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Liam Fox: Britain, Europe & NATO – Heading in the wrong direction

"As I sit here this morning the EU Constitution is reshaping our Defence Alliances by stealth away from NATO and towards the EU.

For most of the 1990's, until Tony Blair at St. Malo, the United Kingdom viewed any attempt at EU defence integration with a high degree of scepticism and caution.

The agreement at the French port of St. Malo on board the HMS Birmingham opened a Pandora's Box of issues regarding the future of EU defence integration. The European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), along with various military institutions including the European Union Military Staff (EUMS), European Union Military Committee (EUMC), and the European Defence Agency (EDA), all of which were an eventual consequence of St Malo, paved the way for further integration in the defence arena. Many Eurocrats like to boast that defence has now become one of the top areas of EU integration.

EU member states have slowly been constructing institutions to build an EU defence identity by duplicating NATO institutions - planning cells, an EU military staff and a European Defence Agency concerned with issues such as procurement. A European Security and Defence Identity became a European Security & Defence Policy - an arcane change in the nomenclature, you might think, but in the detail lay the mark of the EU integrationists turning away from NATO.

None of these have either expanded military capabilities, led to increased military spending or given the EU more 'teeth' when it comes to executing policy decisions.

Using the year 1998, the year the St. Malo agreement was concluded, as a baseline, look what has happened to troop numbers across Europe.

Germany's Armed Forces have shrunk from 333,000 in 1998 to 247,000 in 2007.

France's Armed Forces have been reduced from 449,000 in 1998 to 354,000 in 2007.

And the same is true for the Italian Armed Forces. Its size has been reduced from 402,000 in 1998 to 298,000 in 2007.

Far from increasing military capability, European militaries decreased in size at a time when the global security situation has seen an increase demand for more UN and NATO peacekeeping or combat operations in many of the world's trouble spots.

With the Lisbon Treaty it is both important and responsible for leaders in all EU member states to examine and scrutinise the changes the Treaty makes to EU defence. Conversely, it is just as important to examine and scrutinise what hasn't been changed regarding EU defence in the Lisbon Treaty.

So what hasn't been changed?

In the Treaty, the European Constitution by any other name, we see that no measures have been taken to reduce the amount of NATO duplication. In fact, there is now more duplication of NATO.

The Lisbon Treaty lacks any attempt at reforming the Athena Mechanism, which was developed to determine how much each troop contributing member state must pay for each EU military mission. It still discriminates against non-EU NATO members and will be even more undemocratic in its budgetary forming process under the Lisbon Treaty.

The Lisbon Treaty makes no mention of NATO's right of first refusal for all military missions pertaining to European security.

If the EU was serious about making the ESDP work, it would aim to reform these shortfalls, but EU elites and the Commission are only interested in centralising more power and decision-making in Brussels. Even at the expense of democratic legitimacy and the NATO alliance.

Let me deal with some of these issues in turn. First, the European Defence Agency.

The European integrationists, epitomised by the Commission, aim to control and influence the defence posture of EU member states until they have created a pan-European common defence policy. Evidence of this objective can be seen through the increased powers given to the Commission in the Lisbon Treaty; most notably by the creation of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. This alone will have a huge impact on EU defence.

Essentially the EU's "Foreign Minister", the new High Representative will also be a vice-president in the Commission. This will, for the first time, blur the line between what is intergovernmental and supranational within EU foreign policy development and implementation.

Under the Lisbon Treaty the High Representative will have the right of initiative on proposing military operations and will also serve as the Head of Agency of the European Defence Agency. Just the foothold into defence procurement the Commission desires. In fact, defence procurement is an area where the Commission has been acting in stealth to acquire control of as far back as 2000.

Recently, there has been a legislative initiative by the Commission covering defence procurement and intra-EU trade in defence products. This initiative could see more defence supplies brought under Single Market rules.

The aim of this legislation is to limit the amount of flexibility member states currently have in avoiding public procurement rules on the grounds of national security when procuring defence goods. Current EU law offers member states the option of protecting national security interests by invoking Article 296 of the EC treaties.

Article 296 guarantees that member states can take the necessary measures to ensure that national security interests are protected during the defence procurement process. The Commission wants to change this.

This should remain the basis for current and future procurement policy in the European Union. The Commission's proposals will limit the use of Article 296 by specifying goods that should not be deemed sensitive to national security.

This is not the right way forward. Matters such has these should be decided by nation-states, not supranational institutions.

Another development that threatens to undermine UK procurement capability is the formal creation of the European Defence Agency in the Lisbon Treaty.

Even though the European Defence Agency exists today as a part of the ESDP, it has never been part of an EU treaty that has been ratified by all Member-States. Originally in the Constitutional Treaty, EU elites decided to go ahead with the creation of the EDA even though the Constitutional Treaty failed ratification in France and the Netherlands.

Consequently, the inclusion of the EDA in the Lisbon Treaty is an attempt by the EU to retrospectively justify the existence of an organisation which was created without a mandate from neither national parliaments nor the citizens of EU member states.

The EDA is viewed by integrationists as a key component in the deepening of defence relationships. The Portuguese Defence Minister said in July that he:

"would venture to say that the EDA symbolises a 'silent revolution' for the EU through the implementation of a comprehensive approach to addressing European defence capability in the support of ESDP."

These are strong words considering that Portugal was holding the rotating presidency of the EU at the time this comment was made.

Now that the EDA is formally in the Lisbon Treaty there are two aspects that must be considered. Firstly, QMV will be applied to votes defining the agency's statute, seat and operational rules meaning, of course, that Britain will not have its national veto.

Secondly, as I just mentioned, the Head of Agency, which guides the EDA's policy, will be the High Representative who is also a member of and vice-president of the Commission. Furthermore, the Lisbon Treaty states that the EDA "shall carry out its tasks in liaison with the Commission where necessary". Again, this blurs the line on what is supranational and what is intergovernmental.

To date, the British Government has contributed more than £7.4 million to the EDA's budget, some would say a black hole. This money would be better spent at home; on British troops, their families, and their equipment.

Speaking on the UK's role in the European Defence Agency in the EDA's monthly newsletter General Sir Kevin O'Donoghue, the Chief of Defence Material, Defence Equipment and Support in the Ministry of Defence said that because the UK was supporting two major operations:

"It is inevitable that our top priority will be current operations and the equipment needed to support them….We need to think carefully about priorities when every pound sterling or Euro spent on international institutions is a pound or Euro I cannot spend on equipping and supporting deployed front line forces."

The United Kingdom, unlike most members of the EU, maintains the ability to develop, manufacture, and sell world class products for the global defence market.

In regards to defence procurement, it is the United Kingdom's prerogative to define our essential security interests. It is not for the Commission to assess the security needs or interests of the United Kingdom. I unequivocally oppose applying QMV decision-making and giving the High Representative such an influential role in the EDA.

The Lisbon Treaty

The Lisbon Treaty brings to the EU for the first time decision-making by Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) on other defence related issues. Although Tony Blair told the House of Commons in June 2007 that "The essential features of the CFSP remain as they were. Unanimity voting is the rule" there are now, surprise surprise, three important areas in defence that will use QMV under the Lisbon Treaty:

The European Defence Agency's statute, seat and operational rules [Article 30(2)];

The appointment of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy [Article 9e(1)];

The selection of Member-Sates for participation in Permanent Structured Cooperation [Article 31(2)].

In addition to these three areas influenced by QMV there is also a new Solidarity Clause in the Lisbon Treaty and the introduction of so-called permanent structured cooperation.

The Solidarity Clause is an obvious duplication of NATO's Article V. A mutual defence commitment in the Lisbon Treaty is worthless because the ESDP lacks the military capability or the political will to act against armed aggression without NATO's support. This is another example of the EU placing the cart before the horse in respect of military capability.

As I just mentioned, the Lisbon Treaty introduces permanent structured cooperation in defence/military integration. This will allow countries to 'opt-out' of any further defence integration and will create an 'inner-core' of Member-States interested in furthering military integration.

Permanent structured cooperation will be anathema to improving NATO's military capabilities since it discourages small EU members (19 small EU members are also NATO members) from increasing their military capabilities by shifting the burden onto the larger EU members such as United Kingdom, France and Germany.

This concern is justified. Not including the United Kingdom, France, and Germany (the three would no-doubt form the 'inner-core'), EU members in NATO spent an average of 1.7% of GDP on defence in 2005. With an inner-core providing the majority of military requirements in the ESDP, small EU members have little incentive to spend more on defence or increase the size of their militaries thus impacting NATO's capabilities.

The Lisbon Treaty requires only QMV when deciding which EU Member-States participate in permanent structured cooperation. Britain's national veto will not apply. At a time when NATO members are having difficulties deploying only dozens of troops to Afghanistan, permanent structured cooperation coupled with the Athena mechanism for EU deployment will offer small EU Member-States the temptation of fulfilling their short-term EU military commitments at the expense of the long-term fighting capability of NATO.

Conclusion

The Lisbon Treaty will deepen EU defence integration. Euro-enthusiasts have always considered defence integration to be an incremental process. The Lisbon Treaty is simply another step along the way to realising "ever closer Union".

The long-term cost of deepening defence integration will come at a high price to the fighting capability of NATO. The appointment of the High Representative will come at the cost of less democratic legitimacy in the EU

So what will the Lisbon Treaty offer to European security?

No change to the discriminatory attitude the EU takes against non- European Union NATO member states like Norway and Turkey especially the financing of EU military operations. Currently, there is a system is in place where non-EU troop contributing states can neither take part in, nor be present at, the votes when the Athena Special Committee decides the budget— one which they will be paying into;

No mention of NATO's right of first refusal for all military missions pertaining to European security;

Duplication of NATO's Article V with the Solidarity Clause and no change to the duplication of NATO structures that already exists with the EU Military Staff, EU Battle Groups, European Rapid Reaction Force, the Athena Mechanism, and certain aspects of the EDA;

Under permanent structured cooperation the Lisbon Treaty may encourage some European countries to do even less to improve their military capabilities—Paradoxically this is the opposite effect desired by the authors of the Treaty;

An un-elected EU President will have a direct role in deciding the military budget for EU military operations by chairing the Athena Special Committee;

The High Representative, by being the vice president of the Commission, will bring supranationalism into EU defence planning for the first time;

And a European Defence Agency headed by the vice-president of the Commission.

How is any of this in the best interest of the United Kingdom or our NATO allies?

The advancement of defence integration in the Lisbon Treaty is a result of the green light given to integrationists by Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac at St. Malo almost a decade ago. If one considers the amount of EU defence integration since St. Malo compared to prior to that point when the very mention of EU defence was a taboo, one can clearly see that there is justification for concern.

The Lisbon Treaty should be viewed as a warning to the British public and Atlanticists across Europe.

On a recent trip to Washington I couldn't help but notice some of the isolationist rhetoric coming from that side of the Atlantic. Closer to home we are dealing with forces in Government that are pushing for closer European integration. Both American isolationism and European integration threaten to tear the tried-and-tested NATO alliance apart.

Consequently, the defence innovations included in the Lisbon Treaty give the UK two options. We either rely on NATO, led by the United States, to provide Europe's security as it successfully has for the last 59 years or we rely on the European Union and the European Security Defence Policy to provide Europe's security.

To me the answer is clear: the security America provides to Europe is a necessity not a luxury. It should be the aim of any British Government to ensure that NATO retains its primacy in European security.

Britain cannot have two best friends. It is time to decide.

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