A Sight on European Defence

Lately, Mr Robert Walter, chairman of the WEU Assembly, or more precisely ESDA (its new name) published on ESDA a statement named “Parliamentary scrutiny of CFSP and CSDP: the way forward“. More recently, in exclusive release for a blog named “Mon Blog Défense“, Robert Walter detailed his views on the issue.

Mr Walter being a UK Conservative is for sure not a federalist. May be he is even a eurosceptic person. I do not mind. What I read from him is extremely pragmatic, taking into account the European reality, without building castles in the air.

Among his arguments the fundamental one is that Common Foreign and Security Policy, even after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty remains an intergovernmental issue.

Indeed the power of European Union as for Defence issues refers is extremely weak. A good example could be the following one: out of the 27.000 EU employees, about 200 are from the military. Except some badges on shoulders, there are no EU soldiers, and there is no defence budget.

Even more, who is paying for the security of Europe?

Firstly the USA, and among the Europeans, a few countries, while the other ones maintain defence forces only for pacific tasks where the danger is minimized. Therefore the following sentence of Protocol N°10 of Lisbon Treaty remains the best proof of this intergovernmental approach: “the performance of these tasks is to be undertaken using capabilities provided by the Member States in accordance with the principle of a single set of forces”. When the capabilities are provided by a Member State, which pays for it, the Member State decides. That’s so simple.

Until now, no agreement could be found among the Member State to alleviate this stupid principle of “the costs lie where they fall”. Concretely a country decided to take part to an operation is in front of three disadvantages:

1. It pays, from its own budget, the largest part of its participation to the operation, while the Union, some months later can give him a warning shot for its budgetary deficit.

2. Solidarity will remain mainly verbal, and as soon as the situation on the field worsens, even verbal solidarity will be too much.

3. In case of difficulties on the ground (casualties, collateral damages, etc), the national support to the operation will decrease and could go until the fall of the government.

In such conditions, although I am personally a strong supporter of European Defence, I can only support a strong and efficient scrutiny of national parliaments on European Defence issues.

If the wish of Mr Walter to establish a permanent and light structure to maintain the scrutiny of the national parliaments in replacement of the WEU assembly is to be supported, I fear that it fails: to reach this objective, he would need political support, at least from the country presiding the Union. His hopes were lying on Belgium, which is not in the best situation when looking at the current political crises, to negotiate such a structure with the partners.

By the way, in order to confirm, that EU Defence Policy is far from really existing, you can have a look here

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