European Union militarisation:

Humpty-Dumpty as peace-maker

PressInfo # 108

 December 11, 2000



By Jan Oberg, TFF director




Some reflections on conflict management in the 1990s

PressInfo 107 dealt with the conclusions the EU seems to draw from the Balkan crisis, Kosovo in particular. The lessons I, a peace researcher with some knowledge about the region, would pinpoint go in the following, quite different, direction:

1. The EU must first of all improve its capacity to diagnose and understand complex conflicts, conduct early warning, early listening and early action and intervene with civilian capacity to create talks, dialogues, brainstorms and negotiations in close co-operation with all conflicting parties. I would suggest that it attempts to reduce national interests and intervene as impartially as it can and attack problems rather than actors. It is essential to understand that the earlier we intervene and the less violent a conflict is, the easier it is to help solve it without politicising the situation and the easier it is to control prestige, national interests and other - - for conflict-resolution disturbing - - considerations.

2. What we can learn from the conflict mismanagement in the Balkans the last ten years is also that most governments and Ministries of Foreign Affairs need professionals to deal with conflict issues, like they need military professionals to deal with military matters. It is also quite obvious that many NGOs with professional staff in conflict-management have done more good and less harm than many governments. They must be given a place in the EU conflict-management structure.

3. We can certainly also learn that it leads nowhere when single countries try to play many roles at the same time - - mediators, judges, peace-keepers, peace-enforcers, arms traders, sanction-makers, humanists, etc. It leads nowhere when they have national(ist) interests while professing to help bring about peace with the local parties. If Germany's real interest in the Balkans is obtaining influence and spreading the DM, do not call it "peace." If the Americans want the Bondsteel base on Yugoslav territory, the largest they've built since the Vietnam War, then tell people and the media honestly that the U.S. is engaged for more reasons than concern for human rights.

4. We can learn that peace plans must be developed from above but also from the bottom up and that all conflicting parties must have a stake. For instance, various peace plans could be presented prior to referendums and people given an opportunity to democratically vote for the peace plan they believe best serves their interests for the future - - for one single reason: they are to live with them. And from the present situation in Kosovo we could learn that it is not that easy to occupy a trouble spot and socially engineer it into a democracy with tolerance and reconciliation.

5. Beyond any other lesson I would emphasise one: that at the end of the day peace and peace-making is about putting human beings first. We have to deal with people's perceptions of the issue that split them from fellow human beings, with how they perceive themselves, the conflict issue and the "others." We have to deal with fear (much more important than 'evil' when explaining why people do harm to each other), with hatred, intolerance, despair - - in short with the root causes behind violence, rather than merely putting lids on the fire and ignoring the root causes. And I believe we have to develop criteria for best practices and that decision-makers ought to be both more humble and self-critical about the work they have done in the name of peace.

The lessons I am advocating here admittedly belong to a new paradigm. Judging from EU documents and plans, the EU wants none of it. Some reasons seem to be that they are incompatible with traditional concepts of power (power is power over someone else, not over ourselves), they do not have "sex appeal" for careerists, they won't make the EU a new world super power or satisfy the military-industrial complex. They are also quite incompatible with male thinking in general and male elite thinking in particular.



The EU crisis management organisation

Little is available about it, but the EU crisis management structure is taking shape. Crisis management will be conducted under the auspices of the General Affairs Council (GAC). The Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) - - ambassadors to the EU make many of the decisions after issues have been prepared in working groups.

The focal point of the crisis management structure will be the (Interim) Political and Security Committee (iPSC). Representatives of the EU Commission and the Council Secretariat, the Early Warning and Planning Unit (PU) and the EU Military Staff (EUMS) take part in its meetings. Not participating but advising the PSC is the Committee of Civilian Aspects of Crisis Management. Then there is the interim Military Body, later to become the EU Military Committee (EUMC) which is composed of member state chiefs of defence and will advise Mr. Solana, the High Representative of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)/Secretary-General (HR/SG). The PU, set up prior to the Helsinki Summit in 1999, is attached to Mr. Solana's office which also hosts the Situation Centre (SITCEN) which pools civilian and military expertise in the assessment of intelligence information.



The civilian dimension is clearly underdeveloped

In terms of manpower, the EUMS for instance, with military and civilian experts, will reach about 100, twice the size of the old WEU and half the size of NATO's international military staff. There will be around 100 military experts to assess intelligence. It is worth quoting at length from the October issue of the excellent European Security Review published by the Centre for European Security and Disarmament (CESD) and the International Security Information Service, Europe (ISIS Europe) from which the above rundown of the structure is taken:

"In comparison with the preparation for the military assessment of information relating to crisis management, the new civilian structures within the Council look relatively impoverished. The Policy Unit has a total of 20 staff who will be hard-pressed to meet the challenge of processing information from member states, open sources (including reports from NGOs) and the other EU institutions."

It is pretty obvious that the civilian dimension is not given priority. Sweden has been a major advocate of this civilian dimension and Swedish together with other EU politicians maintain that the civilian committee is fundamentally important while the military will serve 'only' as the last resort. But as it stands now, this is not credible. It is obvious that it does not have the manpower and other resources to effectively monitor and analyse developments in conflict areas around the world. And that is relevant since the EU has not defined any limits to where it can intervene.



Why no co-ordination with the OSCE and the UN?

It is also evident that there is no body for the systematic co-ordination and co-operation with civil society organisations, conflict-resolution NGOs or peace research institutes. As long as the EU is called a peace project and its military force is justified with reference to peace-making, the above mentioned body is of great relevance.

In addition, whereas there are four working groups for EU-NATO co-ordination in crisis management and the central EU figure in all this is Mr. Javier Solana, former S-G of NATO, there seems to be no parallel bodies for co-ordination between the EU on the one hand and organisations like the UN, OSCE, OAU and other regional governmental bodies and potential conflict-managers on the other.

EU-NATO co-operation was pushed through in Nice, with no similar function vis-a-vis the mentioned organisations. Indeed, if the EU's endeavour were mainly civilian, it would be natural to discuss its fundamental relation to and co-operation with the OSCE, the existing civilian European security organisation. The OSCE is still grossly under-staffed with only a handful of civilians at its Conflict Prevention Centre in Vienna; with the sharp reduction in that organisation's influence, one might have thought that the EU would draw some conclusion from that when building a similar unit.

On the basis of this there seems to be extremely little evidence that the EU crisis management as it stands today is strong on civilian measures and will only use military force as the last resort. So far, it looks organisationally as if it were the other way around. (See PressInfo 106 for more details about the concrete measures planned as part of the civilian crisis management).

And it is likely that the EU Rapid Reaction Force and military build-up will make the European security 'architecture' even more chaotic and non-transparent. Indeed it could be a creator of conflicts inside Europe and with the United States.



Future EU's dependence on the United States and NATO

It is no secret that the EU is militarily much smaller and less effective than the U.S. Figures speak for themselves: while U.S. military expenditures are roughly US $ 300 bn (3.2 per cent of its GDP), those of the EU combined are US $165 bn (2,1 per cent of their combined GDP) - - and while U.S. spending is increasing, that of the EU has fallen steadily. The U.S. spends 39 per cent of its military expenditures on personnel, the EU 61 per cent, which is indicative of how much more technology- and capital-intensive America's defence is. The U.S. spends 24 per cent of its defence budget on new equipment, the EU average being only 14. And, perhaps most important of all for the future: the U.S. spent US $ 36,5 bn on military research and development (R&D) in 1999 while the European NATO members combined spent only US $ 8,9 bn. European NATO and EU members' military industries are also the story of duplication and much less integration and fusion than U.S. military industry.

One can find experts who argue that the (American) Revolution in Military Affairs, RAM, widens the gap between Europe and the US to such an extent that European militaries will soon be unable to operate alongside the Americans because of their technological backwardness!

For the foreseeable future, EU military action will be heavily dependent on access to NATO and American resources, be it various types of intelligence, satellite surveillance, lift aircraft capacity, coded communication systems etc. Remember, the U.S. conducted about 70 per cent of all the bombing sorties over Yugoslavia; and in spite of the fact that the EU allies had some 2 million man under arms on paper, it took them a long time to get some 30.000 (about 2 per cent of them) on the ground in Kosovo.

To perform as a military power in war-fighting and/or peace-making, the EU will have to overcome this historical and structural inferiority. It will only be possible if the EU (and non-EU NATO allies in Europe) rationalise and co-ordinate all military functions much more effectively in the future and boost their military investments considerably.

In addition, it is my contention that the EU - - by choosing the military power scale - - will bring itself into increasingly fierce competition with the U.S. and remain dependent upon it for decades. What it should do to become more autonomous is to develop a niche for itself that will strike the world around it as much more attractive and compatible with professional conflict-management of the future.



Formal membership is irrelevant and so are the words "European Army"

Two hypothesis can be advanced here: The first one is that except for the symbolic importance to some East Europeans, it no longer matters at all what organisation a country is formally accepted into as a member. The fluid 'architecture' makes this irrelevant. Sweden can participate in all this and not be a member of NATO (see discussion in PressInfo 109) and non EU member Norway intends to make the largest per capita contribution to the EU forces. EU will co-operate with non-EU countries including the U.S. and Canada; and non-EU countries are encouraged to participate in the EU force - - overlapping with activities and exercises with non-NATO countries which participate in a series of NATO activities.

The second is that it is nothing but a fig leaf argument when we are told that the EU Rapid Reaction Force is not and will not become a European "Army." You may add: not yet, at least. If one day the EU becomes a federation this must become an EU Army. But the point is that what we traditionally associate with a national standing, conscript, territorial army is no longer relevant. The current model operates with contingents of troops that will be trained and assembled on short notice and put under a central command. German Lt. General Klaus Schuwirth, commander of the German Army's 4th Corps in Potsdam, is already appointed head of the EU Military Staff in Brussels, with British major-general Graham Messervy Whiting who heads the EU military committee as second in command.

This fig-leaf discussion was summarised wonderfully by Romano Prodi, the President of the European Commission: "If you don't want to call it a European Army, don't call it a European Army. You can call it Margaret. You can call it Mary-Ann." (Daily Telegraph, November 17, 2000). On February 10 this year, Romano Prodi also declared before a Latvian audience that "any attack or aggression against an EU member nation would be an attack or aggression against the whole EU, this is the highest guarantee." As was commented in TFF PressInfo 88: "If implemented as stated this statement marks a quantum shift of EU from an socio-economic union into a military defence alliance. Such a development might risk to promote the development of a renewed cold war in Europe."

All you've got to do is to consult Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" in which Humpty Dumpty says: "When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean - - neither more nor less." And Alice responds: "The question is whether you can make words mean so many different things." And Humpty Dumpty answers "The question is: Which is to be Master - - that's all." He then offers an example of how much one word can mean ("impenetrability") and summarises: "When I make a word do a lot of work like that, I always pay it well." Indeed, Alice has come to Euroland.




 © TFF 2000



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