are looking at.

The section in the Maastricht Treaty entitled 'Common Foreign and Security Policy' (CFSP) includes the following objectives: "to safeguard the common values, fundamental interests and independence of the Union; to strengthen the security of the Union and its Member States in all ways; to preserve peace and strengthen national security;...."

So far, implementation of the CFSP has proved difficult in practice - the decision-making procedures are very slow, and the failure of the EU to have much effect in former-Yugoslavia has led to the perception that the CFSP is weak and ineffectual. However, there have been some 'successes', such as joint actions in controls of dual-purpose goods, the mobilisation of humanitarian aid to Bosnia, diplomatic involvement in the Convention on anti-personnel mines.

Decisions on foreign and security issues are taken in the Council of Ministers - in this case, the Foreign Ministers. The decisions are binding on all member states, who have agreed "to support the Union's external and security policy actively and unreservedly in a spirit of loyalty".

While there are some positive aspects of the European Union operating a common foreign policy, and even a 'security' policy (whatever is meant by this term), the Treaty also states:" The common foreign and security policy shall include all questions relating to the security of the Union, including the eventual framing of a common defiance policy, which might in time lead to a common defence".

The 'Common Foreign and Security Policy' has thus been turned, in the space of one sentence, into a 'common defence policy'.

How does this 'common security policy' operate?
In the Maastricht Treaty, the European Union "asks the Western European Union (WEU), which is an integral part of the development of the Union, to elaborate and implement decisions and actions of the Union which have defence implications".

A word about the WEU. This organisation was founded in 1948 for the provision of mutual defence guarantees for the states of Western Europe. Until the end of the Cold War, it was moribund and was not taken seriously by politicians nor by NATO, which regarded itself as the real defence organisation. Towards the end of the 1980s, the WEU tried to re-activate itself in a series of meetings leading to a statement in 1987 known as 'The Hague Platform' - in which it stressed that "the construction of an integrated Europe will remain incomplete as long as it does not include security and defence", and went on to describe how the WEU would contribute to the defence policy.

In the early 90s, leading NATO officials could still patronise leading WEU officials in public. NATO did not seem to be taking the WEU seriously. However, it does not need a conspiracy theory to assume that the WEU discussions of the late 80s had filtered through to be welcomed by the decision-makers in the member states - especially as members of parliament from each of these member states were meeting regularly in the WEU Parliamentary Assembly.

Two things happened which gave unexpected prominence to the WEU. Firstly, the WEU made a Declaration which is part of the Final Act of the Maastricht Treaty. Here, the WEU welcomes "the development of the European security and defence identity", implying that the decision to create a European defence union has in effect been taken.

The WEU declares its objectives as being "to build up WEU as the defence component of the European Union" and "to develop WEU as a means to strengthen the European pillar of the Atlantic Alliance" (NATO). in this latter role, the WEU will introduce into NATO consultations any "joint positions agreed in WEU", while at the same time acting "in conformity with the positions adopted in the Atlantic Alliance". It is not clear what procedure would be followed should there be a difference of opinion.

Since the signing of the Maastricht Treaty, the WEU has moved its office to Brussels. It has also developed its own military structures which can be used interchangeably with NATO. A grey area concerns the development of new generations of weaponry: the so-called Independent European Programme Group (IEPG), which operated formerly within NATO to work with armaments producers to streamline and coordinate armaments production, was moved to the WEU to form the core of the 'European Armaments Agency' envisaged in the WEU Declaration, although this Agency has not yet been developed. All the European Member States of NATO belong to this group - including Norway and Turkey, who are not members of the EU and can therefore not be members of the WEU. Their participation in the decision-making process is an added complication.

Secondly, NATO discovered that the WEU could be mobilised to go where NATO was prohibited from operating - namely, 'out-of-area'. While NATO has now abandoned this self-imposed limitation, there was a time when it did not allow itself to act outside the borders of its member states, thus emphasising its role as a defence organisation. The WEU, however, did not suffer from this constraint, and operated on behalf of NATO and using NATO troops and infra-structure in the Gulf and in former-Yugoslavia. This definitely did a lot to improve the WEU's self-esteem.

Although in EU matters it is the Council of Ministers which has the decision-making prerogative, the European Commission also plays a significant role. Writing in the NATO Review of November 1995, Commission President Jaques Santer looked forward to the revision of the Brussels Treaty which is at the basis of the WEU, saying: "We will have the opportunity...to enter into solid powerful joint defence commitments, and to make this an integral part of the European Union dynamics". He recommends "vigorous political negotiations with those states which have not hitherto wanted to join the WEU", namely Austria, Denmark, Finland, Ireland and Sweden.

Blurring of the boundaries
By now, there is an almost total blurring of the boundaries between NATO and the WEU. There are joint forces, double-hatting, triple-hatting, newly developed Combined Joint Task Forces which are available for NATO and for WEU operations - we on the outside are let wondering if it is a deliberate attempt to make it difficult to understand what is going on.

The role of the European Parliament
The Common Foreign and Security Policy belongs to those parts of the Treaty which are inter-governmental, i.e. purely a matter for discussion between governments. This means that the European Commission has no power to monitor the implementation of decisions, as it does in many other areas; all draft proposals, amendments and decisions take place at the summit meetings and in the Council of Ministers; the views of the European Parliament may, according to the Treaty, be "duly taken into consideration". In practice, this has so far meant that the relevant Committee of the European Parliament has simply been informed (some of) the decisions already taken by the Council of Ministers. The Parliamentarians are not provided with documents in advance of the Council Meetings, thus being in effect prevented from coming to an opinion based on full knowledge of the facts under discussion.

They have, however been discussing the matter for some time. The Parliamentary Committee for Foreign Affairs and Security has passed several resolutions on what it has called 'Common European Security and Defence Policy' (24.3.94). Many people in the NGO world are very keen on the European Parliament as a force which is slightly more radical than the other European institutions and which can be relied on to support positions which are contrary to the view of the Establishment.

However, this is far from being the case in security issues. The latest report under consideration by the parliament expresses the opinion that the European Union will not have any international credibility unless it has a genuine common foreign policy backed up by a security policy and a common defence. The report goes on to outline the perceived need for the ability to combine diplomatic action with military pressure and for one or more integrated command structures which can be used either by the WEU or by NATO; requests that the current multinational forces (Eurocorpe, Euroforce, Euromarfor, etc.) be integrated in a common security and defence policy and submitted to the authority of a clearly identified political authority; requests the re-consideration of Article 223 of the Treaty of Union in order to allow the development of large industrial groups which can respond to the armaments needs of the EU, with the related development of a common EU armaments production policy; and considers that France and the United Kingdom should place their nuclear weapons at the service of the protection of the European Union.

These are all suggestions which many of us here would not agree with, although I maintain that there has not been enough discussion in the peace movement about what we do want from he European Union. As t is, this draft parliamentary report touches on two issues which need to be discussed in more detail: the arms industry and the nuclear element.

The arms industry
Since 1989, the American defence industry has been experiencing a considerable resurgence, and looks today as if it might crush the more fragmented European armaments industry. Article 223 of the Treaty of Union effectively prevents the EU from having any role in the armaments industry, and many politicians from all parties have called for this article to be reconsidered to allow for the development of a European arms industry under the auspices of the EU.

In a recent speech at the Hague (17.10.96), Commissions Hans van den Broek stated that although the European Commission did not claim to play a key role in the field of armaments production, it could contribute to the policy and by ameliorating the social and regional consequences of a restructuring of the defence industry via the Konver programme. He compared the state of European defence today with that of Economic and Monetary Union ten years ago, and suggested using a European armaments policy as "the driving force towards a European Security and Defence identity, just as the Single European Currency has been the motor for Economic and Monetary Union". According to van den Broek, the state of the defence industry in Europe is alarming, and the governments need to work together to produce a phased programme toward the goal of an integrated European armaments base in a few years time.

Van den Broek outlined two priority areas:
the reinforcement of the role of the EU in security matters during the IGC discussions. The European Commission is favourable towards a progressive fusion of the EU and the WEU.
the creation of a 'Master Plan' so that all governments and institutions can unite forces towards the same goal at the same speed; the creation of a committee bringing together diplomats, the military and representatives of industry.

He cited two developments which he felt were successful: the Eurocopter, as a joint venture between Aerospatiale and MBB, and the fusion of the missile production between British Aerospace Dynamics and Matra Defence. On the inter-governmental front, he noted that France and Germany had developed a cooperation structure for arms programmes, and that Italy, the UK and the Netherlands were in the process of joining the new structure - a development which he felt was doubly welcome, since the WEU had failed to create the European Arms Agency requested under the Maastricht Treaty.

The nuclear element
The reduction of the US nuclear presence in Europe has led to a re-thinking of the European nuclear position. In 1994, a report of the Defence Committee of the WEU Parliamentary Assembly stated that it was "totally illogical to start implementing the CFSP without examining the role of the French and British nuclear forces in the definition of a common defence policy of the EU". And in November 1994, Mitterrand and Major agreed that "nuclear deterrence is at the base of European security".

We all remember the summer of 1995, when President Chirac resumed French nuclear testing - offering the development of a French 'Eurobomb' as the justification, although this was opposed by 13 of the other EU states. French Prime Minister Alain Juppe wants France and the UK to work together with Germany and Spain to construct a model of EU deterrence under which the control of the weapons would remain national, but the doctrines would become European.

Whatever else is decided at the IGC on defence issues, it is clear that the 15 Member States will not agree in the nuclear question. Ireland, Finland, Sweden and Austria have all officially expressed their opposition to a nuclear role for the EU and have rejected the nuclear weapons paragraph in the WEU position paper of November 1995. The UK is opposed to an EU nuclear role because it would violate Article 1 of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

However, there can be no doubt that the WEU is a mutual defence organisation, linked with NATO, with its guarantees based on nuclear deterrence. As France and the UK both have nuclear weapons, the EU could become a nuclear power by default. The WEU places great importance on the role of nuclear forces in the defence of western Europe, although it lacks any working group looking at the issues this raises.

Do we have any idea what the WEU is hoping to get out of the 1996 review of the Maastricht Treaty?
One of the issues to be addressed by the 1996 Inter-Governmental Conference will be the role and place of the WEU in future European institutional arrangements. Although it is far too early to predict what the outcome of these deliberations will be, influential voices are already being heard to the effect that a European defence capability is essential both for the EU and for NATO and that the construction of a 'European Security and Defence Identity' must be continued. Some of the building blocks for this 'defence identity' are already in place - and the WEU is not going to miss the opportunity of maximising its role in influencing the outcomes of the discussions of future developments in this field.

However, the good news is that the Member States are unlikely to agree, and the thinking on these issues has been influenced by the newest additions to the EU - Finland, Sweden and Austria. Opinions are divided between those who want to emphasise the concept of security involving the strengthening and proper financing of multilateral institutions (UN, OSCE) (e.g. Sweden) and those who want the military option(NATO, WEU), (France, UK). There are further divisions between those who believe that defence is a matter for nations and alliances of nations (UK) and those who believe that a European defence is a long-term and inescapable objective (France, Germany, Belgium.

Conclusion
To sum up then, it seems that there is a push towards the merging of the European Union and the Western European Union. All the main players seem to support this development, although there are question-marks over nuclear deterrence. None of the relevant decision-makers see a conflict between the EU-related role of the WEU and its role as a pillar of NATO. The role of the non-EU NATO members (Turkey and Norway) has not been resolved. There is also widespread support for a European armaments industry.

These developments seem to me to be taking place in a very slipshod way with the minimum of parliamentary scrutiny or public debate. Some sectors of the peace movement (certainly in Britain) seem afraid to grapple with the European dimension. We need to be active in disseminating information encouraging debate amongst ourselves, and working out strategies about how we can engage in constructive dialogue with the decision-makers. I look forward to hearing some suggestions on this last point.