Lundi 22 Avril 2019  

N°124 - Quatrième trimestre 2018

La lettre diplometque
Entretien exclusif
Diplomatie & Défense
La lettre diplometque
La lettre diplomatique Haut
  M. / Mr Armand De Decker

Europe, a global power in the making

By Armand De Decker, President of the Belgian Senate and President of the Assembly of Western European Union

It was doubtless too soon at last December’s summit in Brussels to adopt the European Constitution. The Intergovernmental Conference had not had the time it needed to “digest” the important contribution submitted by the Convention. The political climate in a number of major countries of the enlarged EU did not lend itself to the political concessions that have been necessary at all important stages in the process of European unification.
All is not lost, however. The Irish Presidency is very skilfully sounding out the possibilities for a compromise. After all, it had been possible to reach agreement on the major part of the draft Constitutional Treaty and a number of decisions that are important for Europe’s future role on the international stage had already been taken during the course of the negotiations. Thus, for example, the adoption of the European security strategy, which Javier Solana had the merit of defining, has broken the long-standing taboo that holds that Europeans are unable to agree on a common vision of international relations that would be in their own interest.
I would very much welcome it if it were possible to adopt the draft Constitutional Treaty during the first half of 2004. This would give much-needed impetus to the European Parliament election campaign in June. However, a series of fundamental problems first have to be solved. The fears of those who are concerned about losing major farming subsidies or allocations from the regional structural funds run too deep. Conversely, there is an equally deep-rooted suspicion on the part of those who want to make sure that no additional expenditure can be made without their agreement. The issue of voting rights which was placed at the centre of the December discussions is therefore not the only issue at stake in a conflict of interests running right through the ranks of the member states. I am confident that the Irish Presidency will do its utmost to achieve success, even though the timing is very tight.
Thus we have very little time left in which to clarify a number of essential questions to which no satisfactory answer was given in the recent draft submitted by the Italian Presidency.
This is the case in particular for the chapter on security and defence. Moreover, I prefer to use the term “military policy” rather than “defence”, because I think it is important to respect the sensitivities of certain member states. In my view it is urgent to update concepts inherited from the cold war. Since the so-called Petersberg missions were drawn up in 1992 by the Ministers of WEU (Western European Union), Europe’s military policy has been focused on crisis situations calling for civil or military intervention. The Petersberg missions, which now also specifically include the fight against international terrorism, encompass all military operations with the exception of territorial defence. Indeed, European states are not in a position these days to assume the defence of their territory on their own. Furthermore, for the European members of NATO, territorial defence remains part of the collective defence commitment entrenched in the Alliance treaty.
Nevertheless it is essential, in particular with a view to the EU’s future strategic autonomy, that solidarity among the member states should be entrenched in the EU Constitution. Following the extensive solidarity that now prevails among the member states in the economic and financial fields and in the area of trade, the next logical step is to give Europe a degree of strategic autonomy that is commensurate with the international responsibilities it must assume by virtue of its economic power. Only if there is political and military solidarity among its member states will the European Union be able to acquire the status of a global power.
Whether in the Balkans, the Caucasus or in the Middle East conflict, Europe will only be able to play a more active role if it is backed up by credible capabilities.
It is certainly not our intention to turn Europe into a military superpower. Nevertheless we know that it is sometimes unavoidable to have recourse to force in order to maintain peace and stability or to defend our vital interests. We must prepare Europe for that purpose. Once that is done, no-one else will be able to deploy a more promising combination of civil and military instruments for the preservation of peace.
Just as it did for crisis-management operations, WEU has paved the way for the EU in the field of collective security and military solidarity. Indeed, Article V of its founding treaty – the 1954 modified Brussels Treaty – stipulates that should one member state be the object of an armed attack, the others will afford it all the military and other aid and assistance in their power.
Hence, if the second attempt to adopt the Constitutional Treaty should also fail, WEU would remain the sole legal framework for closer cooperation among European states in the field of security and defence policy.
All EU states that are also members of NATO may accede to WEU. For the moment all EU member states are either signatories to the modified Brussels Treaty or have association agreements with WEU.
The proposal to incorporate a mutual assistance clause in the Constitution gave rise to a lengthy and highly controversial debate in the negotiations during which many conflicting drafts were put forward. I myself proposed the following form of words for a mutual assistance clause: “The member states owe each other mutual aid and assistance using all means at their disposal”. I think everyone could accept that.
The second major unresolved issue is that of the democratic – hence interparliamentary – scrutiny of the European Security and Defence Policy. Since the ESDP is subject to the intergovernmental method, the only form of scrutiny that has any claim to democratic legitimacy is that exercised collectively at European level by the national parliaments. They after all are the ones to vote the national defence budgets that provide the funding for European operations and they are the ones which, together with the governments, take the decision to deploy troops for EU-led missions. National parliamentarians must also assume heavy responsibilities and console families when the lives of European soldiers are lost on such missions.
The European Parliament, while it must be kept properly informed about Union foreign policy, bears none of those responsibilities.
Hence, as regards this specific area, we wish to see a clear statement in the Constitutional Treaty about the prerogatives of the national parliaments to be exercised at European level. For the ESDP of the Union to make any headway, it must have the support of the citizens of Europe, through their national parliamentarians.
This is why my colleagues from the other national parliaments and I are calling for an EU Constitution that clearly states the obligation of the EU Council of Ministers to submit an annual report to an interparliamentary assembly for European security and defence policy created within the EU and composed mainly of members of the national parliaments of the member states. That assembly would be the body responsible for the collective scrutiny of the Union’s intergovernmental activities in the area of security and defence.
By means of such a provision the Constitution would establish the right of the national parliaments meeting at European level to be informed and consulted in order to confer on the ESDP the democratic legitimacy without which it cannot develop harmoniously. Only the national parliaments, working in complementarity with the members of the European Parliament, can provide the ESDP with the political and financial support needed for the development of a European global power ensuring peace, stability and progress.
Retour en haut de page

La lettre diplomatique Bas
  Présentation - Derniers Numéros - Archives - Nos Liens - Contacts - Mentions Légales