EU ministers call for strengthening of defence policy
THE FOREIGN ministers of 11 EU countries have called for a strengthening of European security and defence policy, including the removal of national vetoes in key areas so one country cannot block common initiatives.
The call was made by a group assembled by German minister Guido Westerwelle, who is a diminished political figure having lost the leadership of his pro-business Free Democratic Party.
The other ministers are from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain. Their report on the future of the EU makes it clear that not all suggestions in it were unanimously approved.
However, it pointed to sweeping advances in EU integration and said certain unnamed ministers would like to see the creation of a European army.
The ministers raised the prospect of a new European defence policy, a single market for arms products and a European border police.
They also suggested that a directly elected president of the European Commission might in future make direct appointments to a “European Government”.
Their report comes against the backdrop of a call from commission chief José Manuel Barroso for the EU to transform itself into a “federation of nation states”.
As EU leaders struggle to overcome the euro zone debt crisis, they are contemplating another round of treaty change for the third time in as many years.
Pointing to a crisis of confidence in the EU, the “Westerwelle group” endorsed many of the current suggestions to strengthen the single currency system.
The group also raised the possibility of the European treaties being changed without the unanimous approval of member states.
With Croatia set to become the 28th EU member next year, the group said it was “realistic” to say long-term treaty change in union of such scale would become more and more difficult.
“According to most members of the group, both the adoption and the subsequent entry into force of treaty revisions [with the exception of enlargement] should be implemented by a super-qualified majority of the EU member states and their population.
“They would be binding for those member states that have ratified them.”
The ministers put forward a series of radical suggestions in the foreign policy arena. “The EU also needs to fundamentally reinforce the common security and defence policy and shape relations with strategic partners more effectively,” they said.
“In the long term, we should seek more majority decisions in the common foreign and security policy sphere, joint representation in international organisations, where possible, and a European defence policy.
“For some members of the group this could eventually involve a European army.”
The report does not delve into the issues raised in the development of such an army.
This suggestion and others were greeted with some scepticism in Brussels, where officials said privately that many of the ideas had been aired and ruled out in previous institutional debates.
According to the report, the strengthening of specific policies should go hand in hand with institutional reforms. “The commission should be strengthened so it can fully and effectively fulfil its role as the engine of the community method. One possibility would be the creation of specific clusters with ‘senior’ and ‘junior’ commissioners.”