A military constitution for the EU?

IssueDecember 2003 - February 2004
Comment by Tobias Pfluger, Andreas Speck

In July 2003, the European Convention presented a draft European Union Constitution, consisting of 260 pages, divided into four chapters, plus several appendices and additional agreements which will also have constitutional status. While this constitution puts all the different EU treaties (with the exception of Euratom) into one huge document, that's not all it is.

Even the European Commission had to admit that it “completely rewrites the originals”, as far as foreign actions and security are concerned. “[I]t develops the common security and defence policy and enables those Member States wishing to do so to enhance their capacity for action within a common framework.” 1.

A military EU?

For the first time the EU will explicitly have the competence to “define and implement a common foreign and security policy, including the progressive framing of a common defence policy”. (Art I-11 para 4.) Also new is a solidarity clause, demanding that EU member states “unreservedly support the Union's common foreign and security policy in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity” (Art I-15 para 2).

This second article could have serious consequences for those EU member states who are not (yet) members of NATO - their neutrality is at stake here, the EU constitution would turn them into de-facto NATO members without providing any rights within NATO. In addition, the military aspect of the EU constitution is one - if not the - central (new) element of this draft and the consequences are that individual member states would no longer have the power to block a common EU military policy.

Constitutional arms commitment

The draft EU constitution is also unique in one specific point: it includes a constitutional commitment to armaments: “Member States shall undertake to progressively improve their military capabilities.” (Art I-40, para 3.)

A new European Armaments, Research and Military Capabilities Agency will be responsible for ensuring that member states fulfil this commitment, and also for “strengthening the industrial and technological base of the defence sector” (Art III-212 par 1), with this wording the arms industry will, in future, be able to demand support as their constitutional right!

EU troops all over the world

The constitution not only establishes some form of EU military, made up of contingents made available by member states (Art I-40 para 3). It also - and again this is unique for a constitution - establishes that international interventions will be a EU task. EU troops will be used for “combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking and post-conflict stabilisation” as part of the war on terrorism (Art III-210).

This can only be decided by the Council of Ministers, without the involvement of any national or the EU parliament (Articles I-40, III-198 par 1)! The EU parliament will only be “consulted” and kept informed; it may ask questions - but that's all there is in terms of “democracy” (Art I-40 par 8, III-205 par 1 and 2).

Reality check

This is not just theory. At the EU summit in Thessaloniki in June this year, the EU's heads of government welcomed in principle Javiar Solana's EU military strategy [2]: “As a Union of 25 members, spending a total of 160 billion Euros on defence, we should, if required, be able to sustain several operations simultaneously. We need to develop a strategic culture that fosters early, rapid, and when necessary, robust intervention.” “If we are serious about new threats and about creating more flexible mobile forces we need to increase defence resources.”

Mirroring the Bush doctrine on preventive wars, the Solana paper goes on saying that “[w]ith the new threats the first line of defence will often be abroad [...] we should be ready to act before a crisis occurs.” In future, the EU - like the US - wants to be able to intervene, whenever and wherever it suits European interests. There is no difference between the USA and the EU in terms of quality - only in terms of quantity - with this far-reaching military policy.

The enemy is the South

“[...] Acting together, the European Union and the United States can be a formidable force for good in the world.” The analysis which is behind the draft EU constitution and the Solana paper sees the problem as being located in the South, in “failed states”, “international terrorism”, etc. The EU constitution and the Solana paper have to be seen as an attempt to develop the EU as the second super power, able to act with or without the United States, against those countries that pose a threat to the capitalist world order.

A military EU? It's up to us to prevent this from happening!