Friday, 16 May 2008

Steinmeier calls for European army

At the very moment when Irish voters are being reassured that the Lisbon treaty will not threaten their country’s cherished constitutional neutrality, the German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has spoken of the need for a European army. Addressing a conference of the Social Democratic Party’s parliamentary fraction in Berlin on 5 May 2008, Steinmeier started his speech with the old socialist greeting, “Dear Comrades” and immediately launched into the theme, saying that only a few years ago the title “Towards a European army” for a lecture would have seemed to be pure fantasy. “Today, after more than 20 civilian and military operations which we have run or are running from Macedonia to the Congo or in the Palestinian territories, it no longer sounds so distant or theoretical.” Steinmeier said that the EU could look back with pride over “15 years of common foreign and security policy” – i.e. since the ratification of the Maastricht treaty in 1993. He said that most of the operations conducted within the framework of the European Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) were civilian but added that the EU was always being reminded that military operations could not be excluded as a matter of last resort. “It is also a part of our European credibility,” he said. Steinmeier claimed that if opinion polls showed dissatisfaction with Brussels’ tendency to over-regulate the size of tomatoes or the length of bananas, Europeans wanted the EU to speak with one voice in foreign affairs.

Steinmeier said that Europe now had its famous “telephone number” – Javier Solana, the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy – but that the EU needed to go further still. He said that “a new era” would dawn with the ratification of the Lisbon treaty (recently ratified by the Bundestag). Saying that he was convinced that the treaty would enter into force punctually on 1st January 2009, Steinmeier said that it would give the Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy much more power than before, since the Representative would also be Vice-President of the European Commission and because he would have far greater resources than those currently at Solana’s disposal.

Steinmeier used the phrase “European Foreign Service” to characterise the new post, something which the British government energetically denied that Lisbon would create. “With the Lisbon treaty it will be possible for a group of states to go forward in security and foreign policy,” he said, referring to the fact that Lisbon allows subgroups of EU states to act in foreign policy as the EU without all states participating (or having a veto). Steinmeier said that France was shortly due to take over the EU presidency and that it had declared its intention to make security policy the cornerstone of its six-month stint.

Steinmeier said that France’s coming reintegration into the integrated military structures of NATO would strengthen the EU’s weight in NATO and NATO’s cooperation with the EU: the NATO summit at the end of 2009 in Kehl and Strasbourg would, he said, he a potent symbol for the Franco-German axis within the alliance. The creation of the Franco-German brigade was, he said, a nucleus for the new CFSP. He concluded his speech with a rallying cry. “We Social Democrats will definitely continue to struggle for a European army, for Europe to become a strong peace power, and against any backsliding into old thinking!” []

---- An excerpt from John Laughland's Intelligence Digest. For a free e-mail subscription to the Intelligence Digest, please click here ----

No comments: