The EU: Venus all dressed-up with nowhere to go

Article published on Feb. 28, 2005
community published
Article published on Feb. 28, 2005

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

The majority of EU member states and citizens may not want to talk about it, but a European Diplomatic service is planned for 2015. Will this mean a European State?

The European Commission has a global role which is continually growing in importance. It represents the member states of the EU before the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and has offices in most of the world’s capital cities, rather like an EU embassy. This explains the success of the common commercial policy. However, the EU is silenced by its states in the UN (Great Britain and France are the only European members of the Security Council, and the only ones with nuclear capabilities); in the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and in the Council. So, the EU continues to be a floundering economic giant, a political dwarf and a military maggot.

Installing the telephone cable: the new EU Foreign Minister

Who do the world powers have to call to talk about military actions or foreign relations with Europe? With interventions such as those in Kosovo or Afghanistan, Washington called London, Paris and Berlin; then Javier Solana (High Representative of EU foreign policy) and then a few Commissioners. So we are still without a single, specified port of call.

Since the Cologne Council summit of 1999, the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) has been implemented. Since 2000, the EU has also been looking to develop its civil capabilities, prioritising certain areas including the police, civil administration and civil protection authorities. These should provide the tools to act at an international level without, as Solana puts it: “trying to create a European army.” The armed forces will remain in state hands, and will only be headed by a European Supreme Military Commander during the specific EU missions.

However, programmes like the Rapid Reaction Force; the European Armaments, Military Capabilities and Research Agency; the Battle Groups and Galileo projects (operational in 2007 and 2008 respectively) demonstrate significant changes. Despite a complex team of international organisations, the EU has no intention of being limited to missions (such as Petersburg) which are interpreted only as peace-keeping. Rather, we can expect a change in relations with NATO, which is responsible for collective defence, and the OSCE, which is identified with preventative diplomacy and crisis management. But for the moment, in agreement with the principal of the united forces system, the EU will have to coordinate the development of its capabilities with NATO and reinforce transatlantic solidarity, given the growth of the East. Now the key test for the ambitions of European defence will be the transfer of the peace-keeping process in Bosnia-Herzegovina early this year.

The EU, victim of the Electra complex

In these circumstances, the Constitution could represent the end of the long period of crisis experienced by the EU since the 90s. Now it will have to be decided if the EU wants to continue to allow the US to be the head of the household, and if this isn’t the case, how it will manage to be effective without losing its persuasive personality. With regards to diplomacy, the Constitution would create an EU Foreign Minister, who will have more direct diplomatic responsibility than previous foreign policy-related positions. He will have to coordinate a European service for exterior action which will work in collaboration with the diplomatic services of the member states, and which will be made up of civil servants from Council, from the Commission, and from the personnel of the national diplomatic services. In order to achieve European diplomacy, three phases are planned: 2007, 2012 and 2015. However, on external policy, the President of the Council will remain the EU’s representative.

The creation of a European army and of a European transnational diplomacy is a long-term goal. Even if the Constitution doesn’t make earth-shattering changes in social, fiscal and defence fields, we can expect big changes in the coming years. But for now, the EU is a princess without a suitor; perhaps because she is suffering from the Electra complex. Perhaps she is still an adolescent in love with her father – the United States.