POSTS BY Niklas Helwig

The Teething of EU’s Mutual Defence Clause

France was the first member state to call for mutual assistance under Article 42(7) of the Lisbon treaty. The move came as a surprise. Most of the discussions in previous days were focused on the possibility to use the much heftier Article 5 defence clause of NATO. Compared to the tangible military assistance that NATO partners can offer, Europe’s obligation to assist has so far been seen as toothless and symbolic. While the EU’s mutual defence clause is still limited in its effect, its use is a timely reminder that there is strong interest within the EU to work closer together on defence.

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All for one? EU’s toothless mutual defence clause

The current crisis has put the spotlight on a source of threat that already seemed forgotten in the European context: aggression against states on their own territory. Not just NATO, but also the EU has a clause in place, which specifically refers to cases in which one of the member states would fall victim to an armed attack. EU member states introduced the so called ‘mutual defence clause’ with the Lisbon Treaty as a carefully worded compromise. Since then, the clause has remained merely symbolic with little political, let alone operational, relevance. However, the current crisis raises the question whether the ‘mutual defence clause’ could receive new political or even practical significance in the development of Europe’s common security and defence policy.The current crisis has put the spotlight on a source of threat that already seemed forgotten in the European context: aggression against states on their own territory. Not just NATO, but also the EU has a clause in place, which specifically refers to cases in which one of the member states would fall victim to an armed attack. EU member states introduced the so called ‘mutual defence clause’ with the Lisbon Treaty as a carefully worded compromise. Since then, the clause has remained merely symbolic with little political, let alone operational, relevance. However, the current crisis raises the question whether the ‘mutual defence clause’ could receive new political or even practical significance in the development of Europe’s common security and defence policy.

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