Monday, February 11, 2008

Finland and the EU Security Guarantees

There has recently been much, much interest amongst the Finnish political class about the supposed "EU Security Guarantees" that are perhaps, or perhaps not, in the Lisbon treaty (check this article and the links at the bottom, or these search results). After much early scepticism, the interest in them has swung in the opposite direction to a nearly-religious faith in the idea, despite the fact that no other EU member seems to take the idea centrally in their security planning. Why the sudden conversion? Because, almost ironically, the EU is not NATO. When the voters and the elites seem to be worrying that the country has some sort of security deficit (again, a problematic assumption in itself), the politicians want to respond but know they can't touch the third rail of Finnish politics and say "lets think about joining NATO!". Suggesting even considering NATO, regardless of all evidence on the ground as to what NATO now is and what is it likely to become, marks the politician out as a neo-imperialist, Yankee-loving, war-mongering, running-dog - or something along those lines. The Finnish NATO debate is about whether or not to join a NATO that hasn't existed for the best part of a decade. Joining that NATO may well be a good or not good idea for Finland, but the debate seems somewhat academic as that NATO doesn't exist.

But back to the EU. How seriously should we take the security guarantees? As yet - and things can change - not very seriously. If the EU won't send peacekeeping troops to Chad because of - errrr... - fighting that is taking place there, I can't imagine those in the Kremlin is having any sleepless nights over the massing EU armies forming on their western borders. The Chad situation - something that this blog has followed a bit in the past - is interesting in itself (for an excellent pithy briefing on the subject listen to this week's Instant Guide), but it also reflects a non-"robustness" (to use my favourite security policy euphemism) in the current, at least, EU approach to security.


Grahnlaw said...

The mutual assistance clause, closely following the wording of the WEU and NATO treaties, makes the European Union into a military defence pact, in principle.

Lacking the planning capacity and the 'European' army, means that the commitment lacks teeth, and it is dependent on NATO to which most EU members belong.

Finland and the five other neutral or non-aligned EU members have called their own credibility into question by their hazy opt-out, referring the the specific nature of their policies.

In the long term, the EU has to be able to defend itself regardless of waning US interest, but the transatlantic link requires dual EU and NATO membership in good faith.

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

Thanks for the interesting comment and your blog looks like a huge resource for those of us who approach matters of EU or international law like a it is a sleeping bear that is best not to get too close to! :-)

"Finland and the five other neutral or non-aligned EU members have called their own credibility into question by their hazy opt-out, referring the the specific nature of their policies."

Absolutely agree. Voices such as Halonen and Tuomioja both in the past were sceptical about what I would think of as a truly operational ESDP, which makes sense within their political worldviews. But being politicians the resistance seems to melt somewhat when the alternative is NATO.

I think politically a mutual assistance clause is just an obvious thing for the member states to promise each other, but it seems many are thinking more in terms of floods or forest fires - not armoured columns crossing the border!

Grahnlaw said...

Thinking about different matters is natural, since there are various clauses on assistance (two or three if I remember correctly), natural disasters and terrorism being two grounds.

But there is an unequivocal mutual defence clause in Article 42(7) TEU, new numbering, with paractically the same wording as the Brussels and Washington Treaties.