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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

EU've just been Ashtonised!

An interesting op-ed in Le Monde from Bastien Nivet of the Paris-based IRIS think-tank notes,
"A new notion is beginning to dominate the debate on the international action of the European Union: the Ashtonisation of the EU. Inspired by the surname of [EU Foreign Minister] Catherine Ashton, this notion describes a skillful mix of lack of anticipation, reactivity and diplomatic coherence, of absence of strategic ambitions and leadership by the EU, and of the abandonment of a timid europeanisation of stakes in foreign, security and defence policy to the benefit of the re-appropriation of this process by some member states."
This is certainly an unfortunate neologism, but, as Nivet points out, this "Ashtonisation" is also a result of member states realising that the EU architecture is too unwieldy:
“Paris is about to succeed in the incredible challenge of reducing the ambitions and the interests of the European Security and Defence Policy at a pace and with an effectiveness that not even the most eurosceptic Britons would have dreamed of…Paris now seems to have come to a decision: what is ambitious will be done with the Britons outside of the EU framework, what is not will be done with them as well, within the EU framework.”
Monsieur Nivet concludes his piece with a warning: a number of factors are combining to make the EU an “Ashtonised actor, which doesn’t keep up with the global strategic changes under way.”



Rollo said...

The whole EU is ashtonised by this definition.

Leo Savantt said...

The conclusions of this article are open to question.

The EU's Lisbon Treaty (2007) renamed the European Union Security and Defence Policy, which confusingly was both a policy as well as a bona fide institution, which has deployed armed military and police missions all over the world. It is now called the Common Defence and Security Policy (CDSP). ESDP doesn’t exist anymore.

The CDSP is much more under the control of the European Commission than was ESDP, in which member states had more control. The article is also inaccurate in believing that France has decided to weaken the CDSP; far from it, France is making every effort to take more control of the CDSP. French military staff, including high ranking Generals are in very senior positions, and are overly represented in the CDSP.

On top of that the CDSP is planning to send a military and civilian force/mission to Libya, France and Italy are pushing for this hard. Lady Ashton is fully supportive, although lacking expertise or experience, she relies on French inputs for most matters relating to the CDSP.

Open Europe blog team said...

Thanks Leo. You’re correct that with the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009, it is CSDP (Common Security and Defence Policy), but for some reason the author of the article used the old acronym.

We didn’t necessarily take a position but merely conveyed what the piece said (though we certainly agree with certain elements). The article doesn’t seem to be saying, though, that France has stopped believing in the CSDP, but rather that it has realised that nothing ambitious can be achieved in the security and defence domain without the UK’s full support . The UK, as we know, is sceptical of EU defence and security integration, so the author suggests that France has little choice but to accept that defence cooperation has to happen outside the CSDP framework (i.e the recent Franco-British cooperation agreement).

Leo Savantt said...

It is hard to agree that France takes the position that it will have to act outside the CSDP framework, because of the UK's objections, I disagree with Bastien Nivet.

My experience is that this UK government fully supports the CSDP, although the MOD and forces might be more wary, the FCO certainly isn't. The coalition keeps quiet about this in public, mostly.

In fact I would go as far to say that recent Franco British cooperation agreement is actually a mechanism to enforce the CSDP on the UK, in a non transparent way.

Of course this is a matter of opinion I suppose, but there is less conjecture that might be imagined. I was a special advisor for a number of years to Lady Ashton’s predecessor, Javier Solana, the EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy; before becoming concerned that the EU is intent on building a military industrial complex, at tax payer’s unwilling and uninformed consent.

However, at least Solana knew what he was about, having previously been NATO Secretary General. Ashton is lost and totally unqualified; the French are running circles around her, especially in terms of the CSDP.

It can be argued that the Franco British deal is a clever way to bring the UK’s military capacity more under the French influence and therefore more dominated by the CSDP, which itself is French dominated; this is especially so as the Germans tend to be a bit silent or non-participatory.

Smoke and mirrors?