The Militarisation of the European Union

by Frank Keoghan (Peoples Movement Ireland)

A paper presented by Frank Keoghan, Sec. Peoples Movement (Ireland) at the First International Conference Against US/NATO Military Bases – Dublin, Nov. 2018.

In 2017, Jean Claude Juncker, EU Commission President proclaimed that: “By 2025 we need a fully-fledged European Defence Union. We need it. And NATO wants it.”

Now, Brussels has signalled that military union is the preferred next stage of EU integration. This development is facilitated by the Lisbon Treaty, or EU Constitution, which obliges Member States to support the EU’s security policy “actively and unreservedly in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity” (Art 24.3 TEU). In 2016 Juncker called for a “security union with the end goal of establishing a European army” while the EU Parliament called for the EU to upgrade its military to be able to use “its full potential as a world power” The Lisbon Treaty contains a mutual defence clause (Art.42.7 TEU) and a separate obligation to participate in an EU “common defence”, - an EU Army. Furthermore, “The common security and defence policy shall include the progressive framing of a common Union defence policy. This will lead to a common defence when the European Council, acting unanimously, so decides.” (Art.42.2 TEU).

“Member States shall make civilian and military capabilities available to the Union for the implementation of the common security and defence policy …. Member States shall undertake progressively to improve their military capabilities.” This last provision is a commitment to continual arms build - up amongst EU States – exactly what is envisaged in Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).

The Lisbon Treaty also established the European Defence Agency (EDA), which identifies “operational requirements, promoting measures to satisfy those requirements and…shall participate in defining a European capabilities and armaments policy…” (Arts.42.3 and 45 TEU). This body is now the focus of continual lobbying by Europe’s arms manufacturers, who continually push cross-national integration and a common security and defence agenda.

The European Council decided just months after the Britain’s Brexit referendum to increase the emphasis on EU militarisation in response to calls by Germany. Britain had opposed greater EU cooperation on defence, seeing this as the preserve of NATO. Now, the Franco-Germans and the Brussels bureaucracy could press ahead on military matters without Britain restraining them – though nuclear – armed Britain has pledged to continue military cooperation. The Lisbon Treaty explicitly recognises the NATO alliance as the prime forum for the collective defence of its members and EU military policy as complementary to but separate from NATO’s. (Art.42.7 TEU and Protocol No.10).

But, “The current level of cooperation between NATO and the EU is unprecedented,” according to Elżbieta Bieńkowska, internal market commissioner, while the Conclusions of the July EU Council called for ‘further deepening of EU-NATO cooperation.’ This was reinforced by NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg, following the July NATO summit: “We just finished a fruitful meeting on NATO-EU co-operation. Over the past two years, we have achieved unprecedented levels of cooperation and we have been working together in 74 concrete areas.”

In his “State of the Union” address delivered in September, Juncker emphasized his demand for the EU to play a united, powerful role in global policy, repeating verbatim formulations used by German politicians to promote a more aggressive German military policy. He called for “Europe to get off the side-lines of world affairs.” It should no longer be a “mere commentator on international events.” The EU must finally act as a “global player” and take “its destiny into its own hands” and must become an “architect of tomorrow’s world.”

A primary focus in Juncker’s plans was the EU’s militarisation, promising that he would “work day and night,” to see the European Defence Fund and Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) become fully operational. He is also contemplating “to increase defence spending by a factor of 20.” In 2017 the Council of Ministers established PESCO under Arts.42 and 46 TEU. These commit the participating Member States to” the principle of a single set of forces;” to increasing their military spending to reach specific monitored target levels, and to providing troops for EU combat missions.

At the same time the EU Commission proposed the establishment of a European Defence Fund, EU defence chief, Federica Mogherini, calling it “a historic day for European defence.” Up to 2020, the defence fund will receive an annual €90 million from the EU's budget – to which Ireland is a net contributor - for military research, and half-a-billion euro for military development. It is projected that the fund will spend €49bn between 2021 and 2027 on research into new military technologies, such as robotics and cyber defence. The EU Council asked the European Investment Bank to support these projects and it has recently changed its rules. Horizon 2020 an €80bn research programme has also allocated significant funds for military programmes.

In October, German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen, said that the structures for a European Defence Union have been “activated.” “The structures that have been ‘sleeping’ for a long time inside the Treaty of Lisbon; we have activated them. That means we now have a legal framework for a European Defence Union, we have a joint planning process, so that as Europeans we can also develop a structure that tells us when we are going to use our forces.” EU military interventions in Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East are titled “peace-making” or “peace-keeping”. Troops wear EU uniforms on these missions. Their actions are supported by the European Defence Agency, the EU Satellite Centre and the EU Military Committee (EUMC). The latter oversees the EU Military Staff (EUMS) headquartered in Brussels.

Simultaneously, the EU Commission is continuing the fortification of the EU’s external borders. The European Border and Coast Guard was established in 2016, with a force of 1,500 members. Original proposals estimated that this would increase to 10,000 by 2027; but a recent proposal by EU Commission President Juncker, accelerates this timetable by seven years. He aims to spend €1.3 billion to add an additional 10,000 border guards by 2020. The powers of this proposed force are particularly notable. It would operate with executive powers and its own equipment, being deployed “wherever and whenever” along the EU’s external borders, as well as in non-EU countries. Its equipment is to include “vessels, planes and vehicles, available to be deployed at all times and for all necessary operations.”

It can send its soldiers even if the destination country doesn’t want them, and member-states surrender the legal right to have a monopoly of force within their own borders. For the first time there will be a pan-EU military force with the right to go anywhere it wants within the EU.

There are also eighteen EU Battlegroups, each able to deploy 1500 men speedily from different Member States on a rotating basis. Ireland will participate in a 2019 EU Battlegroup, forming a "significant element" within a German - led battle group on standby.

And will Brexit diminish the effectiveness of an EU Army? Well, the old imperial powers, Germany and Britain, have signed a “joint vision statement.” It provides for common steps in training missions outside Europe, in the “fight against terrorism” and in weapons development.

And last month, it was decided that Britain (and US) will have access to PESCO on a case-by-case basis after Brexit. “The invited third state should provide substantial added value to achieving the objectives of the individual project (contributing with resources or expertise),” creating a permanent link between Brexit Britain and the EU Army.

A review by the Bundestag earlier this year determined that Germany could legally finance French or British nuclear weapons on German soil in exchange for their protection. The EU could do the same, if it changed its budgetary rules. Germany could be granted shared control over the use of warheads under a “dual-key” system and German ruling circles have renewed a debate about “going nuclear.” A “Euro-bomb” with a German finger on an EU nuclear trigger would be an important step on that road.

Meanwhile, France is planning a €37 billion seven - year revamp of its nuclear arsenal and it seems increasingly likely that they will be able to provide an EU nuclear capability. Upgrades to France’s land-based and sea-based nuclear deterrent will be part of the astonishing €300 billion to be spent by 2025. German bases and German financing would enable it to pose as a guarantor of EU security.

NATO’s 2018 Summit Declaration characterises the EU as a “unique and essential partner for NATO,” and speaks of a “strategic partnership” between the two organisations while agreeing that capabilities developed under PESCO be available to NATO and be “complementary and interoperable”.

“Our security is interconnected,” the document stipulates, while confirming that “EU efforts will also strengthen NATO.” Both will encourage member states that belong to only one of these organisations to participate in the initiatives of the other. Alignment with NATO is expressed in PESCO’s founding documents and reiterated by the EU leadership at every opportunity. And on 18th May last, the EU Military Staff was confirmed as a “guest mission partner” of NATO’s “combined federated battle laboratories network.”

The joint Summit declaration identifies military mobility as a priority and the EU, plans to invest €5.7 billion in the project during the 2021–27 budgetary cycle. Then there’s the nuclear-armed European Intervention Initiative (EII) launched in July. This development is facilitated by the enhance cooperation provisions of the Lisbon Treaty (Art. 20 TEU). Ten EU states including France, Germany and Britain have signed up, prepared to act outside the EU’s borders without help from NATO or the US. The initiative involves “joint planning work on crisis scenarios that could ‘potentially’ threaten EU security.” This is a potential vehicle for post Brexit military co-operation outside the EU framework and would combine Europe’s only two powers with both the military capacity and the strategic will to use force overseas—Britain and France — with a handful of smaller, but willing, EU states.

But there’s also a belt and braces approach implicit in the creation of an ‘anchor army’ in which currently, the Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and, significantly, Netherlands have place significant sections of their armies under German control and command. This army’s function is unspecified but is plainly a shadow EU Army in case of failure of the Commission’s plans.

On 13 June the Commission proposed a new €10.5bn Orwellian “European Peace Facility,” an instrument outside the EU’s long - term budget, which would improve the EU’s ability to “prevent conflicts, build peace, and guarantee international security.” Federica Mogherini, said: We are taking measures that will facilitate the rapid movement of Member States’ forces in Europe. Furthermore, with the Commission’s support, I am proposing the establishment of a European Peace Facility that will improve the financing of EU military operations and improve our support for actions by our partners.”

The fund would facilitate the EU’s contributions to “peace operations” led by “partners” such as Somalia and the Central African Republic in the shape of “infra-structure, equipment or military assistance,” which Mogherini confirmed could include the purchase of weapons. No wonder Macron, said in April that “Europe has its destiny bound with Africa!”

Only last month, bipartisan legislators in the US passed the National Defence Authorization Act (2018), which includes €5.75 billion to finance the “European Deterrence Initiative,” building military capabilities of EU states near Russia, and contributing to the further militarisation of the EU. Other additional funds support an increase in EU/US military cooperation. This, despite member-states questioning the commitment of the US to European “security,” following Trump’s campaign statements.

Overall military spending in the EU countries totals some €200 billion annually. 2 per cent of GDP has been pledged by members of PESCO, to be spent on weapons development and procurement.

If Germany alone reaches the agreed target of 2 per cent of GDP, it will have a military budget much larger than the putative enemy’s; Russia’s—and that’s by 2027. (The 2018 Russian military budget is €48.64bn, while Germany’s is €38.03bn). In 2016, the EU 28 spent €206bn, while France spent €43bn and Russia €42bn. In 2016, Irelands’ military spending was the lowest in the EU and one of the lowest in the word at 0.3% of GDP; in real terms around €960m per annum, so, the potential Irish military expenditure to reach the 2% level demanded, is an unbelievable €6bn+ per annum or half the total national health budget, our biggest budget item! This is absolutely staggering!! In 2016, the highest levels of military expenditure in the EU were in Estonia (2.4 % of GDP), and Greece (2.1 % of GDP).

Aside from the considerable moral, political and ethical considerations associated with militarisation and the increased risk of conflict, this is an appalling waste of resources at a time when the poor are getting poorer and the rich richer.

The constitutional amendment permitting Lisbon’s ratification in Ireland included the sentence: “Ireland affirms its commitment to the European Union…” So, Ireland, a supposedly neutral independent State has affirmed a constitutional “commitment” to a superior entity made up of other States sharing the common objective of creating an EU army!

Recently, the biennial delegate conference of Connect, Ireland’s largest engineering union, unanimously adopted a motion calling for Ireland’s immediate withdrawal from PESCO.

This illustrates a growing public awareness that the cost of involvement in PESCO, represents a new priority in government expenditure, to the inevitable detriment of public goods such as housing, education and health. This, at a time, when members of the Irish Defence Forces and their families are forced to apply for supplementary income benefits because of poor wages and conditions.

According to the EU’s statistics agency, in 2016, 117.5 million people in the EU were threatened with poverty or social exclusion – 23.4 percent of its population; corresponding closely with statistics from 2007. The EU has proven incapable of reducing poverty – particularly in the peripheral states. The concentration of resources in Western EU centres of power – and above all in the German hegemonic pole, continue to fuel the EU’s ambitions to achieve “global player” status through the creation of an EU military – industrial complex and attendant EU Army in close partnership with NATO. Eventually, all military bases in the EU will effectively be NATO bases.

And last week, Finland brought the number of members of the EII to eleven, while Macron, on the centenary of the ‘war to end all wars’, called for an EU Army – a call supported days later by Merkel in the EU Parliament. Astonishingly, the Commission expressed ‘delight’. One shudders to contemplate their sentiments in the event of conflict!

And so, the rush to an EU Army continues at an alarming pace. The much - vaunted EU ‘peace project’ has morphed into the EU war project, led by former colonial powers eager to plunder the resources of poorer countries. They have issued a call to arms and we must respond with a call to action, while those of us in EU Member States – including Ireland – must ponder and discuss whether we wish to continue to be members of the EU war machine.

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