MEP blasts move towards 'backdoor' EU Defence Union.



Although I am no longer UKIP's defence spokesman, I keep a close eye on the portfolio, and I am particularly concerned with recent developments in relation to the UK's relationship with EU security and defence union.

Worryingly, for the last few weeks, while most of the UK was concentrating on Theresa May's unnecessary general election, there have been a number of developments in this area.

Firstly, lost within the election media scrum, was the revelation that the UK had finally capitulated to the EU on allowing the development of 'European military units'. (http://www.politico.eu/article/eu-army-uk-drops-objections-to-eu-military-unit/)


While you may not think this is a significant step as the UK heads towards Brexit, you could not be more wrong.

Last Thursday, while people across the UK were heading to the polls; the EU's High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission - Federica Mogherini - slipped out a 'reflection' paper outlining her vision for the future of EU defence. (https://ec.europa.eu/commission/publications/reflection-paper-future-european-defence_en)

In the paper, Mogherini outlines three visions for EU defence; the most extreme of which is called the "Common Defence and Security Scenario."

Mogherini's says; "The most ambitious scenario foresees the progressive framing of a common Union defence policy, leading to a common defence based on Article 42 of the EU Treaty which allows a group of like-minded Member States to take European defence to the next level. Under this scenario, EU countries would undertake greater commitments to each other's security, making Europe's protection a shared responsibility of the EU and NATO. The EU would be able to run high-end security and defence operations, underpinned by a certain level of integration of Member States' defence forces. The EU would support joint defence programmes with the European Defence Fund, as well as set up a dedicated European Defence Research Agency. This would also foster the creation of a genuine European defence market, able to protect its key strategic activities from external takeovers.

Is this the development of an EU army that arch-remainer, Nick Clegg, branded a 'total fantasy' in 2014?

The answer is very likely yes, especially when one of the key aims is the projection of power.

Critics of politicians like me who try to highlight EU policy that is slowly slipped through the backdoor will say Mogherini's paper is nothing more than an outline; something to work towards; and one of only three possible futures for European defence and security.

The problem is, it's not, and what Mogherini calls a 'scenario' is already a reality in many areas.

Just look at the most recent developments in the last week.

Last Thursday (8th June 2017), in Brussels, the EU set up the first single command centre for European military training and advisory missions. While small, this command centre is yet another significant step in establishing an EU command and control structure that seeks to 'deepen' defence ties between EU members and bring defence and security union even closer.

When added to existing bodies such as the European Union Military Committee; the European Union Military Staff; the Political and Security Committee; the European Security and Defence College; and the European Defence Agency; it is easy to see how this is simply one more step towards creating an EU military command and control structure that could both undermine and overtake that of NATO in the near future.

However, last week's announcements didn't end there.

In the same week, Mogherini officially launched the European Defence Fund, which will finance common projects for military research and defence industry; as mentioned in Mogherini's 'most ambitious scenario' above.

This protectionist, multi-billion-pound fund aims to support member states' "more efficient spending in joint defence capabilities, strengthen European citizens' security and foster a competitive and innovative industrial base."

However, it also removes from member states the power to determine their own defence procurement needs for major projects and seeks to apply the EU's famous 'one size fits all' policy formula to defence that has been such a disaster in other areas. You only have to look at the Common Fisheries Policy to see that.

More worryingly, it also adds another layer of control over the military capabilities of member states. Imagine for one minute a particular member state needs an item of military hardware, but the EU disagrees with how or where that item is going to be deployed. Do you think permission for the supply of that item, or spare parts, will be granted to the member state by Brussels? No, me neither!

As for a 'certain level of integration of Member States' defence forces', this 'scenario' is also a reality. In a busy week for Mogherini, she inaugurated the opening of the first European military airlift training centre in Zaragoza, Spain.

Lamenting the fact that until this point, most European airlift aircrews have been trained in the United States; what Mogherini did not say is that the EU now directly controls over 60% of military airlift and refuelling capacity in Europe. Combining the airlift assets of Spain, Italy, German, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, the European Air Transport Command (EATC) has now been up and running for over seven years. 

It's the same story for land forces. In a little-publicised 2016 move, Dutch defence minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert and her German colleague Ursula von der Leyen sign two agreements on far-reaching cooperation measures. These agreements saw the integration of the German Naval Force Protection Battalion (Seebataillon) into the Royal Netherlands Navy, the integration of the 43rd Mechanized Brigade into the German 1st Armoured Division, and agreements on joint air defence.

Added to this are the already existing EU controlled combat and paramilitary structures. These structures include EU battlegroups, which the BBC's Paul Reynolds described as a "standing army - small in size, but large in potential"; which operate under the direct control of the Council of the European Union. The last UK deployment to an EU battlegroup just followed the referendum in July 2016.

Then there is the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, which has the right to operate on the territory of any member state without that's state's express consent; and EU NAV FOR, the combined naval force operating in the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean, commanded for HMS Northwood near London.

In fact there are currently eight separate combined air, sea and land, military or paramilitary organisations operating under the direct control of the EU.

Looking at all these factors together shows the slow build up to complete EU military integration is already happening and has been for several years, especially since the 2007 signing of the Lisbon Treaty, which outlined the requirement for EU 'defence union.'

Therefore, based on the evidence, Mogherini’s 'ambitious scenario' is far more a statement of fact rather than an outline of potential future policy.

'But what of Brexit', I hear you say?

The simple fact is, with a weakened government negotiating Brexit on the UK's behalf; and many re-invigorated remain politicians returned to parliament who are now seeking a 'soft Brexit', the pressure is now on for the UK to tow the line on EU defence and security integration.

When you also consider agreements are already in place for the UK’s ever closer defence cooperation with France under the Lancaster House agreement; and with Germany under the 'joint vision statement on future co-operation', the UK's armed forces are in prime position to be sold out.

This is especially true when you look at the way successive governments in the UK have run down our military capability over the last ten years and how our cash-starved forces are struggling to meet the demands of their ever-increasing duties.


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Article first uploaded 13 June - 2017
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