Saturday 11 April 2009

NATO & EU: Rewarding freeloading?

Since 1 April 2009 the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has the following 28 members: Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.

In part, NATO is larger than the European Union. There are seven non-EU NATO members: Albania, Canada, Croatia, Iceland, Norway, Turkey and the United States.

The remaining 21 are members of both NATO and the European Union. Double membership clearly represents the European mainstream.

Out of a total of 27 current EU member states, only six have left themselves outside NATO: Austria, Cyprus, Finland, Ireland, Malta and Sweden.

These countries represent a fringe within the EU in four respects:

1. Their total population is about 28.2 million, or 5.7 per cent of a total EU population of 495.1 million.
2. Geographically they are more or less on the outer rim of the EU (although Austria has been overtaken and embedded by later entrants).
3. Their definitions of (military) non-alignment or neutrality have kept them outside NATO.
4. Their status with regard to the security and defence aspects of the common foreign and security policy can be described as an opt-out (The policy of the Union in accordance with this Article shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States … ; Article 17 TEU).

To continue the discussion from my post Tony Blair new “EU President?” I ask: How could such a freeloading country (or a representative from one of them) be expected to drive forward a common defence policy and a common European defence?

This is, after all, one of the crucial areas for the European Council, and as such of its coming President.

Do the arguments look different, if we look at the double-hatted High Representative?

Am I being unreasonable or have these countries disqualified themselves from the top jobs under the Lisbon Treaty?

In my humble opinion, responsibilities and rewards should go hand in hand.

Ralf Grahn


  1. I'm afraid I have to disagree with you here for a number of reasons. (Badly written, and not clearly thought out as I'm quite tired - sorry).

    First of all, I believe that any president of the Council should be picked for his or her ability, and should not be ruled out because of the nationality of the prospective candidate. Should the EU strive in its law-making to eliminate discrimination on the basis of natonality only to reintroduce it at a high political level?

    Second, NATO membership may be in the mainstream, but the nature of the EU does not mean that it has taken on the formal role of a treaty ally of the US and Canada (and other non-EU members). The President need only be able to carry out and promote the foreign policy decisions adopted by the member states through the Union - however much people may wish the EU to have a stronger or weaker defense identity, it must be recognised that that debate is still very much open, so moves shouldn't be made to declare one side the "winner" in a sense before the debate is settled.

    The concerns and policies of others must and will be taken into account: practical and pragmatic relations with NATO countries is important to all EU member states. However, the role of the President (and perhaps more properly the High Representative) is to see Union policy successfully carried out.

    Third, as a solely military defence organisation, NATO carries with it assumptions which necessarily have a narrower conception of foreign and defence policy than is wise, in my opinion, for an organisation of the EU's nature. It would be wrong to adopt the mental/conceptual trappings of a policy culture before there has been a good debate and cross-Union acceptance for a legitimate way of setting policy. We have not reached that stage, and I don't think that high level of dual membership should automatically translate into a set policy preference for the EU. These preferences will be shown and debated on within the Council and the Council will adopt a position where it can/where it's necessary. Why should the political pendulum be swung further in NATO's favour within the separate organisation of the EU? Common interests are supposed to be those of the Union and its members, not imported from a pre-existing organisation with a very different purpose: the debate and our examination of our common interests should not be so rigidly framed in advance.

    Again, I must stress my belief that those holding office in the Union should be there to carry out Union policy, set through agreed EU procedures.

    Fourth - linked with the others, and continuing on from the logic that Turkey's membership is a matter for EU member states; Union policy is a matter for member states, though of course it should be developed in a multilateral-sensitive environment.

    Fifth - stick to the Union's design and strengths. The Union should stick to economic foreign policy and peace keeping if and until it is politically settled and legitimate for "harder" security to be decided upon at Union level. We should not jump the gun here politically and needlessly antagonise others and force the debate into an even more defensive mindset.

    Six - it wouldn't be a good idea to exclude member states in areas because of differing policies when there is not (yet) a clear link. Politically, alienation does not encourage engagement and open debate.

    To answer your point about the position of the HR of the CFSP: I think that this lessens the need for the President to have NATO leanings, since the President would be more involved with more domestic matters - I assume his/her role would be more ceremonial in the foreign policy sense. In any case, both must follow the wishes of the Council, in which each member state has a powerful individual voice - they aren't going to be insulting and shunning NATO at every turn, etc.

    I understand the need for a good working relationship with the US/NATO, and I am actually quite atlanticist, though this comment probably give a more Euro-Gaullist impression. But I don't see why this wouldn't just result from the pragmatic operation of the system - in which case I see no reason to stress this as a requirement for the post when doing so is more likely to do political harm than practical good.

  2. Eurocentric,

    I admit that I provoked on purpose by eliminating potential candidates on grounds of nationality.

    I felt that this helped to lay the foundations for a discussion about the evolving core areas of the European Union.

    On the other hand, the candidates to become President of the European Council and 'new' High Representative in all probability come from very limited circles; present or former members of the European Council and the GAERC.

    As Prime Ministers of Foreign Ministers they have probably been among the most influential in their member states with regard to EU policies.

    I find it important that their track record is discussed, and that the European Council engages in a public discussion well ahead of the 'elections'.

    NATO, in my thinking, is still the choice of the mainstream and a permanent alliance for Europe, but a common European defence is a historical necessity, although it may take time before the EU makes that much progress.

    Freeloaders can be tolerated if needs be, but would you give them the leadership in any organisation?

  3. You're right that the candidates will be drawn from a small pool (as it always is with Council politics...), but it should still be kept as open as possible.

    My personal preference is for the EU to take a stronger foreign policy role, but, as I've said in my previous comment, I don't think that the defense role of NATO should be so emphasized when it's not really an important factor to the post.

    Raising the question may be a good way of starting the debate, but to actually have pro-NATOism/NATO links as a criteria would stifle the debate in my opinion.

    As for "freeloading", I would say that freeloading may have had some validity during the cold war, but it is less so now, unless you imagine the most extreme senarios.

  4. Eurocentric,

    Do you agree with the goal of a European defence?

    Perhaps we see NATO affiliation differently, but in my view it is usually better to fill political top posts with people who are in tune with the organisation's (EU's) goals and arrangements, rather than out of line.

    The solidarity clause(s) of the Lisbon Treaty are there to prevent the more extreme scenarios from turning into reality, and the 'freeloaders' in my opinion are not pulling their weight (even if I think that both Finland and Sweden have issued statements meant to show their dedication to mutual assistance, but are they credible to other member states?).

  5. I think that European Defense is the right goal, but it is not possible now politically.

    I think we differ on tactics, rather than on strategy: I think that a pro-NATO criteria would damage the debate in some ways - forcing some viewpoints into a very defensive posture which would limit a fully open debate and a serious look at the options. As well as that, the EU should focus on doing its job well, and in the foreign policy sense, this currently means doing what can be agreed by the member states in the Council. I don't think it would be good to exclude some of the member states politically from this process given the way the procedure has been agreed upon through treaty.

    My view on NATO... Well, I think it needs reform, but I do think that Europe and America are in most cases natural allies and that there should be an alliance. Though it's an area I should think about more.


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