- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 29, 2001

In December of last year in the French resort of Nice, European Union nations agreed to create a EU rapid reaction force, the so-called Euro-army. It will consist of 60,000 troops, 100 ships and 400 aircraft.

The United States expressed reservations but agreed to support the idea provided the EU avoided what then U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called the Three D´s: decoupling, duplication and discrimination.

In Britain, a suspicious public has been reassured that the Euro-army would be tied to NATO. We were also told that an EU defense identity will mean EU states spending more of their own money on defense.

Sadly, the reality is very different.

The EU army as it currently stands decouples the U.S. and Canada from Europe, duplicates NATO military structures and discriminates against non-EU NATO members in Europe such as Turkey.

For the 18 years that the Conservative Party was in power in Britain, we worked for greater European defense spending and greater European defense cooperation. Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major led the way. In principle, we supported a European dimension to defense and still do. Unfortunately, as this agreement currently stands, the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) threatens to weaken NATO and the trans-Atlantic link because:

• EU forces will be independent and autonomous from NATO, weakening NATO.

• The planning for many operations can be done outside of NATO

• The EU will retain full political control throughout any military operation, not NATO.

The army was brought into existence by two countries, Britain and France, and their entirely different domestic political agendas.

For France, the Euro-army is a long-term project designed to wean Europe and especially Britain off the U.S. military link. The EU armed force would be the base of an international military alliance led by France excluding the United States. French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine has stated that long-term objective of Europe should be to "emancipate itself" from the United States. A European defense identity excluding the United States reinforces the French governing classes´ desire to see France as a world power. The French desire to see the Euro-army totally independent of NATO is clear. President Chirac said in a radio interview that: 'European defense must of course be coordinated with the alliance, but it must, as regards its preparation and implementation, be independent of SHAPE [Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe]."

For Britain, Tony Blair needed an EU army to proclaim his European credentials without taking the dangerous step of trying to take Britain into the EU´s euro currency. Britons remains firmly hostile to Euro membership. Mr. Blair could not and still cannot afford to fight and loose a referendum on the Euro without undermining his leadership. He saw the Euro-army as a useful political palliative.

In Britain, those people who support the EU army are largely those who believe Britain is finished as an independent nation. Despite having the world´s fourth-largest economy, our left-wing politicians remain defeatist. They want to see a Britain distanced from the United States and Canada. They want the Euro currency to replace the Pound Sterling, and they want Britain´s defense identity to be European rather than Atlanticist.

Mr. Blair is well aware of the dangers of the Euro-army, and the tone of anti-Americanism accompanying it. In an interview with London´s Sunday Telegraph newspaper on March 18. the prime minister made a startling admission of the agenda behind the ESDP, saying: "Well, if we don´t get involved in European defense, it will happen without Britain. Then those people who really may have an agenda to destroy NATO will have control of it."

In Britain´s House of Commons on Dec. 11, Mr. Blair said of the Euro Army: "The idea that this will be an independent standing force set aside from NATO is nonsense," and "there is no way in which the force will be a rival to NATO or act in circumstances other than those in which NATO chooses not to be involved."

During Mr. Blair´s visit to Washington, he told U.S. President Bush that the European defense project would not weaken the alliance. President Bush chose publicly to take on trust Mr. Blair´s assurances that the EU´s rapid reaction force is "something that can strengthen NATO."

These assurances have proved to be deceptive.

The European military structures set up under the European Security and Defense Policy are completely separate and autonomous from NATO. This is enshrined in the December 1998 St. Malo, June 1999 Cologne and December 1999 Helsinki agreements, which took this process to its conclusion in Nice last December. These EU-based military structures include: a European Military Committee, a Political and Security Committee, the General Affairs Council and a European Military Staff and planning cell.

The final agreement on the Euro-army was published in the Nice Presidency Report. However, the real thinking behind the current structure of the EU army was buried in annexes 6 and 7 of the Nice Presidency Conclusions. Of EU military operations, annex 7 of the Conclusions, titled "Standing Arrangements for Consultation and Co-operation between the EU and NATO," stated: "The entire chain of command must remain under the political control and strategic direction of the EU throughout the operation after consultation between the two organizations… . NATO will be informed of developments."

Of the EU-NATO transparency, the annex stated that the EU will make the decision whether and when to talk to NATO, "When necessary … the dialogue will be supplemented by inviting NATO representatives to meetings, in accordance with the provisions of TEU." (p. 55, "Standing Arrangements for Consultation and Co-operation between the EU and NATO") The reports make clear that six European NATO members (Norway, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Turkey and Iceland) will be shut out of the planning and decision-making process. The Turkish government has made it clear that these new arrangement are unacceptable.

Elsewhere, France´s Chief of Defense Staff has said that the EU rapid reaction force must be independent of NATO and have its own planning staff. Gen Jean-Pierre Kelche told London´s Daily Telegraph on March 28 that: "There is no question of a right of first refusal . If the EU works properly, it will start working on crises at a very early stage, well before the situation escalates. NATO has nothing to do with this."

Western civilization´s ability to defend our values and shape the world around us was and is dependent on U.S. military power tied into a strong trans-Atlantic NATO alliance. At the moment, the Euro-army is in it infancy. It can still be all things to all politicians. But we are rightly worried that the long-term goals of this Euro-army are not to strengthen NATO, but the very opposite. America, like Britain, should be concerned.

Francis Maude, a member of the British Parliament, is the spokesman for the Conservative Party on foreign affairs.

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