Last Friday, 8 May, the European Commission released two documents setting a path for defense and security cooperation within the EU. The reports will be presented in an upcoming discussion by the competent 28 Ministers on 18 May and the Heads of State and Government in the European Council of 25 June. The two documents have been drafted after an agreement of the EU leaders struck in December 2013.
The target is to support the technological and industrial base of the defense and security sector in countries which have a comparative advantage in this crucial manufacturing activity. Understandably, Britain, France, Germany and to a lesser degree Italy, Holland and Sweden are the main EU countries with a long tradition and a strong international presence in the lucrative business of production and sale of weapons and security systems.
Suppliers and buyers
Germany specializes in combat field armaments like high quality tanks, artillery and heavy weaponry. France produces advanced missiles and fighter jet systems and of course nuclear arms. Britain turns out a bit of everything touching defense, security and aerospace. The Dutch and Italian arms industry manufacture some specialties like war frigates and military helicopters. Every other EU country is basically a customer of the armaments industry, but they don’t always choose to buy European products and related services. The international market bursts with offers from many other producers of destruction and death systems.
In the international arena, competition between suppliers is a cut-throat business and the most renowned bribe cases refer to this dark trade. Very simply the fact that the cost of those ‘goodies’ usually comes to millions or even billions, the suppliers have the financial muscle to offer considerable bribes to buyers that is politicians and military leaders. Evidently, the frantic quest for customers doesn’t only have a financial meaning for the producers. Such sales also carry significant political implications tightening the bonds between the two sides. For one thing, the after sales servicing of the equipment binds the two sides for a long time. There is more to it though.
Research and development
The more customers a producer has, the stronger the ability to spend more on research and development of even more sophisticated death devices. Consequently, the hunt for customers has become literally a game of life and death in this affair. Obviously then, the few EU arms producers are quite distressed, watching their European Union ‘partners’ buying death ‘goodies’ outside Europe. In this respect, there is one more dimension. The peripheral EU countries are favoured by the EU budget spending through various programs which are being financed by the core and more affluent EU members. However, the former happen to be mainly buyers of armaments and the latter mostly producers.
Given the paramount financial and political importance of the arms trade, it is then quite logical that the core EU countries have been pressing hard towards something like an internal armaments market within the Union. Evidently it’s quite impossible to enact EU mandatory legislation, binding the buyers of arms among the 28 member states to choose ‘internally’ produced equipment. Something like that is inconceivable not only under the EU Treaties, but also in relation to the international commitments of the EU. So the thing had to be engineered differently. It had to be done through the Common Security and Defense Policy.
Common defense and security for the few
In the European Council of December 2013 the EU directorate of Germany and France, supported decisively in this by Britain, had it their own way. They managed to include in the final communiqué of the Summit this phrase: “Fragmented European defense markets jeopardise the sustainability and competitiveness of Europe’s defense and security industry”. The Council also ascertained that “The EU and its Member States must exercise greater responsibilities in response to those challenges (develop, deploy and sustain the military capabilities of Europe).
Obliged buyers of armaments
The European Sting had commented at the time that it’s not at all a simple matter to oblige the EU member states to do their arms shopping within the Union. The Americans and the NATO structures would never allow that and they have strongly reacted already. This is probably one of the reasons why the US again decided to land in force on European soil, thereby severing the EU from Russia. The opportunity was offered by the stupid Franco-German idea to instigate a civil war in Ukraine.
The Americans now favour the continuation of the bloody confrontation in the east of Ukraine, aiming directly at implicating Russia itself in the war. Their purpose is to ‘convince’ the Europeans, mainly Germany, that they still need the US nuclear ‘umbrella’ to face Russia. In this way the US will continue to be the preferred supplier of arms for practically all EU and NATO countries.
Still, the Europeans want to promote their initial idea to create a quasi common internal weaponry market, in the context of the Common Defense and Security Policy. Last week the Commission drafted the two reports mentioned above, where the following passage can be found “… the EU is indeed acting as a facilitator and enabler for defense cooperation to support Member States’ capability development”. This means the EU will help ‘some’ member states to act together in developing the defense capabilities including research and development in this crucial field. This could be done with various tools counting also on support from the EU’s structural funds.
Trying to save what can be saved
It is certain however that the Americans would never allow the EU to develop a hardheaded common defense and security volume. Given that it is impossible to create a closed internal market for weapons, Brussels aims at enacting an exclusive EU cluster in defense and security research. In reality, the EU is trying in this way to save what can be saved, after the Americans again invaded Europe through the Ukrainian door. To this effect, the Commission created a high-level group of personalities on defense research.
This committee will operate under Elżbieta Bieńkowska, European Commissioner for Internal Market and Industry. The Committee contains members only from countries already heavily implicated in the armaments manufacturing (Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands and Poland). As for the in force directives on the internal defense and security market (Directives on Defense Procurement and on EU Transfers of Defense-related products), they are completely toothless. They contain no mandatory provisions. Nonetheless, this might change in the future, but the needed concession of sovereignty and the US and NATO structures would emerge as an insurmountable obstacle.
What about the EU military forces which now serve under the European flag? Let’s follow the facts. During the last few years the Western powers led by the US and containing some EU countries on national consent, unleashed unprecedented military offensives in the natural resources rich regions of Middle East and Africa. In certain occasions the core EU member states understood that jointly they could become a lot more destructive. This was evident in Libya, Syria, Mali, Sudan and of course Ukraine. In view of that, the European powers also want to enhance the capabilities of the EU military force of 7000 men and women currently serving under a common EU mandate in the context of the Defense and Security Policy.
A European army?
In reference to this EU military force the EU High Representative and Commission Vice-President Federica Mogherini said that “…Building on this strong basis, we have now to do more – pool our resources, work more efficiently together and broaden our cooperation with our partners”. Obviously the partners are the Americans. Then she added that those men and women can “…promote the values of peace and human rights and working for stability and security in our region and in the world”. In short, the EU’s horizon is not restricted in the Mediterranean Sea, the Middle East and Africa but covers the entire world. It’s a bit far-fetched policy but some core EU member states in this way show a strong willingness to get implicated in every unbelievable campaign the US may undertake.
To sum up, the Brussels bureaucracy has adopted a mind-boggling rhetoric concerning the military aspects of the Union. Evidently, Brussels is trying to keep up with the frantic offensive action of the US. We all witness that Washington and its allies, mainly the British and French, are very active and one hit comes after the other. After Syria came Yemen and the initiative to re-instate Iran in the world. Seemingly the EU doesn’t want to stay idle watching the Americans changing the map of the world. Europe wants a cut.