EU security and defence industry prepares positions for ‘producers’ and ‘customers’

Angela Merkel, German Federal Chancellor and Francois Holande, President of France (from left to right) arrive together to the European Council room. The French President seems to describe with his gesture, how efficient the French fighter-bomber planes are. The Chancellor must have responded that the German Leopard tanks are equally effective on the ground. (Council of the European Union Audiovisual Services 19/12/2013).

Angela Merkel, German Federal Chancellor and Francois Holande, President of France (from left to right) arrive together to the European Council room. The French President seems to describe with his gesture, how efficient the French fighter-bomber planes are. The Chancellor must have responded that the German Leopard tanks are equally effective on the ground. (Council of the European Union Audiovisual Services 19/12/2013).

The fast track sovereignty concession in the sphere of the economy, that the European Union and more so the Eurozone has recently scheduled for the coming years, with the accomplishment of the European Banking Union, was yesterday mirrored in the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy. The EU leaders who met in Brussels yesterday for their end-year European Council had a thematic debate on defence policy and they did exactly that, by agreeing on more sovereignty concessions in the sphere of defence and security policy. The fact that the two issues, namely the completion of the Economic and Monetary Union and the development and strengthening of Europe’s defence industry, were the only two issues on the agenda of the 28 leaders was not at all a coincidence.

Suddenly, the big core countries of the EU and more specifically of Eurozone, the ones which write the agenda of the summits, found that the “Fragmented European defence markets jeopardise the sustainability and competitiveness of Europe’s defence and security industry”. This is a clear reference to the fact that many EU and Eurozone countries, while receiving economic support from Germany, keep buying their armaments and other military ‘goodies’ from the United States.

Of course this is not a simple matter. The parallel structures of EU and NATO had bestowed for decades the responsibility of Europe’s strategic defence to the latter, of course under the guidance of the US. This is a fact that cannot be sidestepped easily. The Press release published by the 28 leaders explicitly recognises that. The introductory statement says, “The Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) will continue to develop in full complementarity with NATO in the agreed framework of the strategic partnership between the EU and NATO and in compliance with the decision-making autonomy and procedures of each”.

Partners but not that close

However, before this passage there is a more interesting phrase. It goes like this, “The EU and its Member States must exercise greater responsibilities in response to those challenges (develop, deploy and sustain the military capabilities of Europe) if they want to contribute to maintaining peace and security through CSDP together with key partners such as the United Nations and NATO”. There are two important issues in this passage. Let’s take one at a time.

Firstly the EU is recognised as an independent CSDP agent, separately from its member states and probably above them. This is the true meaning of sovereignty concession in the security and defence policy. Of course, once the EU takes the prerogative in planning the future in this sector, the big powers will take the lead. This arrangement will make the countries with a large armaments industry as suppliers and the small and weak will be the customers. Given that armaments, apart from being hideously expensive toys for their initial purchase, tie the customer to the supplier (service, spare parts, etc.) for all the life span of the defence system in question. In short, it reminds countries like Greece, that they should show “greater responsibility” when buying armaments.

At this point it must be reminded that Greece has just incorporated in its air defence coverage a Russian (!) missile system, the famous S-300. This must have been a major discussion point yesterday between the Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and a number of EU leaders in the corridors of the Summit. Not to forget that the Secretary-General of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, was also attending the EU Summit.

Now let’s pass to the second message incorporated in the above mentioned passage of the Press release, the one referring to CSDP “key partners such as the United Nations and NATO”. This is also a direct recognition that Europe has emancipated itself from the military hegemony of NATO. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is referred to here on an equal footing as the UN. In short, Europe and its member states consider their affiliation to those two organisations as equally important. In this way the NATO participation of any EU country produces the same obligations as the participation in the United Nations.

Producers and customers

The real meaning of it is that Greece, Italy, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Czech Republic, Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Croatia are not any more supposed to buy US defence systems in order to comply with their NATO obligations. Their obligation towards this Organisation doesn’t any more produce ties of that kind.

Point 6 of the Press release further clarifies this issue, “The Union remains fully committed to working in close collaboration with its global, transatlantic and regional partners. Such collaboration should be further developed in a spirit of mutual reinforcement and complementarity”. In free translation, the Union’s commitments (mind you not those of Member States, thus emancipating the EU from any obligation its Member States still have) to work with collaboration with its transatlantic partners (US, Canada) come second to its global duties.

It also means that the EU, by being now a global player, has to base its ambitions on its own defence industry and stop scattering its buying power on outsiders. Now the EU has its own global targets and to this effect ” The European Council emphasises the importance of supporting partner countries and regional organisations through providing training, advice, equipment and resources…”. As if this was not enough, “Pooling demand, consolidating requirements and realising economies of scale will allow Member States to enhance the efficient use of resources and ensure interoperability, including with key partner organisations such as NATO”. The Organisation is again referred to in a ‘by the way’ manner. What is important relates to ‘pooling demand’ and ‘realising economies of scale’. Of course the economies of scale within the Union will be appropriated by the sellers of armaments.

The target is to make Europe’s (that is German and French) defence industries world leaders in this lucrative market. To do this, “Europe needs a more integrated, sustainable, innovative and competitive defence technological and industrial base (EDTIB) to develop and sustain defence capabilities. This can also enhance its strategic autonomy and its ability to act with partners. The EDTIB should be strengthened to ensure operational effectiveness and security of supply, while remaining globally competitive and stimulating jobs, innovation and growth across the EU”. It won’t be exactly across Europe, because innovations and jobs will be created in Germany, France and why not Britain, while the rest of the above mentioned many EU Member States will be simple customers.

All in all, it is clear now that the sovereignty concessions won’t be limited to finance. The security and defence lucrative sector will be next, with clear cut roles for ‘producers’ and ‘customers’.

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