In an interview published in Welt am Sonntag on 8 March Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, said “With its own army, Europe could react more credibly to the threat to peace in a member state or in a neighboring state…Such an army would help us to form common foreign and security policies and allow Europe to take on responsibility in the world”. This is the most recent and influential statement that a new priority is emerging in the European political agenda as an undeferrable necessity: European defense. This need manifests itself when the measures for the stabilization of the euro have proved unquestionably successful and the Juncker Plan has promoted an investment fund, destined to grow in the next years.
The institutional building which has governed European unification rested on two pillars, that have ensured peace and security in the continent: the convergence between the raison d’état of national governments and American hegemony. Now, the second pillar has become so weak that the Eastern and Southern borders of Europe – an area whose security was entrusted to NATO garrison and affected by the European neighborhood policy as regards economic cooperation – are falling into the chaos. And the EU is not endowed with the means to face it. If the violence of war and terrorism expands southward toward Africa and the Middle East and eastward towards Russia, the peace becomes a priority. Without peace, the construction of the European unity risks to be stopped, overwhelmed by the growing international disorder. The first step to be taken, without Treaty revision, is the so-called “permanent structured cooperation”, which would allow even a small number of the EU member states to start the creation of a European army. As we advance in the globalization era, we realize that we have reached the conclusion of a historical cycle, the one of the bipolar world order, begun at the end of WWII. The most visible signs of it are, on the one hand, the dissolution of the USSR and the communist bloc and, on the other hand, the decline of the American power in the world, shown by the failure of its military interventions in the past forty years, since Viet Nam to Iraq.
We must recognize the heavy responsibilities of the US and the EU that have been dreaming to have won the Cold War. The wars against Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have removed hateful dictatorships, but have generated failed states, the ground where tribal and religious conflicts, terrorism and organized crime rage. The Twin Towers terrorist attack allowed to define Islamic fundamentalism as the new enemy of the Western World, the substitute of nazism and communism. If we consider that Al Qaeda was a tiny group of terrorists protected by the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, we can assert that this enemy was a creation of George Bush Jr. subservient to his megalomaniac dream aiming to transform the US into a world empire. The danger gradually begun to take consistency only after the Iraqi war, which aroused resentment in Islamic masses and then terrorism. This disastrous war – waged on the basis of fabricated evidence regarding a nonexistent Iraqi nuclear arsenal – paved the way for increasing influence of jihadist groups, which gained ground in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Mali, Nigeria etc. The tragedy of the shipwrecks of boat people which occur daily in the Mediterranean is the consequence of the pressure on European borders of migrants who have lost their relatives, their home, their goods and escape societies where the collapse of the state has brought about a regression to the “state of nature”, so that life, according to Hobbes’s description, is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. A war for the hegemony over the Islamic World is in progress. The ISIS aspires to become a protagonist of a big game which attracts the participation of the great powers of the region (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey and Egypt) and the world (US, Russia, China, EU etc.). But in an increasingly fragmented world there is no military solution to the global disorder. The end of the bipolar world order and the Cold War was followed by a growing disorder. The EU has a special responsibility, since it is located at the storm centre. Its political unification could provide an essential tool to fill the power vacuum left by the retreat of the US, but cannot stabilize the region alone.
What is needed first of all is a political agreement between the great powers. A conference on security and cooperation in the Mediterranean – according to the model of the Helsinki Conference, which in 1975 started the East-West détente – with the participation of all the countries of the region and the great powers. We must learn the lesson of the failure of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, whose goal was the creation of a free trade area by 2010. That failure suggests to reverse the order of priorities. The security issue should be addressed first. Without it, no economic cooperation plan can be implemented. A security community is the vehicle to pursue the armaments reduction, the creation of a denuclearized area in the Middle East, the formation of a Palestinian state developing a federal relation with Israel within the framework of the Arab League, the reconstruction of failed states. The negotiation formula (P5+1) which allowed to reach the agreement on the Iranian nuclear program shows the way to follow. Political stabilization represents the condition for mobilizing the economic resources for a sustainable development plan in Africa and the Middle East. The Marshall Plan represents a model and an inspiration. Qualifying aspects of it should be the production of renewable energies in the Sahara desert, the construction of infrastructures such as pipelines, motor ways, high-speed trains, information highways. On the other hand, the EU should import agricultural and handicraft products and raw materials.
Even more serious reasons of concern derive from the tensions and military clashes occurring at the Eastern side of Europe. It is right to recognize that the annexation of Crimea and Russian military intervention in Eastern Ukraine are violations of international law. At the same time, it should be admitted that they are reactions to aggressive policies of the West. Ukraine’s application for EU and NATO membership represents a hostile act toward Russia. The same meaning has the US deployment of an anti-ballistic missile system in Poland and the Czech Republic. To avoid the dismemberment of Ukraine and avert the military option, which would bring the world back to the dividing lines of the Cold War, it is necessary to return to the spirit of Helsinki and revive the principles of cooperation in the security, economic and humanitarian fields, according to the rules that were set into the Helsinki Final Act. It is time to revive Gorbachev’s project of the “European Common Home”, abandoned by the West after the dissolution of the USSR, and its most significant institutional achievement, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The strengthening of the latter and its gradual transformation into a security community, including Russia, the former USSR republics, the EU and the US, is the first step on the way to the construction of world peace. And here again it’s up to Europe to take the initiative.
The article first appeared on The Federalist Debate