EU Treaties-5: Foreign Policy & Defence

This post selects from the Treaties and focuses on articles concerning foreign relations and security, proposals for a defence policy. We question the EU’s ability “to promote peace”. We quote Margaret Thatcher’s reservation about a centralised and appointed bureaucracy in Brussels. Defence is to be integrated into the EU’s foreign and security policy but member states will be obliged to implement it.



RESOLVED to implement a common foreign and security policy including the progressive framing of a common defence policy, which might lead to a common defence in accordance with the provisions of Article 42, thereby reinforcing the European identity and its independence in order to promote peace, security and progress in Europe and in the world

They resolved “to promote peace” and so on, in the hope that we will believe that their policies can and will achieve these “in Europe and in the world”. We can find no evidence to support such a claim. (We quote from Article 42 and comment on it below.)

Britain, of its own volition, spends far more on aid than the other EU countries (three times more of its GDP than Germany does). We do more towards attempting to avert climate change than the others (not always wisely). We do more towards the defence of other countries threatened by terror and autocracy (again, not always wisely) – France is a near equal of course. The EU then is not an especially beneficent agent in the world. (See Shorties)



Some important features of nation states are still missing from the EU, including defence, police and intelligence. At present these remain divided in the hands of individual member states, with the exception of defence, which is broadly covered in Europe by NATO. It is clear that a key part of the federalist agenda is to fit the EU with these missing structures. Brexit reduces the risk of effective opposition to plans to set up a distinct EU defence force.

The European Commission published plans for a European Defence Fund (we can assume that this means an EU Defence Fund). Although as currently proposed the defence fund is to be governed by all EU member states, that could change. This has echoes of the ‘multi-speed’ solution for the eurozone and is intended to do so. (See Ever Closer Defence)

Article 24: 1. The Union’s competence in matters of common foreign and security policy shall cover all areas of foreign policy and all questions relating to the Union’s security, including the progressive framing of a common defence policy that might lead to a common defence.

While “a common defence” does not currently exist, in the EU’s view (the EU doesn’t control NATO so that isn’t sufficient for common defence) it is the clear intention of the EU to make this happen, despite the weak sounding “might lead to”.

Europe needs to toughen up. Nowhere is this truer than in our defence policy. But without a permanent structure we cannot act effectively.”

The Lisbon Treaty enables those Member States who wish, to pool their defence capabilities in the form of a permanent structured cooperation.” (J-C Juncker, see State of the Union – 2 (Critical Examination))

Article 24: 3. The Member States shall support the Union’s external and security policy actively and unreservedly in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity and shall comply with the Union’s action in this area.

Member States shall…”, not ‘may’. This is a legal requirement not an option, as J-C implies above. They “shall comply”. So “loyalty and mutual solidarity” are to be achieved by fiat, but have they been achieved at all?

I am the first to say that on many great issues the countries of Europe should try to speak with a single voice. I want to see us work more closely on the things we can do better together than alone. Europe is stronger when we do so, whether it be in trade, in defence or in our relations with the rest of the world. But working more closely together does not require power to be centralised in Brussels or decisions to be taken by an appointed bureaucracy.” (Margaret Thatcher, 1988 Bruges Speech)

The speech continues by laying out some practical ways in which the Community should change. Mrs Thatcher’s other “guiding principles” cover: reform, enterprise, protectionism and defence; all issues that remain current more than 30 years later, showing how consistently the EU has continued on its set path and ignored requests to change course. (See Changing Minds)

Article 32: Member States shall consult one another within the European Council and the Council on any matter of foreign and security policy of general interest in order to determine a common approach.

Our Commentary on the White Paper: (Scenario 1: Carrying on) “Defence cooperation is deepened … Member States decide to pool some military capabilities and to enhance financial solidarity for EU missions abroad.”

(Scenario 3: Those who want more do more) “A group of Member States decides to cooperate much closer on defence matters, making use of the existing legal possibilities.” This ambition implicitly acknowledges the unlikely prospect that unified agreement could ever be reached on defence matters. Those members states who disagree can wait outside until they do agree or, more likely, until they cease to be effective members.

It’s interesting that the Lisbon Treaty (TEU Article 24 (3) above) determines that member states “shall comply with the Union’s action in this area” (our emphasis) so in legal terms they cannot “decide” to cooperate—they have no choice, already under Article 32.

However, for those domains regulated at EU level, greater enforcement powers ensure full compliance.”

In full complementarity with NATO, a European Defence Union is created.”

Has anyone any idea what “full complementarity” could mean? No, but the point is that a real state, even a federal one, needs a defence capability. A union can control its members; mere collaboration on defence matters is unreliable.

However, there is the risk of alienating parts of society which feel that the EU lacks legitimacy or has taken too much power away from national authorities.” Nevertheless, this is the scenario preferred by the Commission.

Article 34: 2…Member States which are members of the Security Council will, in the execution of their functions, defend the positions and the interests of the Union, without prejudice to their responsibilities under the provisions of the United Nations Charter.

Note “will” in this case, which feels stronger even that ‘shall’. And, as always, it will be the EU that decides what “without prejudice to…” means in practice.

The UK, the Baltic countries and Poland have argued that an EU defence union would compete with NATO and infringe on national prerogatives. Such concerns do not bother the Commission, which has plans to implement all features of a federal government, whatever the opposition.

The Commission’s “reflection paper”, published on 7 June 2017, has this: “The development of a new generation of many major defence systems is today beyond the reach of a single EU member state … ‘More Europe’ in defence and security is clearly needed.” This, of course, is a non sequitur; the premise does not support the conclusion but could as easily justify increased funding for NATO. ‘More Europe’ is the real premise, and conclusion. (See Ever Closer Defence)

Article 42: 1. The common security and defence policy shall be an integral part of the common foreign and security policy. It shall provide the Union with an operational capacity drawing on civilian and military assets…The performance of these tasks shall be undertaken using capabilities provided by the Member States.

An “operational capacity” is perhaps a euphemism for the European army they say they are definitely intending to form, which is consistent with making the Member States provide the capabilities.

Ever Closer Defence: When the question of the formation of an EU army has been raised, Germany and Italy have been in favour (they are among the lowest spenders on defence), France and Poland have expressed scepticism (they are close to the agreed 2% of GDP target) and the UK has opposed such proposals (it consistently exceeds the target). There seems to be a clear correlation between actual defence spending and views on the formation of an EU military capability; the lower the national spend, the greater the enthusiasm for the EU budget to bear the cost. And taxpayers may not recognise that the EU is spending their money but giving them no say in how it is spent.

Angela Merkel takes the opportunity to confirm her – and Germany’s – enthusiasm for ‘more Europe’ in defence matters: “Europeans have to take our destiny into our own hands“. She doesn’t say why, nor does she say, ‘as long as Germany doesn’t have to pay more for it’.

France is keen for greater independence from America so their motivation is different but leads to the same conclusion. Whatever the national motives, the outcome will be another step in the EU’s progress towards a federal government.

Article 42: 2. The common security and defence policy shall include the progressive framing of a common Union defence policy. This will lead to a common defence, when the European Council, acting unanimously, so decides.

Unanimity will be hard to achieve on this slippery slope from defence policy to whatever is meant by “a common defence”, but perhaps Article 32 (above) will be thrown at recalcitrant heads of state, whereby they “shall…determine a common approach”.

In security, anti-terrorism and defence the EU’s cooperative achievements have been underwhelming. It isn’t helping that it threatens to exclude Britain, Europe’s strongest contributor, just because it’s no longer ‘one of us’ – that is surely ideology gone mad. (See Collapse: Europe After the European Union – 1)

Article 45: 1. The European Defence Agency referred to in Article 42(3), subject to the authority of the Council, shall have as its task to: …

(e) contribute to identifying and, if necessary, implementing any useful measure for strengthening the industrial and technological base of the defence sector and for improving the effectiveness of military expenditure.

Will UK defence forces be required to join the EU ‘s common defence arrangements, with military action decided by Qualified Majority Voting of member states? Which of the following examples of past conflicts do you think UK forces would have engaged in under similar QMV rules: Falklands/Malvinas (1982), Gulf (1990), Kosovo (1998), Sierra Leone (2000 – start of UK engagement), Iraq (2003), Libya (2011)? (See Second Referendum Test Q17)



Article 2: 4. The Union shall have competence, in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty on European Union, to define and implement a common foreign and security policy, including the progressive framing of a common defence policy.

This confirms where the power will lie, under the Treaties.

The President wanted the EU to have a defence force but not to be militarised. One way to resolve the apparent contradiction is to understand that a defence force is for internal defence, since even if it were just for show it would require that it be a military force. Internal defence – an intelligence service together with a police force, both backed up by an army in all but name – is what every empire in history has required in order to keep its disparate components ‘unified’. This ‘force’ is so far missing from the EU government and leaves it more vulnerable than its leaders desire. Since there is little external threat (excepting immigration and terrorism) the EU needs to be defended by forcing us to conform, in the manner of earlier European empires. (From State of the European Union 2018-1 (Ambition))


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