Year XLVI, 2004, Number 2, Page 99

 

 

 

THE AIMS OF EUROPEAN FOREIGN POLICY AND THE FEATURES OF EUROPE’S DEFENCE SYSTEM*
 
 
This analysis is broken down into three parts: first, we identify world unification as the only concept on which a valid EU foreign policy can be based; second, we see that the premise for the effective start of a policy of world unification is the full federalisation of the EU, which implies the overcoming of the fundamental obstacle that is the international monopolar system and its replacement with a multipolar system of cooperation. Finally, we look at the main features of the EU’s defence system, which are clearly subordinate to the aims of European foreign policy.
 
1. The EU is a community of democratic states committed to the construction of a supranational democratic system, that is (as stated by the Schuman Declaration, even though there is strong opposition to the achievement of the ultimate goal), a federation. In the light of this defining quality — democracy — the concept inspiring EU foreign policy can be summarised in an expression used by Woodrow Wilson (and in substance repeated by Roosevelt in 1941) to clarify why the USA had entered the First World War: “to make the world safe for democracy”.
This sentence means essentially three things: 1) that the aim of foreign policy is, generally speaking, to guarantee security in the presence of external threats; 2) that the security of a democratic state relies on the presence of an international system that favours the preservation and development of the democratic system; 3) that there exists a need not to only to fight anti-democratic and aggressive states, but also, beyond that, to favour an international situation that is characterised by a reduction (if not an absence) of violence — given that, objectively, violence leads to a sacrificing of liberty in favour of security — and also propitious to economic growth (a condition fundamental to democratic progress).
That said, we must clarify what “making the world safe for democracy” means in the present historical situation. What exactly is this situation? What are the problems to be faced? Wishing to sum up extremely briefly the current world situation, an expression coined by Ulrich Beck, according to whom we are living in the “risk society”, seems to me to be particularly apt and illuminating.
The risk society is the transnational global society that has grown up on the basis of an increasingly profound interdependence prompted by the advanced industrial revolution and its transition to the post-industrial or scientific mode of production. The globalised world is the enduring historical context in which we live and it is a world characterised by marked contradictions.
On the one hand, there exists enormous potential for economic, social and democratic progress for the whole of mankind. On the other, we are confronted with existential challenges, whose combined effect is to call into question not just the progress of mankind, but also its very survival; there can also be no doubt that, dramatically, these challenges also represent threats to the whole democratic way of life. Here, I attempt to sum up briefly the three most important of these challenges, as they are the key components of the security problem of our age.
The first challenge derives from the existence of global social and economic interdependence in the absence of global government. It is clear that the wealth of the advanced countries and the prospects of progress for all the peoples of the world are based on this interdependence. But equally evident are the enormous contradictions that this situation generates: a) severe financial and economic crises that prevent economic growth; b) the fact that just 20 percent of the world population has at its disposal 80 percent of world resources; this is clearly the determinant that fuels international terrorism: in a world that is (with regard to trade, production, information and human mobility) increasingly integrated, it is a huge anomaly that is bound to generate fanatic hatred on a large scale, nihilism, religious fundamentalism, despotism and international adventurism — in short a climate in which terrorist networks thrive; c) today’s human mobility and unprecedented levels of emigration are producing a growing spread of organised crime and also of epidemics.
The second challenge is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). Now that the bipolar era is over, the need to guard against the possibility of wars between superpowers is no longer the central security issue. The crucial challenge has become that of containing a global instability that has its roots both in the phenomenon of globalisation in the absence of global government and in the loss of the stabilising effect of the bipolar order. The new international situation favours — in particular through international terrorism and states on the brink of collapse — the proliferation of WMDs, but, unlike the Cold War era, the balance of terror cannot serve as an efficient deterrent, as such a balance presupposes states with fixed territories that can be destroyed.
The third challenge is the threat of an ecological holocaust, which is so evident that it does not warrant further comment here.
In this global situation, “making the world safe for democracy” means finding valid responses to the above-mentioned existential challenges. And since the main feature of all the challenges that characterise today’s risk society is the existence of a global society in the absence of global government, a policy of world unification can be the only valid response. This policy must take, as its guiding principle, the grand design — of historical import — of a global federation: a federation based, in accordance with the subsidiarity principle, on a system of continental federations, national states, regions and local communities. The federation is, in fact, the only institutional system capable of achieving democratic government of interdependence. That said, it is necessary to look at the concrete routes that the policy of world unification must follow. There are, basically, two such routes and they are closely related.
The first route is that of regional integration. Essentially this means exporting Europe’s integration experience to Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, South-east Asia, and Latin America, in order to pacify areas where there is conflict (thereby drastically limiting authoritarian tendencies and military expenditure) and to form transnational economic systems that, no longer forced to act as small, individual states, are infinitely better equipped for economic growth and defence.
In a broader sense, this is an undertaking that must also embrace a strong policy for the stabilisation and democratisation of states that already have continental dimensions (like Russia, China and India), but that certainly do not qualify as democratic supranational communities. In short, if it is accepted that European integration (strongly supported by American policy in its early days) is a grand experiment — incomplete, but nevertheless highly instructive — in state-building, or better in the building of the democratic state, then today the time has come to extend this experience. This means taking real steps towards a more progressive and peaceful world and at the same time building the fundamental pillars of the future world federation.
The second fundamental route that the policy of world unification must follow is that of the reconstruction and strengthening of global governance. On one hand, there are enormous problems that must be faced at global level: devastating economic, financial and monetary instability; intolerable injustices and imbalances generated by globalisation; international terrorism; proliferation of WMDs; violent conflicts; ecological emergencies; transnational crime. On the other hand, it is not yet possible to achieve, globally, the close level of transnational integration that can be achieved on a regional level, where closer interdependence, proximity, and cultural affinities render possible, if nevertheless difficult, the construction of supranational institutions that have a federal vocation. This is not to say, however, that it is not both necessary and possible, at global level, to achieve global governance by introducing instruments better equipped to tackle global issues, and above all by institutionalising a substantial transfer of resources from rich countries to poor ones, thereby overcoming the destructive tendency to entrust the market with the task of solving the imbalances of today’s globalised world.
The two routes that the policy of world unification must follow are organically linked and thus reinforce one another. This link emerges particularly clearly in the debate over the need to reform the UN Security Council. The only way of strengthening and democratising this institution is through its regionalisation: the UN Security Council should be made up of the existing continental states and of the institutional expressions of regional processes of integration in the world, starting with the EU of course.
 
2. The full federalisation of the EU is the premise for the effective start of a policy of world unification.
In order to grasp this point fully it is necessary to understand that the world’s large democratic states are the only political subjects able to implement this policy. First of all, these states have a particularly vital interest in promoting world unification, because the existential challenges confronting mankind are also very real threats to the survival of the democratic system. Indeed, in a world that is moving towards a heightening and generalisation of hostilities and that has no perceptible way out of this situation, democracy is bound to perish. Second, only the world’s large democratic states have the material resources (economy, technology and capacity for global action) needed for the construction of international democracy, and, likewise, the necessary ethical-political resources: only the democratic system, which is founded on constitutional limitation of power, can accept the consensual limitation of power at international level. Another important feature of the democratic states is that they are home to the strongest and most widespread movements for peace and supranational solidarity, movements that can put crucial pressure on democratic governments to move in the direction of federalism.
That clarified, we must also appreciate that the existing balance of world power hinders the launching, by the democratic states, of an effective policy of world unification. Today, there exists only one large democratic state fully capable of implementing a grand strategy on a global scale: the United States of America. But, even though this state has a vested interest in promoting world unification, its objective power situation constitutes an enormous obstacle to its readiness to accept the costs inherent in such a policy. There are large economic costs, given that what is needed is an extension, globally, of the logic of the Marshall Plan, which means the provision of economic aid on a large scale (linked to important aid on a security level) in exchange for an area’s opting for pacification-integration and democratisation. And there are also considerable costs in terms of the reductions of sovereignty that are necessary in order to construct a global institutional system, which, despite being bound, for some time, to have a confederal physiognomy, would nevertheless introduce a genuine multilateral, rather than hegemonic, decision-making system.
Two basic factors prevent the USA from accepting these costs.
First, America occupies a hegemonic position in the current world order. This hegemony leaves it shouldering, practically alone, the huge responsibility of guaranteeing world security, and at the same time encourages the spread of an imperialist mentality throughout American society and the American governing class, a kind of power vertigo that, according to Ludwig Dehio, has characterised all the powers that, throughout history, have risen to such levels of pre-eminence. Obviously, against this background, there cannot be said to exist within the USA (which must, let it not be forgotten, be attributed the great historical merit of defeating fascist totalitarianism, the hegemonic ambitions of Germany, and subsequently Soviet/communist totalitarianism, and which also has a vested interest in a policy of world unification) the political or psychological conditions that would allow it to accept the costs — in terms of restrictions on its absolute sovereignty and a reduction of the current unbridled consumerism — that such a policy would entail.
Second, the USA, even though it has clear political and military pre-eminence, no longer enjoys the dominant economic position that it did in the 1940s and ’50s and that allowed it to finance the Marshall Plan and to take on the costs of governing the world economy. This relative decline of the American economy has been reflected in its decision to base the stability and development of the world economy on market forces (progressive liberalisation of capital flows, financial deregulation, progressive reduction of government economic intervention). This was justified through the imposition, on the world’s main financial and trade organisations, of the free-market ideology, which in reality meant the rest of the world having to finance American power.
In the light of this, it is possible to see the objective basis of the current American strategy, and thus to appreciate that it cannot be viewed essentially as a specific choice on the part of the Bush administration. In reality, in today’s increasingly interdependent world, which has become a community of destiny, the problem of world unification is a real challenge that demands a response, and the USA is prompted by its power situation to respond to this challenge with a deliberate policy of stable global hegemony, rather than a policy of world unification. This strategy is implemented, in particular, through systematic unilateralism — as demonstrated clearly by the United States’ rejection of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and of the Kyoto Protocol, and its delegitimisation of the UN —, through military supremacy (which implies massive rearmament), and through a policy of preventive war (witness Iraq).
This strategy, which is bound to produce less and not more (as claimed) stability, shows certain analogies — acknowledging, of course, that the USA is a democracy and that in the atomic age general wars have become inconceivable — with the strategy of the European powers in the first half of the twentieth century. In that era, the challenge confronting the larger European states was the decline of the nation-state — the Industrial Revolution had created a need for states of continental dimensions — but being still powerful, they were not ready to accept the reductions of their sovereignty on which a process of consensual unification depended. In this situation, faced with a stark choice: “empire or federation”, the European powers opted for imperial expansion, which of course culminated in the German attempt at hegemonic unification of Europe.
Having considered the American situation, let us now take a look at Europe’s position. The EU is a large community of democratic states, whose deep-seated interest in promoting world unification is reflected in a tangible trend in this direction. The main manifestations of this trend are: strong support for the ICC and Kyoto Protocol; widespread support for a strengthening of the UN; a policy that favours regional integrations; the fact that the EU and its member states are the leading contributors of development aid; the fact that the largest movements for peace and global solidarity are based in Europe; the document presented by CFSP High Representative Javier Solana to the European Council in Thessaloniki (June 2003), entitled “A safe Europe in a better world”, which outlines the role, as guide, that Europe could play in the world.
It must also be underlined that Europe’s vocation for a policy of global unification is deeply rooted in its lack of an imperialist syndrome; after all, the process of European unification was born of the catastrophic effects of power politics and founded on the experience of limitations of sovereignty, and this naturally gives rise to an inclination to export this experience.
This clarified, it is, on the other hand, clear that the EU, due to its incomplete federalisation, is incapable of transforming this natural vocation into an effective and systematic strategy of world unification. Full federalisation means: transfer of foreign policy (including development aid) and defence to a democratic supranational body (i.e., the Commission provided, under the control of the European Parliament and Chamber of States, with the power to construct a single diplomatic service and a single army); supranational power of taxation, in order to fund an adequate European budget; the elimination of national rights of veto on questions of constitutional reform.
Complete federalisation of the EU would have two consequences, fundamental and inter-related. On the one hand, the EU would acquire the instruments allowing it to be an effective actor on the international stage. This is demonstrated by the effectiveness of the Union’s action in various sectors (currency, competition policy, trade) in which it is not impeded by national rights of veto.
On the other hand, a fully federalised EU would decisively alter the global equilibrium, as it would be an entity with the capacity to offset American power, and its presence would mean an end to the situation that currently prevents the more advanced countries from finding adequate responses to the challenges of the twenty-first century. In short, it would mark the passage from unipolarism to pluripolarism, since this offsetting of American power would also allow China, India, Russia, Japan and other powers to exert more influence on world affairs. The pluripolar system of the twenty-first century, unlike that of past centuries, would be a cooperative multipolar system because, objectively, the existence of the global risk society acts as a stimulus for cooperation, for the survival of all. In the final analysis, it comes down to a choice: unite or perish.
In this situation, a federalised Europe would have the capacity to do more than simply initiate a strong policy for world unification; by bringing an end to America’s exclusive hegemony (and its attendant burdens, temptations and hubris), it would also have the capacity to involve the USA in this policy — to convince America to abandon unilateralism, which after all depends on the existence of a one-sided global equilibrium. A balanced partnership between the EU and the USA would, in short, act as the core and the driving force of a policy of world unification.
Here, a comparison with European-American relations in the 1940s may, once again, be useful. In that period, the USA brought to an end the central role, in the world equilibrium, of the European system of states, and thereby paved the way for the start of the process of European unification, which saw integration emerging as a concrete alternative to power politics. Today, a Europe fully federalised through consensual unification, and not through war, would counterbalance America’s power, and thus make a vital contribution to America’s own transition from power politics to multilateralism and consensual unification on a global scale.
 
3. Within this framework, it is necessary to clarify the main features of Europe’s defence system.
Let us begin by considering the concept that inspires European defence policy. Today (in the global risk society, in which traditional defence policies are becoming obsolete), the fundamental task facing us, on a security level, is that of contributing to the construction of an effective international police force, conceived as an instrument of state building, which must clearly be supported by development aid, by the creation of an efficient administration, and so on. It follows, of course, that the creation of a single European army would strengthen the UN, which must have Europe’s security forces at its disposal. This choice must be reflected in a formal and solemn commitment, made through the inclusion of an article in the European constitution (similar to article 11 in the Italian constitution), which not only identifies peace as the ultimate aim of the European federation’s international policy, but also specifies its readiness to limit its own sovereignty in favour of the UN and the availability of its armed forces for crisis management and the purposes of international policing.
This concept of European defence (European defence as a stage in the creation of an international policing system) has several very clear implications: rapid mobility, the capacity for long-term stationing of forces in hot spots such as the Middle East and Africa (always in the context of a policy of regional integration), and organic integration with the action of peace corps. In this regard, the introduction of compulsory civilian service (which could be carried out at local, national or supranational level) would be a crucial aspect of Europe’s role in the world.
A European foreign and defence policy would have to be accompanied by serious strategy not just against the proliferation of WMDs, but indeed for their elimination. This would, crucially, require a commitment (written in the constitution) to transfer these weapons: in short, the European Federation would, under the control of the UN (through a re-launch of the Baruch Plan), inherit WMDs from the national armies. An issue frequently raised in the debate on European defence is that of its enormous costs and thus of its incompatibility with the European welfare state. These arguments fail to take into consideration the fact that the dimensions of American military expenditure (which is taken as a point reference) are determined by the United States’ situation as a single superpower that is striving to respond to the problem of global governance through the strengthening of its own hegemony. Instead, for the purposes of a policy of world unification, which a federal Europe would be equipped to conduct, there would be no need to increase military spending. One need only consider the enormous waste generated by the current national division of military expenditure, the lack of standardised equipment, the dispersion and duplication of research, the excessive quantity of personnel, and the low level of investment. The extent of this waste is such that, as things presently stand, we Europeans would have to spend six times what the Americans spend in order to produce a comparable military capability. The creation of federal armed forces would allow huge savings, and thus permit the level of military efficiency needed to carry out all the security tasks that it falls to the EU to perform, without increasing (and possibly even decreasing) the current level of total European expenditure.
What has been said above should serve to clarify the question of the relationship between European defence and NATO (and, in more general terms, between Europe and the USA). It is clear that the autonomy in the sphere of defence that would be acquired by a federal Europe with a single defence system would automatically mean an end to the USA’s protectorate over Europe and lead to a transformation of the Atlantic Alliance into a genuine partnership of equals: a partnership that would will be able to act as the core and driving force of a policy of global unification. In fact, Europe’s dragging of its heels over the need to construct the European pillar of the transatlantic partnership is a key factor favouring American imperial strategy: indeed, America is now deliberately boycotting European unification and thereby undermining solidarity between the two sides of Atlantic.
Finally, a comment is needed on the critical relationship between the intergovernmental approach to defence and the European democratic process. Here, there exists an insurmountable contradiction. In order to avoid exacerbating the democratic deficit that characterises European integration, strict democratic control of the national parliaments, with regard to the behaviour of the national representatives in defence cooperation organisations, must be exercised. However, this only makes the achievement of consensus more difficult, given that the national parliaments are not responsible for pursuing the common European interest. On the other hand, intergovernmental cooperation can reduce its own structural and decision-making inefficiency only by more or less openly distancing itself from national democratic controls. Hence, in Europe, only a full parliamentary federation can reconcile decision-making efficiency with democratic control.
 
Sergio Pistone


* In this section, we are publishing several papers presented at the Congress of the Union of European Federalists (Genoa, 19-21 March, 2004), which compare two different strategic standpoints. The texts contain references to the political situation at that time.

 

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