European Defence and European Foreign Policy

By Guido Montani

In a well-argued article, Joschka Fisher tackles the crucial issue for the future of the European Union that has been brought to the forefront by the Russian invasion of Ukraine: the creation of a new world order, as Putin and Xi Jimping stated at their recent meeting in Moscow. The proposal of the former German foreign minister is that the EU should become “a geopolitical political power with self-defence and deterrence, including a nuclear force”.

This is a point of view that has been debated among leading European policy makers, but not yet debated among European citizens and parties in the European Parliament. It is nevertheless a nagging and unavoidable issue. Already the Maastricht Treaty provided for the creation of a European defence and foreign policy, but little or nothing has been done for thirty years. Yet the vacuum of European initiative is evident. Let us consider three examples. The first is the Russian-Ukrainian war: European governments have aligned themselves without a murmur to the US government and NATO guidelines, even though the war is developing in Europe and its outcome will have existential consequences for the future of the Union. Europe was divided by an Iron Curtain at Yalta by the two superpowers. Now it risks the same fate: it will be divided by the three great powers that are negotiating a way out of the conflict that has erupted in the centre of the European continent.

The second example concerns immigration policy, where it has not yet been clarified whether the Union’s borders are European, and therefore defended by a Union police force, or national, as was decided by the Dublin Compromise. The consequence is that illegal immigration flows continue also within the Union, between state and state, so that each government has to defend its own intra-European borders. European inertia encourages the creation of new walls, inside and outside the Union, as denounced. Elisabeth Vallet, a Canadian geopolitical scholar.

The third example, concerns European policy towards the African continent, where Europe had managed to establish loyal cooperation with the ACP countries through the Lomé Convention and, again, in the 21st century, through equal relations between the institutions of the European Union and the African Union. Today, the military forces of Russia and the financial forces of China (through its Belt and Road Initiative) are progressively eroding Euro-African relations. A testimony to this trend is the recent combined military manoeuvres by South Africa, China and Russia.

How to fill the European power vacuum in international politics? A power vacuum is not filled overnight by a political genius. European defence and European foreign policy are two aspects of the same reality: the role that the European model of civilisation, European government (when it exists) and European citizens will play in the contemporary world. The new world order is necessary to deal with two dramatic threats to the future of humanity: the first is obvious, and perceived by all: global nuclear war. The second is the environmental crisis, in short, climate change and the destruction of biodiversity, which, despite repeated and unfulfilled commitments by national governments, is advancing at an accelerated pace, as evidenced by persistent droughts, torrential floods, melting polar ice and mountain glaciers.

To discuss European defence without foreign policy is to construct imaginary scenarios. European policy will only move towards defining its identity in world politics gradually, step by step, by seeking the consensus of the European people on the objectives and the resources needed to achieve them. In a Union with 28 member states, each still endowed with national military forces, the temptation to find allies outside the Union is as strong as the need to cooperate with the other member states. Poland’s attempt to form a modern, pro-NATO Mitteleuropa against Putin shows that the debate on Europe’s role in the world cannot take it as unquestionable that the future of world politics is decided by power politics, by a Europe-power, by the clash of great powers armed with lethal armaments, up to and including the atomic bomb.

In the 20th century, international politics was dominated by the ideological clash between the two superpowers, one supporting democracy, the other socialism. In the 21st century, the European Union has to stand up for peaceful coexistence between small and large international powers, speaking out against the creation of new borders, iron curtains and irreconcilable hatreds between peoples. In short, the European foreign policy for peace and sustainable development will be the continuation by other means of the internal policy of pacification between its member states. This basic orientation will be realised, from time to time, through the identification of specific goals – such as the European proposal for a peace project between Russia and Ukraine – but will have as its guiding star the creation of a cosmopolitan community, where the citizens of the world can inhabit their Planet, in harmony with nature and with all other inhabitants, whatever nationality they belong to.

The greatest responsibility for an effective European foreign policy will not fall on the European Council (where each government mainly defends its national interests), but on the European Parliament, because it will have to be the European parties that make European citizens (who so far ignore the nature and content of dual citizenship, European and national) understand what needs to be done to save the world from the savage clash between great powers. In order to preserve the European Union as the cradle of the new cosmopolitan civilisation, a courageous foreign policy is needed against the senseless international power politics. The feeling that the progressive parties in the European Parliament will have to arouse in the citizens can be called ‘European patriotism’. Nationalists have appropriated the term ‘patriotism’ by distorting its original meaning, which referred to a feeling of belonging to one’s native land and solidarity with other human beings. Today, European citizens must continue the work of building the European federal union. In short: Uniting Europe to unite the World.