The EU Has Its Military

Today was an "historic" day, according to EU High Representative Federica Mogherini. Today she got her military, her single point military budget, and her ability to prosecute wars overseas without the need to get the approval of national electorates.

She also got improved military mobility (just a coincidence that NATO was asking for this just last week), control of civilian crisis management, the common financing of military missions and operations, responsibility for cyber defence and capacity building in support of security and development. 

She got these things because the foreign ministers from 23 member states signed a joint notification on the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) at a ceremony in Brussels this morning.

The member states who signed the joint notification are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. It is possible for other member states to join at a later stage.

This last point is key. When the European Commission was considering how they would achieve their goals for military union, they had two options that they could have persued: Permanent Structured Cooperation, or a Schengen style treaty.

They chose PESCO because unlike the Schengen option, it leaves the door open for others to join later. This dealt with concerns expressed by some of a "two speed" EU, and also the thorny issue of the UK's future relationship as the largest contributor to the European Defence Agency.

Today's joint notification is not quite the end of the process. In typical EU bureaucratic style, foreign ministers must meet one more time, on 11 December, to ratify by qualified majority the agreement they have already signed.

Once that is done they will agree an initial list of projects to be undertaken within the PESCO framework, including areas such as training, capabilities development and defence operational readiness.

Interventions Abroad

The question which should be on everyone's lips is, what does this mean for the modern policy of intervention?

If anything, this will make interventions easier. With decisions made at the EU level, national governments, and more importantly, national electorates, will have no say on PESCO operations. If the EU, or perhaps Ms Mogherini, decides to go to war, a vote in a national Parliament cannot prevent it - they are legally bound by PESCO to commit their military resources.

This will satisfy many, including the British Foreign Office, who have expressed disgust at the ability of a certain country to veto Western interventions through the Security Council.

It should be of deep concern, on the other hand, to anyone opposed to the use of national "defence" to prosecute wars overseas.


See our EU Military Unification Timeline for more ...