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Disarmament would ease problem of defence cuts

The financial crisis should not be used as a pretext for turning the EU into a global military player as a report last week suggested

21.12.2011


In light of the Weimar initiative – begun by Poland, France and Germany to strengthen the European Union's common security and defence policy, and joined by Italy and Spain during the Polish presidency of the Council of the EU – a report on the impact of the financial crisis on the defence sector in member states by Krzysztof Lisek MEP was adopted last week by the European Parliament.

Unsurprisingly, the report follows the line of the council, which confirmed on December 1 that "in the context of a growing demand for the EU to become a more capable, coherent and strategic global actor" a "comprehensive approach that increasingly mobilises the different tools at the EU's disposal …to achieve the EU's objectives" should be pursued.

The alleged intention of the report is to improve the coherency of the CSDP and cooperation among member states, in the context of the financial crisis, so that the EU effectively assumes its responsibilities in the world.

But in the first two paragraphs the rapporteur "notes with concern the culmination...of cuts in the defence budgets of the majority of EU member states in the wake of the financial, economic and debt crisis, and the potential negative impact of these measures on their military capabilities [and] warns that uncoordinated defence budget cuts could result in the complete loss of certain military capabilities in Europe".

This is probably a horrific scenario for a union which uses its tools of war rather than acting as a peaceful civilian mediator in conflict situations.

Indeed, the Lisek report is a clear and open demand to increase military spending to invest in military equipment. It is a clear plea for the centralisation of power and the chain of command through the European Defence Agency and an EU operational headquarters. It fosters economic interests in the field of weapons and military equipment production, and via the strengthening the military industrial complex.

The desired outcome is to be strategically autonomous from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in order to position the EU as a global military player, willing and capable to enforce its political, economic and geostrategic interests.

The key buzzwords are efficiency, cost-effectiveness and pooling-and-sharing. But what do these words mean in practice? How can cost-effectiveness be promoted, when the report simultaneously advocates increasing the funding of the ATHENA mechanism, which is a de facto shadow budget for military operations? It is outside the EU budget and therefore beyond any parliamentary control. This is hardly a proposal that will lead to more efficient military spending.

Furthermore, cost-effectiveness in connection with "pooling-and-sharing" is supposed to mean the promotion of more civil-military cooperation as a key objective and the amplification of security research, in particular for CSDP missions, as well as mixed civilian security and military research.

Contrary to all these urgent needs, the entire report contains not even one line concerning disarmament. Not even nuclear disarmament is mentioned nor is any reference made to international obligations or initiatives like the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which could immediately have an enormous impact on several national budgets in the EU.

The financial and economic crisis is thus being used as pretext to shape the EU into a global military player and to fund the defence industry. This report is one more step – since the Lisbon Treaty came into force – towards further EU militarisation.

The only answer is radical and thorough global disarmament and the restoration of credibility of the United Nations Charter which is based on the sovereignty of states and the peaceful solution of international conflicts.

Sabine Lösing MEP is a member of the Confederal Group of the European United Left-Nordic Green Left and sits on the European Parliament's security and defence committee

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