European Defence: Myth or Reality?

After the attacks of November 13, the French President François Hollande called for Europe’s help in the fight against ISIS and islamist terror. Europe justified its inaction by arguing that the Treaties leave no choice. Especially, Article 42 would only make viable the intergovernmental procedure, i.e. bilateral agreements that every state should stipulate with France. It cannot be neglected, though, that the first six paragraphs of Article 42 draw a common strategy in the defence and foreign affairs sectors, which has to be followed with the consent of all the States. Now, this shared – even if not exclusive – competence of the EU was not triggered. Why not?

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European Defence: Myth or Reality?

After the attacks of November 13, the French President François Hollande called for Europe’s help in the fight against ISIS and islamist terror. Europe justified its inaction by arguing that the Treaties leave no choice. Especially, Article 42 would only make viable the intergovernmental procedure, i.e. bilateral agreements that every state should stipulate with France. It cannot be neglected, though, that the first six paragraphs of Article 42 draw a common strategy in the defence and foreign affairs sectors, which has to be followed with the consent of all the States. Now, this shared – even if not exclusive – competence of the EU was not triggered. Why not?

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Awakening dormant law – or the invocation of the European mutual assistance clause after the Paris attacks

After the terrorist attacks of November 13th, France has invoked the mutual assistance clause in the European Treaty. What does this clause actually imply? The short answer to this question is that nobody precisely knows. The statement made by the French Defence Minister on 17 November qualified the invocation of Article 42(7) TEU as a mainly political act – implying that it is symbolic in nature. This, however, is not the whole story. France is requesting her European neighbours to stand united against external security threats – not only by declaratory statements, but by concrete military commitments. This demand, in turn, will impact on the future course of European security and defence, a policy which France has always been keen to enhance.

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Der Europäische Beistandsfall als Katalysator für eine Militarisierung der Europäischen Außenpolitik?

Wenn ein EU-Mitgliedsstaat angegriffen wird, dann schulden ihm alle anderen Mitgliedsstaaten „alle in ihrer Macht stehende Hilfe und Unterstützung“. Dieser so genannte Beistandsfall war bisher bloße Theorie – doch jetzt hat Frankreich ihn erstmals aktiviert. Die anderen Mitgliedsstaaten, u.a. Deutschland, reagierten zwar im Wortlaut vage, aber im Grunde zustimmend. Frankreich schwebt dabei insbesondere (zumindest mittelbare) militärische Unterstützung im Kampf gegen IS vor. Dies könnte die Union tiefgreifend verändern, wenn die Aktivierung der Beistandsklausel die Gemeinsame Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik (GASP) der Europäischen Union militarisiert.

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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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