The Lisbon Treaty will strengthen the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) but the scope of the changes will very much depend on the composition of the new troika to be appointed in 2009, according to MEPs and experts participating in a European Parliament workshop.
The parliamentarians participating in the workshop were split over how to assess the treaty’s changes in the field of security and defence, with assessments ranging from “massive boost” to “no big step forward”.
“The treaty offers many opportunities for improvements, but also many unknowns,” stated Antonio Missiroli of the European Policy Centre, referring in particular to the position of the HR. His role in further pushing forward ESDP will be “central”, Missiroli and MEPs said, pointing out that the scope of his tasks very much depends on the personality to be chosen for this post.
“The High Representative and the external service will have to serve as the bracket between the Council and the Commission,” said Jo Leinen, a German socialist MEP and chairman of the Parliament’s constitutional affairs committee.
Thus the EU may not be split up along the lines of the Commission dealing solely with internal policies and the Council being in charge of external representation, Leinen explained.
MEPs agreed that the Parliament must have a strong say in choosing the personalities in the new troika as they would define its competencies, in particular with regard to the Union’s new president.
“We must be on alert that the new President does not encroach executive authorities. His sole function is representation,” Leinen said.
Moreover, the Parliament must exert its right to control and scrutinise foreign and security policy, in particular with regard to EU missions, Leinen claimed, adding that if the MEPs failed, the result would be a vacuum in terms of democratic control.
In addition, more public debate on EU missions is needed, most MEPs agreed.
A controversial issue was the newly-created opportunity for ‘Permanent Structured Cooperation‘, which allows the largest member states (in terms of military capabilities and commitments) to move forward on security and defence matters.
Among others, German MEP Tobias Pflüger (GUE/NGL) strongly criticised this concept, fearing that it may lead to the creation of a “core Europe” built around the “big four” – Germany, France, Italy and the UK.
Other areas of concern were the first-ever EU treaty reference to NATO as well as the solidarity and mutual defence clauses, which oblige member states to provide assistance to each other in case of armed aggression or terrorist attack.
Representatives of the ‘Left’ considered these articles to be “steps towards a stronger militarisation” of the Union, Pflüger pointed out.