A Sight on European Defence

In the perspective of the development of European Defence (I prefer to precise: in the long term, very long term perspective of…), some comparisons are regularly made on the different conditions or limitations to the use of armed forces on national soil.

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This is the focal point of a question raised at the German Parliament on 30th August by Mr Gysi and its parliamentary group, belonging to the opposition and named “Die Linke”. Of course Members of the Parliaments are everywhere authorized to ask the administrations about any of their tasks and the legacy of their action. However, this question is a good indicator of the additional costs generated by some constitutional provisions established in some European countries, while in other ones, everybody would regard the contribution of military assets to rescue or police tasks as an obviousness.

This is not the case for Germany. History and a constitution strictly containing the Bundeswehr to the external action regularly lead to such questions, where “Die Linke” wants to make sure that the German Armed Forces operating in support of Schleswig Holstein police are strictly under the command of police forces and do not violate in any aspect the constitution. This question is for sure firstly a political one, as military helicopters fly everyday in Germany in support of the civilian authorities, as you can see on the video of the TV series titled “Rettungsflieger”. Therefore such a support is nothing new and should not raise any concern., as support to police could be looked at as an extension of this already existing cooperation.

However, in the hypothesis of defence forces coming together, as intended by the German government (as I already wrote on a post dedicated to the German views on a European Army), the question on the respective role of armed forces on national territory should be worth at least being compared: two main partners, France and the UK authorize or have authorized it: the UK in Northern Ireland until recently, France, still today in the framework of the war on terrorism.

Such a picture (from the blog: http://maisonducombattant.over-blog.com) is absolutely unthinkable in Germany and some other European countries. Nevertheless, nobody in France, even not the German tourists, would suspect that such provisions would constitute a crime against democracy.

Should the European Armed Forces be subject to a harmonized regulation? For the time being, it is not needed, as the police tasks respond exclusively to the national field of competence. Furthermore, the article 276 of the Treaty of Lisbon clearly prohibits the Court of Justice of the European Union to review the validity of police operations carried by the Member States.

However, one point could be improved, for sure: the capability for armed forces to perform assistance tasks in support of another Member State, under short notice, in case of humanitarian disaster.

Getting support from the neighbour should become a normal case and no more as an in extremis support. Our armed forces are under permanent pressure to reduce their strength, manning and equipment. Thus, all those exclusively sovereign tasks as Germans did in 1997 for the Oder-flood, will certainly be performed with more and more difficulties, due to the always more scarce assets and units, if considered exclusively on a national basis. Without getting into a mutualisation of the assets, lifting already in peacetime the caveats preventing a quick and efficient multinational support would be a significant progress in the protection of our citizens.

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