NEWS ANALYSIS: Security guarantees spur EU common defence
Assistance clauses to be included in defence policy report
By Kari Huhta
Debate over the impact of the EU's new Basic Treaty on the defence policy of the European Union is moving largely along different paths in Finland than it is in the rest of the Union.
In Parliament there has been much talk about the sequence in which decisions would be made in practice on the obligation to provide aid. In other countries the focus of debate has been more on the impact that the assistance clause and the obligation to share responsibility would have on EU defence cooperation in general.
Debate on the Basic Treaty is taking place especially in those EU countries which need to confirm the treaty before it is scheduled to take effect at the beginning of the year.
In the Basic Treaty,which was ceremoniously signed in Lisbon in December, the EU is offered many different ways to develop mutual defence rapidly and to a significant degree. The changes might surprise Finland, if debate grinds to a halt over details.
Holding debate from national starting points is not exceptional as such. For instance, the focus in Ireland has been on making sure that the treaty does not mean military alignment, and that matter is to be written into the referendums to be held on the treaty.
The defence committee of the British Parliament is worried only that the treaty might weaken the NATO alliance.
The significance of the treaty as a military security guarantee is apparently of interest primarily in Finland. Spurring the debate is the interpretation contained in a report by Teija Tiilikainen, political secretary of state at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, who says that the EU countries would need to decide unanimously on the implementation of the obligation to assist. This interpretation has been disputted a few times, and will be disputed again at least in the foreign affairs committee of the Finnish Parliament.
Civil servants believe that Finland's commitment to the duty to give assistance and the taking of common responsibility is to be written into the security and defence policy report which is to be ready in the autumn, in much the same way that it was written into the foreign policy statement of the Swedish government in February. Finland would state that it is both willing to provide aid, and that it expects it from others.
A promise to provide help is a way to commit to the development of the EU's mutual defence. Also Tiilikainen's report sheds light on the general significance of the paragraphs on providing aid, even though the debate stalled over the method of decision making.
The paragraphs on providing aid bring defence cooperation into the territory of the EU itself for the first time. This is a significant step, when linked with the other military points in the treaty.
The common security and defence policy will be raised to a completely new status in the treaty, as part of the older common foreign and security policy. The European Defence Agency EDA will be given an important role in the planning of defence and the acquisition of materiel. The list of tasks in crisis management is to be extended to cover nearly everything except direct military intervention.
Perhaps the most important reform, to which scant attention has been paid, is the "permanent structural cooperation" on defence.
It means that groups of countries inside the EU can, under certain conditions, move significantly ahead of others in their defence cooperation, in the same way that the countries which use the euro are ahead of others in economic cooperation, or the Schengen countries in free movement.
Evaluating the significance of structural cooperation is made more difficult by the fact that the paragraphs in the Lisbon Treaty are only an announcement of political intent, and the content will be determined when we live with the treaty.
On the other hand, the same applies to the security guarantee paragraphs, which does not seem to harm the debate at all.
In any case, it would be a good idea to prepare for changes already in the autumn, during the French EU Presidency.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 26.4.2008
Previously in HS International Edition:
Tiilikainen clarifies views on implications of EU security guarantees (18.4.2008)
Tiilikainen´s views on EU security guarantees cause confusion in Parliament (17.4.2008)
Continued uncertainty on implementation of EU security guarantees (11.4.2008)
Experts: Neither EU nor NATO can guarantee security 100 per cent (12.10.2007)
EU website: Treaty of Lisbon
KARI HUHTA / Helsingin Sanomat