EU as a defence alliance?

The third seminar session of the Europe Dialogues was held by Alyson
Bailes. Alyson Bailes is an Adjunct Professor at the Department of
Political Science at the University of Iceland and many people showed
up to hear her examining the question if the EU is or will ever be a
defence alliance. Alyson is a well-known expert in the field of defence
and security after a long career with the British Diplomatic Services
and as former Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research
Institute (SIPRI).

Alyson started the seminar by examining the idea of a common European military. The idea was first raised after World War II, and the purpose of such a military would be to maintain peace and security by preventing internal conflicts. However, as NATO filled this strategic role, the question of a common military was not raised until after the conflicts in the Balkans. Then, it became clear that a European peacekeeping force could contribute greatly to peace. Although, it is difficult to compare NATO´s capabilities with the EU – as there is no common European battle force – the move towards a common European military was further strengthened by the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty – article 222. Article 222 states that ‘Member States shall act jointly in a spirit of solidarity if a Member State is the object of a terrorist attack or the victim of a natural or man-made disaster’. ‘The Union shall mobilize all the instruments at its disposal, including the military resources made available by the Member States’ to assist other Member States.

However, although the Lisbon Treaty can be considered to be one step towards a common military, there is still a long way to go. If a European country will be attacked, NATO is still the first to respond. The idea of a common European military remains too much a contentious issue with no clear solutions in sight. Currently, Member States are nowhere near comfortable with the idea of other states meddling with their military affairs. Bailes argued that too many political disagreements lie at the heart of the issue, and despite both World War II and the Cold War providing great opportunities.  Bailes also suggests that this idea will probably never become a reality; NATO will remain the prominent player of defence in Europe. The EU will, however, continue to strengthen cooperation in soft security issues like for example aid, peacekeeping, environmental assistance and supervision.

Alyson Bailes