Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Link of the Day: Charles Grant on an EU Military

Primary version of this post, with visual content, at Barry Stocker's Weblog

Charles Grant, ‘How to Make Europe’s Military Work’, Financial Times, 16.09.09

Grant is one of the best pro-European integration analysts and writers around. There is a link to the Centre for European Reform, where Grant posts papers, on the Favourites Sites section of Barry Stocker’s Weblog.

Grant has an interesting position, because his sense of the value of European integration is well adapted to the series of disappointments to that cause, since Denmark voted against the Maastricht Treaty in 1993 (before accepting it with opt outs). Grant has good ideas about how to make progress within the constraints of existing public opinion, and the resistance of governments to co-operation. He does not sound like he is planning a top down big spending highly centralised union, which some EU federalists some do seem to want. Further integration, and federalism, do not require the EU to take over public spending in the EU and increase the competencies of Brussels bodies in all fields. Some Euoe-federalists have such a vision, it’s important to put the case for a more de-centralised and flexible form of federalism. It would certainly be a good idea for more people to grasp the difference between federalism as such, and what some hardcore Euro federalists propose. I’m not able to say if Grant would wish to endorse my approach, but what he says is very useful for such an approach.

What Grant points out in his FT opinion piece, is that the EU is divided between states which spend a lot of money on military budges (more than 2%, which is not very much but is the upper end post-Cold War spending), and states which spend rather less. States are also divided about how willing they are to contribute to defence projects, including peace keeping operations and interventions outside the EU. Germany is constrained by memories of Nazi aggression; on the other hand Britain and France have had a constant tradition of being present throughout the world over centuries. As Grant also points out, the EU on paper can call on impressive sounding military resources which are unlikely to be released in any real situation.

Grant’s suggestion is that an EU military core group should be founded, with similarities to the Eurozone. That is the military core group should only consist of those countries, which can best pass entry qualifications of military capacity and the willingness to use it for peace keeping, and for full scale military operations, like the anti-Taleban campaign in Afghanistan. This would enable those EU states which are unwilling to spend money on the military, or who are highly pacifists, or neutralist, to keep out of unwanted obligations; while allowing those who think the expense and genera risks can be justified. It would also mean that the EU was dealing with real military capacities, not impressive sounding but purely notional capacities.

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