How EI2 is making CSDP (and the EU) obsolete
The EU of Italians
Europe’s balance of power is changing.
The 60th anniversary of the establishment of the European Economic Community (EEC) was celebrated by EU Member States with the issue of the Declaration of Rome, which was the crowning of the “EU of the Italians” which emerged after the European Debt crisis and the migrant crisis.
The general Franco-German predominance in the Union’s framework was, in fact, conceptually challenged by the actions of Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank (ECB), and Federica Mogherini, High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the Union (CFSP). While Draghi countered the more hawkish stances coming from more intransigent EU Member States, counter-balancing their political will with his quantitative easing and rescue plans, Federica Mogherini almost single-handedly spurred the Union into a path towards “a kind of Defence Union”, proposing to the European Council a “new level of ambition”.
She was given mandate to establish several structural changes to the Common Security and Defence Policy of the EU (CSDP) and she led to the creation, among others, of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD), and to the establishment of a military planning and conduct capability (MPCC) within the existing Military Staff of the EU (MSEU) and under the political control of the Political and Security Committee (PSC) – therefore not under direct control of Member States.
The ECB and the PSC, albeit acting in service to and under mandates decided by EU Member States, are arguably entities with capabilities overarching National boundaries, acting as single European entities, rather than as mere centres for European cooperation (where single States are charged to take the lead and coordinate with the others on specific, tailored actions). The actions of the “Italians” have created, therefore, the grounds for a potentially more “federative” or “confederative” framework of EU action.
Although greater cooperation in the domain of Defence is considered a positive development in principle by all Member States, as demonstrated by the Declaration of Rome, facts also show that the “Italians’ approach” is not the most welcome, and that if cooperating in this field, with some Member States taking on their role as “Leaders”, is one thing, another altogether is having an ever-closer integration – which would weaken the relative power of some European States, in favour of the absolute power of the Union. An unacceptable approach that only (some) Italians, historically, seem to like.
A security framework ripe for change
The European Union’s PErmanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), launched by Mogherini, sets as goals greater cooperation between EU Armies, the development of common technologies, greater intra-EU mobility for EU Armies and is built in cooperation with the existing Berlin+ EU-NATO framework, neither in subalternity nor as an alternative to the North Atlantic Alliance. On 25th June 2018, the 25 Defence Ministers of the Member States participating to the (at the time) 17 PESCO projects approved new developments to the programme, establishing the European Defence Fund (EDF), the European Peace Facility (EPF) and the “Erasmus of Defence”.
These actions aim at “enhancing the Union's ability to preserve peace, prevent conflicts and strengthen international security, by improving the financing of actions under the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) relating to military or defence matters and by enhancing the Union's capacity to flexibly adapt to evolving needs and priorities.”
The actual organization of PESCO projects, however, is by its very nature cumbersome, and has several limitations. It is, in fact, made possible also in the context of a multi-speed Europe, officially launched through the acquis of Scenario 3 of Commission President Juncker’s White Paper via the Versailles Statement by the Formidable Four (the Leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Spain) on 6th March 2017. Every PESCO process is, in fact, comprised of different pools of States and resources. This approach makes Structured Cooperation look like an Arlequin with no coherent vision, mission, nor sense of integration.
At the same time, US President Trump’s vocal criticism of NATO led Europe to trusting their historical Atlantic ally less and less, with French President Macron coming to state that the Alliance is currently “brain-dead”.
Moreover, the Brexit referendum forced one of the greatest security providers of the European Union to oust itself – a decision that does not make any strategic sense in the context of European Defence Cooperation, may it be led by either NATO or EU.
The status of the security framework in 2018, therefore, saw greater push for integration in European Defence by Mogherini, a cumbersome realization founded on disconnected sets of operational cooperation – arguably slow and impractical –, a weakening of the traditional Atlantic balance, the need for the United Kingdom to find a new way to frame its relationship with its European partners, and a dynamic, ambitious and somewhat ruthless President in the leading EU military power: France.
European Defence vs French-European interventionism
In September 2017, Emmanuel Macron very openly declared that “only Europe can give [France] some capacity for action in today’s world”. His approach to European integration is, in fact, truly traditionally French: the Union needs to always give France new possibilities to improve its international standing – not necessarily vice versa. In a European security framework ripe for change, Macron, on the same day in which PESCO countries launched EPF, EDF and the Erasmus for Defence, convened a meeting in Luxembourg and established the European Intervention Initiative (EI2).
Signed by the Defence Ministers of nine Western European countries, including the UK, the “Letter of Intent concerning the development of the European Intervention Initiative” states that “Europe is facing a highly unstable and uncertain strategic environment, subject to sweeping changes” and that “it has to deal with the greatest concentration of challenges since the end of the Cold War”.
The document, in its 5th Paragraph, states that EI2 is to be “a flexible, non-binding forum of European participating States which are able and willing to engage their military capabilities and forces when and where necessary to protect European security interests, without prejudice to the chosen institutional framework (the EU, NATO, the UN or ad hoc coalitions).
Moreover, liaison officers from participating countries are required to be deployed to France, acting as a kind of EI2 HQ.
Regardless of any other consideration on the other provisions of the text, the EI2 effectively ends the ambition of a common EU Defence Union.
Paragraph 5 states that EI2 exists to “engage military capabilities and forces when and where necessary to protect European security interests”. This means it is potentially offensive in its nature, unlike any EU Defence framework. In fact, the wording is far from being random. In EU CFSP, military capabilities are deployed in the framework of “Common Security and Defence Policy”. “Security” and “Defence” may involve offensive actions, but the wording suggest CSDP’s aim, at the very least nominally, to be of a defensive nature.
EI2 contains “intervention” in its very name and has a mandate to act where it is necessary to protect European security interests, which is a much broader scope and much more potentially offensive in nature.
The fact that the initiative comes from Macron’s France only fuels such an interpretation, being France currently actively involved in several war zones. As of 2015, around 10,300 French military personnel were deployed in overseas operations, mostly in the African Continent.
The greatest threat to the European Union
This only adds to the existing, and ever-evolving framework of military cooperation set out by the European Defence Agency (EDA). Managed in an intergovernmental manner, it is an EU Agency established in 2004, strictly subordinate to Member States, with European Commission officials much less involved in the entire governance process. At the time of its establishment, as well as to this very day, a large part of countries expressed their reluctance towards a Commission’s greater role in the CSDP and an actual integration of EU Defence capabilities through the Agency.
Researchers such as Anand Menon, Professor of European Politics at the University of Birmingham, emphasised the fact that the French narrative on unnecessarily doubled production, proliferation of technological standards and too national approach to defence procurement refers only to other countries. France seeks to defend both its national interests as well as the “juste retour” principle with particular regard to international cooperation programs. In Paris’s perspective, Europeanization is first and foremost equivalent to the country’s increased exports and investments in the internal market.
This also applies to Germany, a State whose intra-EU export of military equipment has drastically increased in recent years, also due to the liberalization of trade in the military domain bolstered by EDA.
Ironically, EDA is encouraging armaments production in Germany and EI2 is creating French-led European coalitions for interventions abroad, while at the same time making European integration in Defence obsolete – arguably nullifying the 1814 Congress of Vienna and European integration’s aim of containing Germany’s power at the same time.
Irony-fuelled hyperboles aside, EDA’s military market liberalization works functionally with EI2’s interventionist potential, and it does so well outside the checks and balances (as cumbersome and frustrating as they may be) of EU Treaties, in an optic of Power Politics that is not consistent with the spirit of Maastricht.
The attempt on the side of the EU of discouraging other Member States from imitating Brexit is made vain by new intergovernmental frameworks, which also partially cheat on the British popular will of abandoning the Union, de facto creating a slimmer alternative outside of its (still to be improved) democratic and regulatory framework. If time will prove EI2 successful, it will lead to the end of European integration in favour of not sugar-coated intra-European power politics. The risk is clearly outlined by reality and the present situation, and if the Conference on the Future of Europe will lead to EU Treaty reform in a style as envisaged by Macron, in the light of these facts, the European Union will soon lose all its meaning.
Lorenzo Canonico ha lavorato a Frontex nella Coast Guard and Law Enforcement Unit. Precedentemente ha lavorato in Analisi Strategica all'Europol, in Strategia e Comunicazione all'Agenzia Europea per la Cooperazione dei Regolatori Nazionali di Energia (ACER) e all'Ambasciata d'Italia e all'Istituto di Cultura Italiana ad Addis Abeba, in Etiopia.
Ha una Laurea Magistrale in Relazioni Internazionali e una Laurea Triennale in Lingue e Civiltà Moderne e Contemporanee, conseguite a Ca' Foscari ed ha studiato come field officer nell'ambito dei diritti umani alla Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna di Pisa e come Europrogettista.
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