All 28 EU member states have unanimously backed France’s call for “aid and assistance” following the Paris terror attacks, the bloc’s foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said Tuesday (17 November).
Mogherini said EU defence ministers backed a little-remarked “mutual assistance” clause invoked by France yesterday in what she described as a “highly-charged” and “emotional” meeting in Brussels this morning. She confirmed the clause in the Lisbon Treaty had “never been used before.”
“Europe has answered ‘Yes’”, she said, adding that all member states had unanimously backed the plea from Paris.
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, speaking through a translator, said, “France can’t do everything,” pointing out that the French military was already engaged in the Sahel, in Central African Republic, in Lebanon, and on French domestic soil protecting the population.
The full text of the ‘mutual assistance clause’ 42.7 states:
“If a member state is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other member states shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power, in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. This shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain member states. Commitments and cooperation in this area shall be consistent with commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which, for those states which are members of it, remains the foundation of their collective defence and the forum for its implementation”.
But both politicians, pressed on the form such “aid and assistance” would take, pointed to the decision being a “political act”, and separate from the similar such clause underpinning NATO.
Mogherini said it was a “political act and a political message”, adding that it did not require “any further formality” to be activated after today’s unanimous backing in Brussels.
The Foreign Affairs Council was yesterday and today holding its monthly meeting in Brussels, in the wake of Friday (13 November)’s massacre in the French capital. Yesterday they discussed Syria, Iraq, and migration. Today defence ministers took the lead on security and development.
NATO’s more well-known “Article Five”, triggering mutual military assistance among members, has been invoked just once – following the 9/11 attacks in the US.
“France will be in contact bilaterally in coming hours and days to express the support it requires and the EU will ensure the greatest effectiveness in our common response,” the former Italian foreign minister Mogherini added.
The French minister said the EU’s support was a “political act of great significance”. Le Drian said it would “allow us in the hours to come to have bilateral talks where necessary” with other EU states to establish what aid France needed.