Tuesday, 24 June 2008

EU Parliament seeks larger role in foreign and defence policy

It is well known that the role played by the EU in the international arena would be enhanced if the Lisbon Treaty goes through. On 5 June, the European Parliament adopted two reports on the impact of the Lisbon Treaty on the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and on the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). Obviously, the European Parliament wants to have a bigger role in these areas. The European Parliament adopted by a large majority (520 votes in favour) Jacek Saryusz-Wolskin’s own initiative report on the Council’s 2006 Annual Report on CFSP. The European Parliament welcomed the “improvements” introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon regarding external action, the CFSP and the ESDP, which will become the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

The European Parliament has stressed the necessity of improving EU political unity in order to strengthen the CFSP. Under the Lisbon Treaty, there is an overall transfer of further political power to EU level, through the new President of the European Council and the High Representative on Foreign and Security policy. All these changes would eliminate or diminish the ability of Member States to conduct their own foreign policy. The intergovernmental nature of the CFSP is maintained under the Lisbon Treaty however it increases the areas in which QMV would be applied to CFSP matters which includes decisions on proposals presented by the High Representative, all of which is unacceptable.

However, the European Parliament wants to scrap the veto on CFSP matters. According to the European Parliament, the Lisbon Treaty improves the existing CFSP arrangements but “further efforts are needed in order to streamline the decision-making process as regards foreign policy with a view to overcoming the veto power and introducing qualified majority voting.” The European Parliament has called for further transfer of power from the Member States to the Union. If the Lisbon Treaty goes through, the Union would not only have a “foreign affairs minister” but also a European external action service (EEAS), meaning a diplomatic service with delegations in several countries. The organisation and functioning of the EEAS will be established by a Council decision, acting by a QMV, on a proposal from the High Representative after consulting the European Parliament and obtaining the consent of the Commission. The European Parliament has stressed its right to be consulted on the establishment of the EEAS. Obviously the creation of the European external action service will challenge the distinction of European and national foreign policy priorities and interests. The Member States would no longer represent themselves but the Union on the international stage.

The European Parliament also adopted Helmut Kuhne’s own initiative report on the implementation of the European Security Strategy (ESS) and the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) by a large majority (500 votes in favour). According to Geoffrey Van Orden MEP, Conservative Spokesman on Defence, “This report is a manifesto for an EU takeover of our armed forces – the greatest prize for the federalists and their ambition to create a state called Europe.”

The European Parliament has invited the High Representative to include in a White Paper major proposals endeavouring to improving and complementing the European Security Strategy (ESS), mainly “the definition of common European security interests and criteria for the launching of ESDP missions.” The European Parliament has also called on the High Representative “to define new targets for civilian and military capabilities (…) and to reflect on the implications of the Lisbon Treaty with regard to ESDP and proposals for a new EU-NATO partnership.”

The European Parliament has welcomed the Lisbon Treaty’s major innovations in the area of ESDP such as the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, a European External Action Service, a provision on mutual defence assistance, a solidarity clause, permanent structured cooperation in the field of defence and an extension of the “Petersberg tasks.” The Common Security and Defence Policy would be further developed under the Lisbon Treaty. There would be a major transfer of power in this area from the Member States to the Union. The Lisbon Treaty would further the Union’s defence integration. UK relations with the rest of the world and NATO would be undermined. The Lisbon Treaty also introduces a provision for “permanent structured cooperation” between a group of Member States, allowing greater cooperation in the area of capabilities. The aim is to move forward in military and defence integration. It is a step towards a Single European Army. As this would not be enough, the European Parliament has asked the Member States to examine the possibility of possessing (under the terms of permanent structured cooperation, and as foreseen in the Lisbon Treaty) existing multinational forces such as Eurocorps, Eurofor, Euromarfor, the European Gendarmerie Force, the European Air Group, the European Air Coordination cell in Eindhoven, the Athens Multinational Sealift Coordination Centre and all relevant forces and structures for ESDP operations. As regards civilian crisis management and civil protection, the European Parliament has called upon the Commission to look into the possibilities for setting up of a specialised unit within the European external action service aiming to ensure a more coherent approach to civilian crisis management based on better coordination of internal EU instruments. Moreover, the European Parliament has stressed the importance of strengthening the conflict resolution civil capacity and consequently urged the establishment of an EU Civil Peace Corps for crisis management and conflict prevention. Furthermore, the European Parliament has reiterated its opinion that its is unacceptable that although the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports hits its tenth year in 2008, it is not yet legally binding. The European Parliament has stressed the need for the EU to have a leading role on strengthening the international arms control regime.

Geoffrey Van Orden has spoken against arms trade being surrendered to EU control. He has said “Britain is fortunate to possess the largest and most successful defence industry in Europe. Strategic industries and British jobs would be put at risk if the EU was allowed to bind us with more of its bureaucratic red tape.” The European Parliament has also called on the Council to assess the Battle Group concept in order to create a more extensive catalogue of available capabilities and to be in a position to promptly generate a force adequate to a mission’s circumstances. It also wants to set up within the EU Operations Centre a permanent planning and operational capability to conduct ESDP military operations. The MEPs have also proposed “to place Eurocorps as a standing force under EU command and invite all Member States to contribute to it.” Keeping in mind the training of those European forces, the European Parliament has called for a military ‘Erasmus’ programme. The European Parliament has welcomed the Commission’s proposals for a directive on defence procurement and for a Directive on intra-Community defence equipment transfers. The MEPs have stressed that the European Parliament should adopt a recommendation or resolution before the launch of any ESDP operation and have asked the Council to include in a decision authorising an ESDP operation a reference to a recommendation or resolution adopted by Parliament.

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