The Euro-force dispute

At the Brussels/Laeken European Council meeting, Dec. 15-16, 2001, the ERRF (European Rapid Reaction Force) was declared «operational» a year before its scheduled launching in Dec. 2002. The force (rather ambitiously referred to as the European Army) will employ about 60,000 troops drawn from various EU members. The link between the EU and NATO has been of particular importance in the debate over the future of European defense. Of central importance is the issue of employment of NATO assets in case European NATO but non-EU countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Iceland, Norway, Poland and Turkey) and non-European NATO countries (Canada, USA) decide that certain conflict situations will not require a NATO response. As the EU does not have NATO’s experience or capabilities, the assets of the Atlantic alliance will remain extremely important in the short to medium term for the credibility and effective operations of the ERRF. NATO and the EU are cooperating organizations that have been converging considerably since the end of the Cold War, in the sense that NATO has turned to a more political agenda while the EU has begun a process of militarization with its Common European Security and Defense Policy following the Franco-British St-Malo Declaration of Dec. 1998. Leaving aside the wider implications of this convergence, we will concentrate on the range of functions and the projected area of deployment of the newborn Euro-force. The ERRF is mandated to perform the so-called Petersberg tasks. These tasks were named after the 1992 Western European Union declaration which was issued at Petersberg, a venue near Bonn. The tasks in question cover (1) humanitarian and other rescue operations (including the possible evacuation of EU citizens), (2) peacekeeping operations, and (3) other forms of international crisis management. In Dec. 2001 a US-UK-Turkey report (referred to as the Istanbul paper) implicitly proposed the «exclusion» of future ERRF operations in the Aegean and Cyprus. This, being a particularly sensitive matter, has led the Greek government to seek and gain postponement of the whole question, leaving it for future presidencies to handle. The international media, as a result, embarked on a rather unhelpful treatment, painting Greece as obstructionist. Few analysts noted that the Istanbul paper was not a formal EU or NATO document or declaration. We will leave aside the question of whether three countries (two of which are not EU members) acted wisely in bypassing the EU mechanisms of decision making. Instead of trying to do the impossible (as there is no EU/NATO consensus on this particular issue), we suggest a set of practical innovations in the structures of both NATO and the EU. We believe that such innovations will render the whole discussion about inclusion/exclusion of specific regions virtually irrelevant. We propose the prompt establishment of two dispute settlement mechanisms that should be created simultaneously by NATO and the EU. These mechanisms will include members and applicant countries of the two organizations. Implementation would proceed in two steps: (1) All states (members and candidates) make a legally binding commitment not to employ force or threaten the use of force in their bilateral relations. (2) A conflict-resolution mechanism be devised not only to stop violence erupting in the EU but also to arrive at commonly agreed solutions. Needless to say, a comprehensive, well-informed and intelligent discussion about how best to establish these mechanisms will be needed. What we are simply proposing is the need to break out of the current zero-sum relationship of defining in advance which regions the ERRF could operate in. Instead, we should move on with a «win-win» approach where all parties involved stand to gain from an arrangement that excludes the war option. Our proposal builds on the declared willingness of all EU and NATO members and candidates to belong to one club and to conform to previously agreed (legitimate) rules of behavior. The added utility of our proposal is that it needn’t be limited only to bilateral disputes but could include intrastate conflicts as well. The creation of a genuine security community (in the sense used in the ’50s by K.W. Deutsch) would be the greatest achievement in the remarkable process that theoreticians call European integration. (1) Prof. of international relations, Athens University & director general, Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP). (2) Marie Curie Experienced Researcher Fellow, ELIAMEP (2001-02), and Jean Monett Chair, Reading University, UK.