Letter to the Financial Times: Europe Union’s defence policy is a political project
As published 4 October 2013
Sir, The discussion on the military capabilities of the European powers (for example, “Syria shows why Europe needs to flex more muscle”, September 25) tends to be confused by advocates of a European security and defence policy, whose main armament is smoke and mirrors.
EU defence policy (known as CSDP) is essentially a political project, a major step in the direction of European integration. This is outstandingly clear from most interventions by continental politicians on the subject. Even Baroness Ashton was clear about this when she spoke of the reasons for CSDP: “The first is political, and it concerns fulfilling Europe’s ambitions on the world stage.” The EU brings no additional military capability. Every time there is a crisis, the EU staff desperately seek opportunities for an EU role in order to add lustre to the CSDP narrative.
Much to the frustration of the French, the successful interventions in the Balkans in recent years were by Nato. The Libya operation was a coalition of the willing and then Nato. It is true that many European armed forces lack key capabilities, and several with capability lack political will. The EU has no military requirements different to those required by Nato. It may make sense for less capable countries to get together to improve capabilities through “smart defence” or “pooling and sharing”, provided they have the will to use them, but there is absolutely no need for the EU to be involved in any of this.
The failure of European allies to take up a greater share of the defence burden has been a concern of the US since the 1950s. It is disingenuous to suggest that the involvement of the institutions of the EU (which include the European Commission and the European Court of Justice) is the answer to this problem.
Britain’s strategic priority is to ensure that the US remains fully engaged in Nato, and, elusively, to get all allies to contribute more effectively to the alliance. Creating wasteful, duplicative EU structures is not the solution to this.
The EU could, of course, be helpful if it dropped its integrative political ambitions and focused on more effective civil instruments that could genuinely complement Nato.
Geoffrey Van Orden MBE MEP, Conservative Defence & Security Spokesman, European Parliament