Ten ministers suggest EAS boost and defence policy push
By Gaspard Sebag | Friday 22 June 2012
To bring European integration one step forward, ten EU foreign affairs ministers recommend bolstering the European External Action Service (EAS) and making headway on a European pefence policy. The suggestions form part of a larger basket of ideas on the long-term future of the EU that can be found in an interim report dated 15 June.
Upon invitation of their German counterpart, Guido Westerwelle, nine foreign affairs ministers (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain) have been exchanging ideas since March this year on the direction the EU should take in the future. The aim is to produce a final report in the autumn.
The majority of the orientations in the interim report remain “rather vague,” as one diplomat put it. Generally speaking, the ten ministers believe that in order for the EU and the euro to be “irreversible,” the “two-fold challenge” of the debt crisis and globalisation needs to be addressed. They consider the crisis a “wake-up call,” which has shown that the EU has to act to reestablish trust and confidence in the European project urgently.
The most concrete proposals relate to foreign affairs and defence. At stake: responding to global challenges and speaking with one voice, in particular due to the emergence of new powerhouses on the world stage. The ten ministers suggest taking advantage of the review of the EAS decision in 2013 to strengthen this new institution. That means, for example, stronger EAS planning and command capabilities for civil-military operations. Most of the ten feel that the EU’s defence policy should be “more ambitious” than the current pooling and sharing. “In the long term, we should aim for a European defence policy with joint efforts regarding the defence industry; for some members this could also include a ‘European army’,” reads the interim report. The ministers also suggest committing to more majority decisions in the sphere of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and pushing for the EU to have a common seat in international organisations.
A European defence policy push and a boost of the EAS are all well and nice but of course, overcoming the economic, financial and debt crisis is the “absolute priority”. In this respect, greater pooling of sovereignty in the medium term in some areas will be necessary, in particular to fundamentally strengthen the Economic and Monetary Union. The possibility of a stronger role for EU institutions regarding national budgets might need to be explored, reads the interim report, which also touches upon the need to address the failures of the financial markets and bank restructuring. Moving towards a European Monetary Fund in the medium term is another idea mooted.
Other ideas include the possibility of creating a European visa to replace national visas, creating a double-hatted post of Commission president and European Council president or having more permanent chairs for each Council formation.