No to a military European Union

On 29 October, the new constitution for the European Union will be signed during a special ceremony in Rome. It then needs to go through the ratification process in the 25 member states of the European Union.

The new European Constitution is not just a legal document of more than 300 pages - together with the European Security Strategy, which was approved on 12 December 2003, it will be a milestone in the militarisation of the European Union.

While the war on Iraq lead many antimilitarists to a focus on US militarism, it is important to not forget about Europe. This article gives a brief overview on the ongoing process of the militarisation of Europe.

A military constitution?

When the European Commission first presented the draft constitution, it had to admit that it "completely rewrites the originals" (the existing EU treaties) 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", so the Commission back in September 2003 [1]. 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-12 para 4). The new "solidarity clause" (Art I-16 para 2) is especially significant for non-NATO members, as it demands from EU member states to "unreservedly support the Union's common foreign security policy in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity"- NATO membership through the back door?

Disarmament unconstitutional?

The EU will have the only constitution in the world that includes a commitment to "progressively improve (...) military capabilities" (Art I-41 para 3), and a new "European Armaments, Research and Military Capabilities Agency" is foreseen to "identify operational requirements" - to make sure that member states don't fall behind in their military capabilities. This is not only theory - even before the constitution had been agreed on, the EU moved to establish a European Defence Agency, with the tasks mentioned in Article I-41 para 3. Not surprising, EU "foreign minister" Javier Solana reported to EU defence ministers in May 2004 that "the European defence industry is emphatic about the need for this agency" [2] - not surprising, as the EU's military spending is likely to increase.

EU troops all over the world

The constitution not only establishes some form of EU military (with 60,000 troops), made up of contingents made available by member states (Art I-41 para 3). It also - and again this is unique for a constitution - establishes that international interventions will be a EU task: "joint disarmament operations" (Iraq?), "military advice and assistance tasks, conflict prevention and peace-keeping tasks, tasks of combat forces undertaken for crisis management, including peace-making and post-conflict stabilisation" as part of the "fight against terrorism" (Art III-309 para 1).

Again, the EU is already implementing this. In 2003 the first military EU mission was operation Artemis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with up to 2,000 EU "peace-keepers". Presently, the EU has "police missions" in Bosnia-Hercegovina, in Macedonia, and in Georgia, and is preparing to take over from NATO's SFOR with the biggest EU military operation in Bosnia-Hercegovina in December 2004. Operation Althea will involve a force of 7,000 troops. It remains to be seen when the EU will make the step from "peace-keeping" to combat operations...

The EU is also developing its own military structures. A "planning cell" has been established at NATO's military headquarters in Mons in Belgium, at the EU will also strengthen its "operational strategic planning unit" at Cortenberg in Brussels.

Time to act

It is not too late to act. Although the new constitution will be signed by the EU governments on 29 October, it will then need to be ratified in all 25 member states. Some of the member states will do so by way of a referendum [3], and these countries might need to play a crucial role in a campaign against the militarisation of the European Union.

But laws (and constitutions) are first just a piece of paper - they need to be implemented, and this is also where resistance is needed. While the European military unites, we also need to develop some of our campaigns on a more European level, while at the same time keeping our focus at the grassroots (there are more than enough lobbyists in Brussels already). Would it be an idea to have co-ordinated nonviolent actions at military bases that host the 60,000 or so troops committed to the European Military, or bigger European actions at key installations (such as the Satellite Centre in Toledo in Spain, the "Planning Cell" in Mons or the "headquarters" in Brussels in Belgium)? The European Day of Action on 29 October (see the call "Europe in Bad Constitution") could be a good start.

Andreas Speck

Notes:

[1] Opinion of the Commission, pursuant to Article 48 of the Treaty on the European Union, on the Conference of representatives of the Member States' governments convened to revise the Treaties, 17/09/03.
[2] Summary of the remarks made by Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, at the meeting of EU Defence Ministers, Brussels, 17 May 2004, S0133104
[3] According to a BBC overview these countries are: France, Britain, Spain, Netherlands, Portugal, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ireland, Luxembourg. Some countries did not yet decide whether or not to hold a referendum.

Related seminars/workshops

Militarisation of the European Union, seminar 1902, Sunday 9.00-12.00