IMI-Standpunkt 2008/047engl

Europe’s Militarization and the impact of the Irish NO against the Treaty of Lisbon

Paper presented at the Workshop Europe's military and defense poilcy, Attac Summer University, Saarbrücken, 2.8.2008

von: Jürgen Wagner | Veröffentlicht am: 3. August 2008


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What I want to do in my presentation is to describe the most relevant developments for Europe’s militarization since the year 1999. Furthermore, I wanted to say a few words about the driving factors behind this militarization. Finally, I want to outline the dramatic consequences for Europe’s further militarization if the Treaty of Lisbon would enter into force and to assess the impact of the Irish NO against the treaty and the further road ahead.

Europe’s militarization: The story so far

As mentioned, for decades, Europe’s security policy was de facto controlled by Washington (perhaps with the notable exception of France’s which abandoned NATO’s Defence Committee in the 1960s).

Therefore we cannot overestimate the importance of the decisions taken in the year 1999. Based on the Anglo-French agreement of St. Malo the year earlier, the European Council decided in 1999 to create an autonomous military capacity – a Rapid Reaction Force (RRF) of
60000 soldiers able to conduct military interventions around the world. Due to rotations and so on, this implied an overall size of about 180.000 soldiers for this nucleus of a future European army.

The catchword here was „autonomous“, as this implied that this Rapid Reaction Force can be deployed independently from NATO and therefore from the United States. This was a major new development: For the first time, Europe stated its ambition to emancipate itself from the United States not only in the economic but also in the military area. The initial scope of this Rapid Reaction Force which shall be ready for use within 60 days was 4.000 km round Brussels. It has been declared partially combat-ready in 2003.

Since the year 2000, the relevant bodies (Military Staff, Military Council as well as the Political and Security Committee) to plan military interventions were established. Thus prepared, the first ESDP-missions took place in the year 2003: Concordia in Macedonia, Artemis in Congo. Especially the mission in Congo is highly interesting because of two aspects: First, Congo is more than 4.000 km away from Brussels. Therefore the original – and not very restricted – scope of the European forces has finally been rebuffed, underscoring Europe’s ambitions to act as a global military player. Second, it was the first combat-mission being undertaken completely autonomous from NATO-assets and therefore from the United States which emphasizes the aspirations to act independently from Washington if interests clash.

The next big mission began in December 2004, when the SFOR-mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina had been taken over from NATO. Since then the European Union is sending its troops ever more frequently into missions around the world: Up to now, more than 20 such missions have taken place, most recently in Chad, Guinea-Bissau and in Kosovo.

In addition to the 60000 soldiers strong Rapid Reaction Force, in 2004, the decision was taken to create so called Battlegroups, highly flexible units consisting of 1500 soldiers each which are deployable within 5 to 15 days – even without a mandate of the United Nations Security Council. The first of the 22 planned Battle Groups has been declared operational in 2007.

In 2003, Germany, France, Belgium and Luxemburg gathered and stated their intention to establish an own European headquarter. As this would have been a further step away from Washington’s tutelage, the United States heavily objected this plan. Nevertheless, since early 2007, the so called Civil-military Cell, serving as the nucleus of a full blown autonomous European headquarter, has been declared operational – up to this point operational control had to be exercised by NATO or a national headquarter.

The rationale behind Europe’s militarization

The big question now is what are the driving forces behind this militarization? What are the guiding interests?

Besides the humanitarian rhetoric which only serves as a cloak to legitimize European wars, I think two interests are outstanding: First, it is the interest to militarily protect the neoliberal economic world order.

I think in the Attac context I don’t have to go into further detail what this all implies and how neoliberal policies lead to the impoverishment of large parts of the world. But I want to draw your attention on two aspects. First, Europe has surpassed the United States as international free trader number one, it is nowadays the main enforcer of the neoliberal order. Second, the European Union intends to spread the gospel of neoliberalism even more aggressively in the future. For this purpose, starting in 2005, the EU-Commission began under the title „Global Europe“ to work out a new strategy aimed at aggressively opening new markets all over the world. The result has been published and endorsed by the European heads of state and government in October 2007 under the title „The European Interest: Succeeding in the age of globalisation“.

Due to my limited space, I cannot quote from this document, but it is in my opinion up to now the most aggressive and direct commitment to what we term neoliberalism. However, France picked up the proposals of the Commission, integrated them into a document called „Euroworld 2015“ published in April 2008 and made them a key aspect of its foreign economic policy during the French European Council Presidency lasting until the end of 2008.

So, neoliberalism is alive and well in the European Union and there is virtually nobody who intends to reverse this failed policy. Thereby, the European Union consciously accepts that more and more people worldwide will further impoverish.

This decision has far reaching consequences on the question of war and peace and it is one important driver of Europe’s militarization. Because for all the talk about ethnic, religious or other reasons for civil wars in the so called third world, even the World Bank now admits in its studies that poverty is by far the most important root cause of conflict in the world.

So, as neoliberalism breeds poverty and poverty breeds civil wars there are only two options: Either one ends the neoliberal policies currently guiding the world economic system which is unfortunately currently not on the table. Therefore, there is no other option than to militarily cope with the conflicts in so called failed states which are immanent to the neoliberal system in order to guarantee the stability of the whole order.

In this context, the writings of Robert Cooper, Javier Solana’s chief foreign policy adviser and the main author of the European Security Strategy, are revealing. As a reaction to what he terms „chaos in the world“ he proposes that Europe should embark on a strategy he unmistakably calls „liberal imperialism“:

„Postmodern imperialism takes two forms. First there is the voluntary imperialism of the global economy. This is usually operated by an international consortium through International Financial Institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank…“

This commitment to neoliberal globalisation is accompanied by a more violent second component. Its goal is to militarily cope with the chaos and the conflicts, the neoliberal system constantly produces and to punish those who don’t share his enthusiasm about the „voluntary imperialism of the economy“: „Among ourselves we operate on the basis of laws and open cooperative security. But when dealing with more old-fashioned kinds of states outside the postmodern continent of Europe, we need to revert to the rougher methods of an earlier era – force, pre-emptive attack, deception, whatever is necessary to deal with those who still live in the nineteenth century world of every state for itself. Among ourselves, we keep the law, but when we are operating in the jungle, we must also use the laws of the jungle.“

This interest to deal with neoliberalism’s disastrous consequences in order to guarantee the stability of the whole economic system is the first major driver of Europe’s militarization.

The other outstanding interest behind Europe’s militarization is the ambition to guarantee the free flow of vital resources, especially oil, by force, if need be.

This goal has been explicitly enshrined in the European Defence Paper, the most relevant draft for a future European White Book on Defence published by ISS, the most important European think tank.

The European Defence Paper identifies vital interests, necessitating the use of force, if need be. One such interest is termed „economic survival“ and the necessary military mission is described as „Projecting stability to protect trade routes and the free flow of resources.“

The Defence Paper even describes concrete scenarios in which European troops shall be deployed. The presented scenario closely resembles the Gulf War in 1991: „In a state bordering the Indian Ocean, anti-Western elements in state x have seized power, and are using oil as a weapon, expelling Westerners and attacking Western interests.” The objective under such circumstances is: “… To help liberate the occupied territory and to obtain control over some of the oil installations, pipelines and harbours of country x.”

To sum up, since 1999, the militarization of the European Union is proceeding – in the now famous words of Javier Solana – with “lightning speed”.

This is a highly dangerous development. However, one of the main goals of the European Constitutional Treaty was to give a great boost to Europe’s militarization.

Militarism via the Lisbon Treaty

After the European Constitutional Treaty had been rejected by the population of France and the Netherlands in 2005, a slightly revised version, now called Treaty of Lisbon or Reform Treaty, has been prepared behind closed doors in the summer of 2007. It was finally signed by the Heads of State and Government in December 2007.

All key points of the Constitutional Treaty regarding the military aspects were transferred into the Treaty of Lisbon. As some of them would heavily force Europe’s militarization its elites intend to ratify the Treaty no matter what the cost, despite the fact, that the document was rejected by the Irish population in the referendum on 12 June. So let’s look a little bit more into the detail regarding the aspects relevant for the military area.

1) World-wide EU combat missions with an almost unlimited range of tasks
The Lisbon Treaty substantially enlarges the tasks for European combat missions. Article 43 (1) names among others “joint disarmament operations” a phrase dangerously reminding at the American argument for attacking Iraq, “tasks of combat forces in crisis management” and “post-conflict stabilisation” (Afghanistan, Kosovo) as well as “supporting third countries in combating terrorism in their countries”.

2) Solidarity Clause: Europe as a military alliance acting within its territory
With article 222 (1), the Treaty introduces a so called Solidarity Clause obliging all member states to come to the assistance of any member state subject to a terrorist threat or attack by all means necessary, including military ones. Thereby, the solidarity clause for the first time opens the door for using the military within the territory of the European Union.

3) Armament obligation by Treaty
Article 42 (3) contains the – up to now inconceivable – obligation to invest more money in the armament sector: “Member states shall undertake progressively to improve their military capabilities.” The European Defence Agency, which was established in 2004, is tasked by the Treaty of Lisbon to supervise the observance for this instruction.

4) Final institution of an own EU military budget
The currently valid Nice Treaty prohibits the institution of an EU military budget. This has up to now proved to be a considerable impediment for Europe’s militarists. Therefore, the Lisbon Treaty (Article 41) for the first time opens the door to establishing a defence budget, called “start-up fund”. The European Parliament will have no control over this budget.

5) No parliamentary or juridical control option of EU interventions
Only the heads of state and government can decide to undertake EU combat missions. The European Parliament in the Lisbon Treaty has only the right to be “heard” and “briefed” (Article 36), it may not participate in the decision. Since the European Court of Justice (Article 275) also has no influence in this area, the separation of powers in this decisive question of war and peace is de facto eliminated.

6) Core Europe – only those who lead the war, may participate in the decisions
As Protocol 10 specifies, only members who have qualified militarily by taking part in the most important arms programs and have created one or more of the already mentioned Battlegroups, may enter a „permanent structured cooperation“ which leverages out the consensus principle currently holding for the foreign and security policy domain (Article 46). The goal of such Permanent Structured Cooperations was revealed when Sarkozy proposed to use this instrument to build a „directorate“ in the area of military policy consisting of France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland. Therefore smaller countries could end up completely sidelined regarding relevant ESDP-developments.

7) Power Shift in the Council
Finally, with the Lisbon Treaty, the so called double majority voting shall be introduced in the most important EU body, the Council. Thereby, Germany will nearly double its share of vote in the Council from 8.4% to 16.73% (the other winners are France, Great Britain and Italy) while all other states will significantly lose influence. The Lisbon Treaty is aimed to introduce this dramatic power shift as normal practice starting in 2014.

The impact of the Irish No and the road ahead

So, without the Lisbon Treaty several key projects for the further militarization of the European Union cannot be realized: There will no military budget, no troops deployed within the European Union, no military core Europe and no power shift in favour of the big European countries.

These are the reasons why the Lisbon Treaty shall enter into force no matter what the cost, notwithstanding the rejection of the treaty by the Irish population on 12 June. The reigning EU-Council president, Nicolas Sarkozy, already declared that the Irish have to vote ones again in order to get the right result.

Moreover, Ireland is threatened with ejection from the European Union if its population should dare ones again to withstand the wishes of corporate Europe (this threat was articulated by the Foreign Minister of Belgium, Karel De Gucht, for example). This call for a new referendum is revealing quite a lot about the understanding of democracy of Sarkozy and other representatives of the self-proclaimed European elite. Democracy is fine – as long as it doesn’t interfere with core interests of this elite.

So, to conclude, we have to support our friends in Ireland! The Irish No-campaign proposed a Europeanization of their campaign under the title „No means No – No to the Treaty of Lisbon“ and I think it is highly necessary that Attac and other organizations will support this campaign.