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Friday, September 25, 2009

A blank cheque

While the Irish government continues to play down the EU's ambitions in defence policy in order to get the Lisbon Treaty safely passed, some telling comments have been forthcoming from other Europeans this week, which give us some insight into the kind of agenda that Lisbon will effectively authorise.

First there was the news that French Europe Minister Pierre Lellouche was in favour of a budget specifically dedicated to EU defence, just as there is one for agriculture:

He said that, "In order to progress with 'defence Europe', it should not be that spending linked to security is completely separate from the EU's financial perspectives. Why should three member states contribute to the equivalent of two thirds of the military spending of the 27?..We need to put these questions on the table, in the same way as agricultural policy, technological innovation, or the environment."

He also confirmed that the French Foreign Office was already working on the establishment of the EU Diplomatic Force, which should only come into effect if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified, saying "In the Quai d'Orsay, we are already working on defining the nature, the scope, and the missions of this new service, in close relations with our partners."

We wonder if one of these partners was Ireland, seeing as they have not yet made a decision on whether or not they even want the Treaty yet? (or rather they have, but they're being given a second opportunity to make the 'right' choice).

And now we have the French Defence Minister Hervé Morin saying that he is "convinced" that the EU will have its own permament military headquarters in Brussels, and that it will not be possible to deploy tactical groupings of 1,500 soldiers without such a headquarters.

He suggested British reluctance is holding up progress towards this goal, but predicted that within "one, two or five years, we will end up with a command, planning and operations centre in Europe."

He also said he hoped that there would be "one day, a Council of European defence ministers" in Brussels, as there is for agirculture or foreign affairs ministers.

Of course, noone should really be surprised at this, given that the warning signs that France was chomping at the bit to move ahead with this have been there for a while. But this talk of actually creating an EU defence policy, funded from the EU budget, and with decisions taken by the Council of Ministers just as they decide on agricultural policy, is big news.

Meanwhile, the Polish government has announced this week that its top priority for its EU Presidency in the latter half of 2011 will be the development of a "European defence policy".

According to Coulisses de Bruxelles:

"Warsaw wants the EU to have a fleet of A400M military transport planes so it can independently carry out military operations outside Europe. The planes could be bought by a European Armaments Agency whose powers would be considerably strengthened. Poland is also proposing a deputy EU Foreign Minister in charge of security questions, and Warsaw wants the future EU Foreign Minister to take part in Nato meetings! One can only imagine the reaction of the Brits to such proposals, which will delight Paris to find in them a strong ally in the East."

The combination of all these statements is important. A dedicated EU defence budget, open to mistargeted spending and abuse on the same scale as the agriculture budget?

An unelected Deputy EU Foreign Minister as well as an unelected Foreign Minister and President Blair?

Presumably the feeling in Brussels is that once Lisbon is ratified, people can put forward all sorts of ideas for new jobs without bothering with any more pesky EU Treaties to authorise them. And allowing the Foreign Minister to take part in NATO meetings will no doubt be one of the inevitable consequences of allowing so much of the Foreign Minister role to go undefined in the Treaty. (He's going to look pretty out of place sitting there next to all the democratically-elected Foreign Ministers around the NATO table. Or maybe he'll eventually be sent instead and on behalf of EU ministers?)

On top of everything else, it is deeply worrying that these ideas are being discussed and touted behind the scenes, and the shape of the future of the EU's defence policy is being quietly nudged along in the Quai d'Orsay and other such locations, away from prying eyes.


AuntyEUnice said...

We don't need a multinational european defence force, with money being syphoned off to pay for it, along with the associated EU bells and whistles.
Germany has the largest army in the EU with France second, take half their armed forces and make them work together on military tasks, see how well they can get on. After all the EU was the bastard child artificially conceived to keep them at peace.

Anonymous said...

French foreign policy, Wave white flag, run away. All they are interested in is getting the best they can for french citizens, pity our politicians don't take the same stance.