After the coalition agreement signed by both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats on 11th May, some analysts casted a shadow on the solidity of the new British government. I will now just have a look on their respective programs regarding European Defence. Just to have an idea if this process could develop despite the new government.
Frankly I would say now. Nothing at all will happen, and even to reproduce what de Gaulle said when the United Kingdom bought the Polaris missiles to the USA in the 60’s, the LibDems could still abandon their ideas for some governmental seats.
Firstly, let us read the conservative armed forces manifesto. For instance, the NATO “should remain the cornerstone of (…UK…) defence”. Moreover, they “will therefore examine resources currently spent on bureaucratic and wasteful EU defence initiatives”. Which is rather surprising, is that all those provisions are already included in the Lisbon Treaty. Precisely the article 42 mentions that “the policy of the Union in accordance with this Section shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States and shall respect the obligations of certain Member States, which see their common defence realised in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), under the North Atlantic Treaty and be compatible with the common security and defence policy established within that framework”. Indeed, a restrictive reading of the Lisbon Treaty is not so far from the conservative stance. From the very beginning the Treaty has foreseen such cases of a country not willing to take part. Regarding the “wasteful EU defence initiatives”, we can say all right: give back the jobs you have in EU Military Staff (including the boss), the HQ for Atalanta and that’s it, UK will be no more involved in those wasteful initiatives. But I really do not believe so.
However the compatibility with the LibDems is more questionable. In Autumn 2008, the LibDems were more audacious. Then, strongly supporting the ESDP in their conference paper, “Liberal Democrats see the potential for ESDP as encouraging more EU countries to play their part in European and wider international security “.
“Moreover, the ESDP also has the potential to reduce the costs of defence to the UK taxpayer, whilst maintaining our defence capabilities and improving the safety and welfare of our armed forces. This potential arises partly from the prospect of the European Defence Agency being able to reduce the costs of procurement and improve inter-operability”. While on their side the Conservatives think, that “matters of enormous national sensitivity, such as defence procurement are better dealt through inter-governmental bilateral and multilateral negotiations, than through supranational institutions” like European Defence Agency.
Finally, what is the synthesis of those diverging views? For the time being: zero, nada, nichts. Their coalition agreement will be completed later on by a final agreement covering defence…
Such different views will not allow the UK to be a driving country as for European Defence refers. Therefore countries like France, which are more active in the issue will have to choose:
-Either the UK, which will remain at least very passive, although its defence policy and organization, with nuclear deterrence and expeditionary warfare knowhow is rather close from French one,
-Or, Germany, which is opposed to nuclear weapons and is in favour of a European Army, which do not match, but quite not the French views.
I will not be very optimistic on the capabilities of those three major countries to find an agreement on the issue.Author : f.