‘The popular myth about the European Union (EU) is that it is a benign international body which brings together the peoples of Europe in a common trading block where everybody benefits. It promotes a pan-European identity - a kind of regional internationalism - and helps to maintain peace, security and welfare across Europe. What’s not to like?
Well, actually quite a lot. In the EU Thatcherite economics is the only game in town. It’s written into the constitution and is enforced on every member country in virtually every sector of the economy. The EU’s decisions are taken by the Commission, the Council of Ministers, the European Central Bank and the European Court of Justice. None of them are elected or accountable to the people.
The European parliament is elected but has few powers and can only amend legislation not initiate it. The EU’s democratic deficit is no accident. It has been carefully fashioned to bypass the democracy of member states to serve the interests of Europe’s biggest transnational firms.
From its origins the EU was always, at least in part, a military project. The real purpose of the first supranational body, the European Coal and Steel Community of 1951, was to facilitate German rearmament at the start of the cold war and at the same time assuage French fears over the danger of resurgent German militarism. Above all else, the US wanted a rearmed West Germany inside Nato.
Subsequent treaty revisions - especially the Amsterdam and Lisbon treaties - have steadily strengthened the military role of the EU. It now has a Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and a High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security - currently Baroness Ashton. It sees its main threats as terrorism, nuclear proliferation - athough not its own - regional conflict, energy security and cyber-attack.
The Lisbon Treaty sets out clear military obligations on the part of EU member states to “make civilian and military capacity available to the union for the implementation of the Common Security and Defence Policy … Member states shall undertake progressively to improve their military capabilities.” This is a particular problem for those states who have a policy of neutrality like Finland, Ireland, Austria and Sweden.
EU military capacities now consist of 13 EU battle groups - battalion-sized forces of 1,500 each - two of which are on standby at any one time and can be dispatched within a few days.
Since 2003 the EU has been involved in military missions in more than 19 countries on three continents - Bosnia, Macedonia, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Palestine, Kosovo, Guinea-Bissau, Somalia, Sudan, Chad, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Libya, Iraq, Indonesia, Afghanistan and Mali.
These missions range from “Petersburg tasks” including humanitarian, rescue, peace keeping and peacemaking operations through to military training and full-scale war - and there is nothing benign about these missions. They exist to support EU foreign policy when diplomacy fails - and to enforce the neoliberal policies of free trade, privatisation, de-regulation and austerity outside Europe as aggressively as they are imposed inside.’