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The EU is in the process of developing a common foreign, security and defense policy. In spite of the inherent contradictions, this has already measurable effects in the world balance of forces; consequently a very important question arises: Will the EU work in favor of peace, will it help to create a more safe environment in our planet or will it make the situation worse, posing new threats to mankind? This short contribution does not claim to give exhaustive answers; it aims rather at pointing out some important facts, identify key issues and act as a trigger for a broader debate
The recent past
Since the overthrow of the USSR and the socialist block in Europe, the nightmare of a devastating nuclear war has been replaced by the bitter reality of many devastating conventional wars. The EU, acting either as a single entity or as a group of member states, has been at the center of many such conflicts and has actively participated in practically all of them.
The dismantling of Yugoslavia has been its peak contribution to the subordination of the entire European continent to the imperialist new world order. The events of September 11, 2001 came as a blessing for the aggressive policies of both the USA and the EU. The “war against terrorism” gave a second pretext for intervention, in addition to the “protection” of the rights of minorities, which they skilfully used during the wars in the Balkans. The concept of “crisis prevention and management” provided the framework for military interventions anywhere in the world.
Both the EU and the USA did not forget the “internal enemy”: the people, the working class. The EU developed an advanced mechanism of oppression, with the Schengen treaty, Europol, “anti-terrorist” laws, judicial and police collaboration, the International Tribunal for Crimes in Yugoslavia. At the same time they launched an all out ideological attack in order to convince the people (or, rather, the “citizens”, as they dislike the word “people”) of the benefits of capitalist integration, to convince them that this is a one-way road.
The Iraq war
The premeditated aggression against Iraq brought forward a division within the imperialist camp as well as within the EU. Two questions are appropriate in this context: (a) how deep this division was and (b) what was its origin.
With respect to the first question, it is instructive to consult the text of the common position of the EU on Iraq, reached on February 17, 2003. The text of the conclusions states clearly that all 15 member states agreed that “The Union’s objective for Iraq remains full and effective disarmament”, i.e. the EU fully adopted the US position that Iraq presented a threat due to the possession of weapons of mass destruction, which was proven to be simply a enormous lie. The conclusions further stated that “Iraq has a final opportunity to resolve the crisis peacefully” and made clear that force could be used as a last resort. The only thing they disagreed about, as Commissioner Patten pointed out in his address to the European Parliament on the very first day of the aggression (March 20), was about when the point of using force had been reached. It is thus not by chance that Mr. Simitis, prime minister of Greece and president of the European Council, received the congratulations of Mr. G. W. Bush for the common position of the EU.
Another fact that should be taken into account is that five EU member states together with eight candidate countries took openly the side of the US; one of them (the UK) actively participated in the aggression and many others (including Germany, France and Greece) provided invaluable and unlimited support to the military operations. Last but not least, when the occupation of Iraq was complete, the EU Presidency legitimized the invasion by stating (April 16) that “the coalition has the responsibility to ensure a secure environment”; in the same statement the Presidency declared that “The people of Iraq now have the chance to shape a new future for their country”, an assessment that was repeated in the Presidency conclusions of the Thessaloniki summit: “The fall of the government of Saddam Hussein has paved the way for the people of Iraq to enjoy a peaceful, secure and prosperous future”(!)
It is obvious from the above that the division within the EU and between the EU and the USA was not as deep as some people want it to appear and that the UK position was quite representative of the entire EU. What is more important, had there been a 100% common position, they would all have been bombing Iraq together.
Concerning the origin of the division, it is quite obvious (at least for those who recognize that the motives of the aggression were economic and strategic interests), that it had nothing to do with the protection or not of peace. It was simply a conflict of particular interests.
The present and the near future
In the aftermath of the Iraqi war, it is important to pay close attention to recent developments. I will point out, in particular, the summit of Thessaloniki, the EU-US summit of June 25 and the text of the “Constitution”.
During the Thessaloniki summit, the EU made important steps towards further militarization, in the context of the European Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP). Of particular interest are the recommendations submitted by Javier Solana, which go as far as accepting the concept of pre-emptive strikes. Equally important is the declaration on “weapons of mass destruction”; this can be considered as a gift to the USA, on the eve of the EU-USA summit, since it fully accepts their arguments on the matter. At the same time, it is certain that it will be used as another pretext for intervention, alongside with the “protection of minority and human rights” and the “struggle against terrorism”. Moreover, the summit issued new warnings against Iran and the PDR of Korea while, at the same time, threatening Cuba on the human rights issue.
The summit took a very important decision to create an “intergovernmental agency in the field of defense capabilities, development, research, acquisition and armaments”. This, together with the decision at the beginning of the year to launch a program on defense associated research is a huge leap towards militarization, which goes together with the earlier decisions for the development of a military force, already active in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in FYROM and in Bunia, DR of Congo. They even discuss in the open their intention to use space for military purposes, which constitutes an integral and prominent part of the EU space policy, as outlined in the recent “Green paper”.
The US-EU summit was staged in such a way as to polish the shattered image of transatlantic partners. Together with the declaration on WMD, Mr. Simitis brought another gift to Mr. Bush: the agreement on judicial cooperation, i.e. the delivery of suspects to the US, upon demand. Judging from the news reports that I am listening to as I am writing this text, the purpose has been accomplished. The two major imperialist poles will be together again, notwithstanding some minor differences; together they threaten Korea and Iran.
The text produced by the Convention, which they pretentiously called “constitution”, gives some hints about their plans for the near future. Not surprisingly, we find again the “Armaments, Research and Military Capabilities Agency” as well as the promise that “Member States shall undertake progressively to improve their military capabilities” (art I-40.3). Of course the CSDP “shall respect the obligations of certain Member States, which see their common defense realized in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization” (art. I-40.2). In the framework of the CSDP all are equal but some are more equal than others, since “those Member States whose military capabilities fulfil higher criteria and which have made more binding commitments to one another in this area with a view to the most demanding missions shall establish structured cooperation” (art I-40.6). All that in the name of the protection of “the Union's strategic interests” (art. I-39.2)! It is not accidental that the EU will have a single minister: the minister for foreign affairs, also charged with defense.
Whenever the EU had a common approach on questions of war and peace, its position has been for war. Given the character of the EU, this does not come as a surprise. The union of the European capital cannot protect its interests worldwide by any other means. It requires force and it has to develop military capabilities in order to be an equal partner with the USA in the distribution of world resources, markets and political influence. The union of European capital simply claims its role as the European pole of the world imperialist system.
Under these circumstances, the idea that a common EU defense policy would advance peace is not simply an illusion; it is a very dangerous illusion. The same with the idea of a bi-polar or multi-polar world, instead of a unipolar. The difference between now and twenty years ago is not simply the second pole, but the fact that the USSR and the socialist countries in Europe had nothing to gain from war. Hence their stabilizing action, hence their contribution to the world peace.
There is a huge task in front of the peace movement: to avert the next war, whatever the target might be (Korea, Cuba, Iran, Syria). This cannot be achieved with illusions, but only with a realistic assessment of the situation, with the combination of the struggle for peace with the struggle for social progress.
Costas Alissandrakis is Professor of Astrophysics, University of Ioannina, Greece and Member of the European Parliament. Copyright Costas Alissandrakis 2003. For fair use only/ pour usage équitable seulement .