A Sight on European Defence

Mr Di Rupo has been tasked by the King of the Belgians to explore the possibility to form a government after the anticipated legislative elections, which took place in spring. The scenario of 2007, when it took several months to form a coalition, seems to play again, as Mr Di Rupo has to negotiate with 7 different and in some cases opposed parties, while Belgium has taken over the presidency of EU Council until end of this year. Because of this situation, the effective political role of Belgium could be reduced down to 3 or even 2 months, reducing to a vanished dream all the previous ambitions. However those coalition negotiations are not the purpose of this post.

Some days ago, looking at the documents I still have to exploit for this blog, I could find in my folders an analysis downloaded some days ago, and written for the Real Instituto Elcano by Mr Sami Andoura and titled “the Belgian EU Presidency Setting Europe Back into Action and Laying the Future Institutional Groundwork”. Knowing perfectly the Belgium political life and its European policy, Mr Andoura concludes this analysis with a sentence that stroke me: “therefore the relative weakness of a government expediting current affairs coupled with both the European savoir-faire and vision that characterizes Belgium represents an opportunity to be seized for the new Lisbon institutions, a unique chance for them to truly take hold”.

For a while, I have been longing for a political impulse for European Defence. However, every time a Member State has tried to put it on the desk during its 6-month presidency, it has not really progressed at the level of ambition initially expressed. Reading this sentence of Mr Andoura’s study, I remembered the early times of European Economic Community, where the populations did not have that much a say in the matter.

The current Belgian situation could even be positive for European Defence: supported by the highly experimented Belgian administration, the EU institutions, of which the European External Action Service could have a larger freedom of action to develop on their own way, thus balancing the lack of political leadership and guidance. It can be good: administrations not being under the pressure of the voters, it can make proposals and discuss solutions that a politician could not afford to.

Undoubtedly in most of the EU fields of competence, Mr Andoura statement is valid and it is quite possible, that Belgian administration along with the relevant EU institutions take over some tasks in order to go forward with the implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon. Indeed some slow downs generated from time to time by a non-efficient presidency could be lifted by a technocratic leadership.

However, as for Defence refers, the results of this statement could apply in a relatively thin part of European Defence issues. Defence is one of the few fields where about 99% of the assets and money are still in the hands of the nations, as Defence will remain for a while, in accordance with the article 42 of the Treaty.

Therefore the possible improvements of Common Security and Defence Policy lay exclusively in the results of direct negotiations between the External Action Service, the European Parliament, the Commission and the Secretary General, and then only CFSP governance could improve. In no way, a better coordination of the 27 defence policies or armed forces could be reached. More commonality would be out of reach, as well, which should be a goal.

To explore further those rotating presidencies, I don’t think they are able to impulse a real development of European Defence based on the institutional framework. Time is simply lacking. In contrary, multilateral or bi-lateral approach gives the opportunity to unfold thorough negotiations and to scrutinize the way ahead.

To conclude I would say:

As for CFSP refers, nothing to expect from the Belgian presidency, or from any other presidency, at least at a visible horizon.

At least, and this is already a great point, EU institutions manpower will not be distracted from its main tasks by an hyperactive presidency claiming to change everything with only poor results at the end, because, 6 months, any way are too short for shaping the EU.

On the topic, you can find here some links with previous posts:

http://europeandefence.blogactiv.eu/2010/07/04/defence-eu-parliament-goes-on-nibbling-at-eu-council-freedom-of-action/

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