We need a total opt-out from 'EU militarisation'


OPINION:The elite’s desire for wars has created a strong and growing global peace movement, writes ROGER COLE.

“It is an absolute requirement for us to spend more, spend better, and spend more together”

EU Observer, November 20th, 2007

THESE WORDS were spoken by Javier Solana after a meeting of the EU defence ministers at which the European Defence Agency’s (EDA’s) annual budget was increased by a third to improve the EU’s military performance.

The next time some intellectual mercenary writes about the EDA being about reducing military expenditure, just quote Solana, the EU high representative for foreign policy and security policy, secretary-general of the nuclear armed military alliance the Western European Union, and former general secretary of the nuclear armed military alliance Nato, which is responsible for over 70 per cent of the world’s military and which backed president George Bush’s war on Iraq.

The EU military-industrial complex makes these weapons, and is the driving force behind the “militarisation of the European Union”. Its role in the formation of the EDA is well documented in Ben Hayes’s 2006 pamphlet for Statewatch and the Transnational Institute, Arming Big Brother, which can be downloaded from the Peace and Neutrality Alliance website, www.pana.ie.

The EDA was mentioned in the EU Constitution which was rejected by the French and Dutch people. It was up and running with a budget of €20 million by 2004, and its head was Javier Solana. The Government decided to support it, but never asked Dáil Éireann for approval. During the debate on the Nice Treaty, Brian Cowen, then minister for foreign affairs, insisted that support for the EU military-industrial complex was not in the treaty, despite the fact that Article 17 stated: “The progressive framing of a common defence policy will be supported, as Member States consider appropriate, by co-operation between them in the field of armaments.”

Less than two years after ratifying the Nice Treaty, Ireland was a member of the EDA.

On April 26th, 2007, Micheál Martin, then minister for enterprise, trade and employment, told the Dáil – in reply to a question from Green TD Eamon Ryan: “I understand that Enterprise Ireland has provided preliminary technical assistance to the Department of Defence at EDA meetings in relation to a research and development programme which the EDA has decided to undertake, and in which the minister of defence has determined that Ireland should participate. On that basis of that decision, the Department of Defence has requested the involvement of Enterprise Ireland in identifying Irish companies which may potentially participate in the research programme and thereby benefit from the funding which is available from EDA projects.”

Neither can there be any doubt about the EDA’s future. Its Long Term Vision 2006 statement says: “Today, Europe retains a widely capable defence technology and industrial base (DTIB). But the prognosis is not encouraging. If Europe is to preserve a broadly based and globally competitive DTIB, it must take to heart the fact that the US is outspending Europe six to one in Defence RD; that it devoted some 35 per cent of its defence expenditure to investment (from a budget twice as large as the Europeans combined), as against the European level of about 20 per cent; and that it is increasingly dominant in global export markets.”

In short, the EDA wants the EU to sell more weapons in the global arms market.

It is no wonder Green Party leader John Gormley is seeking a protocol to exclude Ireland from the EDA as part of the response to the democratic vote of the Irish people to reject the Lisbon Treaty, because the military-industrial complex has a vested interest in wars. The Green Party has a vested interest in a peaceful, green Europe. It would be better if the EDA was abolished and its assets transferred to a European Climate Change Agency to encourage military firms to transfer their technology expertise into pursuing green technology. The least the Green Party should seek is such a protocol.

The logical attitude is to seek a total opt-out from the process of the “militarisation of the EU” by insisting on a protocol. This would read: “With regard to measures adopted by the Council in the relevant articles, Ireland does not participate in the elaboration and implementation of decisions and actions which have defence implications, but will not prevent the development of closer co-operation between member states in this area. Therefore, Ireland shall not participate in their adoption. Ireland shall not contribute to the financing of the operational expenditure arising from such measures.”

Such a protocol, with an amendment to enshrine neutrality in the Irish Constitution, similar to that which was proposed in February 2003 by the Green Party, the Labour Party, Sinn Féin and a number of Independents, would go a long way in taking into account concerns over Irish neutrality. These concerns, according to the Irish Times TNS/mrbi surveys in May and June 2008, were a key reason why the Irish people rejected the Lisbon Treaty.

The “militarisation of the EU” is only part of the war agenda of the EU/US/Nato political elite, as witnessed by the French decision to reintegrate into Nato’s military structure, the rise in US military landings at Shannon airport (see www.shannonwatch.org), the recent support of the European Parliament for reports calling for stronger EU/Nato links and more EU “militarisation”, and President Obama’s decision to approve a US military budget greater than George Bush’s and to expand the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

But the elite’s desire for wars has created a strong and growing global peace movement. The decision of the Irish political/media elite to reject the sovereign will of the Irish people when they voted No to the Lisbon Treaty will see the next referendum in October become a European battle fought on Irish soil between those that want a social Europe, a Green Europe, a Partnership Europe and those that have long supported the neo-liberal militarist agenda that has brought Ireland and the world to the brink of disaster.

In January 1919 the first Dáil reflected the anti-imperialist values of the people. In October 2009 the political/media elite will find those values are still as powerful as ever.

Roger Cole is chairman of Pana, the Peace and Neutrality Alliance