|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||29/02/96, Volume 2, Number 09|
The recent clash between Greece and Turkey highlights the conflicting aims of EU enlargement and a Common Foreign and Security Policy. Elizabeth Wise reports.
THEY may have been asleep, but EU governments are wide awake now, jolted out of their slumbers by Greek and Turkish cries just weeks before the Intergovernmental Conference begins.
If the rhetoric about 'common policy' had begun to sound true by virtue of repetition, Greek and Turkish anger has shaken that notion down to the ground.
Common policy only comes through common interests, and it is as clear as the Aegean Sea that EU governments do not always share mutual concerns.
The comments by US diplomat Richard Holbrooke that EU governments slept while Washington resolved an imminent naval crisis in the Aegean were, according to Dr Jonathan Eyal of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies, “painful but true”.
The forthcoming IGC has two stated goals: to render the notion of a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) more than just a notion, and to prepare for enlargement of the Union.
But the frightening reality is that one goal could almost cancel out the other, as 25 nations are sure to have fewer interests in common than 15.
Before allowing new members into the club, current EU member states must define the extent and limits of their hoped-for CFSP.
That definition will become a criterion for new members, as it did in 1994, when Austria, Sweden and Finland were tested on their neutrality stances. Although it forced them to redefine their non-alignment publicly, the debate was not very profound, and their varying degrees of reluctance to partake in military manoeuvres still leaves a huge questionmark over how - and indeed whether - the EU embarks on military operations.
Their neutrality also poses problems for the Western European Union (WEU), both in its current structure and in possible future plans for bringing the so-called EU defence arm fully under the Union umbrella.
Only last weekend, the WEU assembly adopted a declaration saying that it must be allowed to implement decisions “unaffected by any opposition from countries, regardless of whether they are neutral”.
The countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEECs) are present at WEU discussions as associate members. But WEU parliamentarians, anticipating the agency's incorporation into the Union, have already said that the EU should encourage members to participate in CFSP initiatives.
“Any progress towards the achievement of a European Union requires Europeans to state their resolve that they will jointly exercise the responsibilities incumbent upon them in the fields of defence and the organisation of a system of collective security covering the whole of Europe,” declared the WEU assembly.
Noble words, doubtless to be echoed repeatedly in Italian meeting halls during the months of the IGC.
But “the whole of Europe” has many frontiers, with varying importance for EU member states. While Paris watches Algeria, Stockholm wants to bring the Baltics closer to home, Vienna is wary of the rump Yugoslavia and Athens always has its eye on Turkey.
In some ways, it is unfortunate for the EU that the Soviet Union no longer exists as a monolith. This would make a CFSP easier to formulate and focus. In the space of only a few months, French President Jacques Chirac justified nuclear tests by saying the potential threat from the east had not fully disappeared, and then justified huge military cuts by saying “we are no longer threatened”.
With the Soviet threat effectively gone, the diverging interests of EU member states have taken on more prominence. The material requirements to handle those regional challenges are also more complicated, so much so that political analysts are starting to call for increased military spending.
Roberto Aliboni, of the Rome-based Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI), says the Union needs to maintain a technical edge in arms production, not just for the often-stated reasons of competing with American firms or maintaining jobs, but to deter potential threats from the far shores of the Mediterranean.
Although many EU governments have accepted the notion of more cooperation in arms production, none are prepared to give up a moment's sovereignty in taking military decisions. British fears that the IGC will create 'Jacques Santer's army', are far from being realised.
But governments will nevertheless have to consider several forms of security cooperation at the IGC.
While all agree that a member state should not be forced to send troops abroad by its EU partners, the 15 governments must decide whether foreign policy can be made by majority. The UK clings fast to its veto, but calls for greater efficiency have been growing since the day the Maastricht Treaty, with its rule on unanimous voting, was ratified.
One idea gaining ground is to set policy by qualified majority vote, but allow individual countries to invoke vital national interests and abstain from the mission.
However, some analysts say that if a member state is not allowed to protest against a majority decision, the risk of disintegration within the EU will be greater than the risk of any threat from outside the Union. “If you ride roughshod through the crucial interests of a member state, you will have a bigger explosion internally,” says Eyal.
Meanwhile, the idea of a 'Mr or Mrs CFSP' seems closer to becoming a reality, and the notion of a planning and analysis unit - based either in the European Commission or in the Council of Ministers - is gaining ground.
The WEU is scheming to create a sister unit in its own headquarters, called a 'situation centre', described by WEU defence ministers as an information-gathering centre for crises which would enable the organisation to take its own political decisions on the threat.
EU leaders must also decide whether the concept of the contact group used in Bosnia could be adapted to EU needs, although it has proved unpopular so far because of the Bosnia experience, where the UK, France and Germany not only dictated policy but kept countries such as Italy out. “The big boys were there because they were big, not because they had something to say,” says Eyal.
Eyal advocates establishing ad hoc contact groups of EU member states most directly involved to respond to specific threats.
But while a contact group of three members can make decisions more quickly than a group of 15, “there is a permanent trade-off between efficiency and democracy”, says John Roper of the Royal Institute of International Affairs.
EU common policy failed to flourish in Bosnia, argues Roper, because “we did not use EU structures to create the contact group, and we did not use WEU structures to create the Rapid Reaction Force”.
Inside and outside the IGC, EU governments must give serious thought to what will happen when US troops leave Bosnia. Will European troops still be commanded by NATO hierarchies and, if so, will the US still call the shots?
“It is quite normal for the Americans not to be involved in a crisis and still tell us what to do,” says Eyal. “A big power has no such contradictions.”
Eyal also advocates increased military capacity as a way of coming out of the Americans' shadows in places such as the Balkans. “We are like an 80-year-old man who wants to climb up a mountain,” he says of the Union's shortage of heavy artillery. “His heart is in the right place, but his body is not.”
First, however, the IGC participants must decide on what sort of power the EU should be. Should it stick to being a civilian power, the world's greatest donor of humanitarian, peacekeeping and development aid? Should it be a regional power, able to tackle problems on its borders? Or should it attempt to be a global power by winning - as many EU leaders have said they want - the political strength commensurate with the world's biggest trading power?
Faced with a challenge, the EU vacillates wildly. Afraid to chastise Athens for the embarrassing skirmish with Ankara, and yet unable to support it, the Union stumbled and mumbled its way through all of last week.
As the dispute over an uninhabited Aegean rock threatens the fate of EU-Turkey relations and the eventual enlargement of the Union (if Greece blocks the entry of Cyprus, how can Malta and the CEECs be let in?), EU governments watch in horror as an apparently small wave becomes a tempest which they are not sure they can control.
Sarajevo and Mostar will also become bigger disasters unless the Union can answer its questions about itself, and lay down a policy about when, where, and mostly, how, to act.
Those questions must be answered to avoid Roper's description of EU foreign policy makers becoming a reality: “We are manic depressives. Either we are convinced we can do everything, or we are convinced we can do nothing.”
|Subject Categories||Politics and International Relations|
|Countries / Regions||Greece, Turkey|