The European Defence Agency: Arms for War and Profit<br>

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by Carol Fox, Research Officer, PANA (July 2008)

One of the many surprises thrown up by the Lisbon Treaty debate was that the European arms industry had managed to set up shop within the EU. Not only were we being obliged to spend more on armaments ["Art. 28(3): Member States shall undertake progressively to improve their military capabilities"], but an entire EU agency dedicated to bolstering the defence sector and the arms trade was being brought into an EU Treaty.

How had this happened? Where had this European Defence Agency (EDA) come from? And what was the attitude of the Irish Government to all of this?

There are a number of excellent reports by the human rights group, Statewatch, and the Transnational Institute outlining how the European arms merchants got into the EU shop: it was via the EU Commission 'kitchen’. There are over 15,000 lobbyists in Brussels, mostly representing business interests, and many of them are invited by the Commission to sit on special policy committees. One such group was the EU Advisory Group on Aerospace. Nearly half its members were aerospace industry chairmen, including those from Europe’s four largest arms companies. Their 'Strategic Aerospace Review for the 21st Century’, published in July 2002, called for the creation of a 'level playing field so Europe’s industry can compete fairly in world markets’. Ultimately, what was required was the establishment of a: "European armaments policy to provide structure for European defence and security equipment markets, and to allow a sustainable and competitive technological and industrial base".

The EU Commission embraced this proposal: good for business, good for EU military ambitions. By the spring of 2003, it had produced 'Towards an EU Defence Equipment Policy", incorporating the Aerospace Review concepts and calling for the creation of an Agency to oversee these developments. The very first draft of the EU Constitution in 2003 contained provisions for a European Armaments, Research and Military Capabilities Agency, (later renamed the European Defence Agency). It was not surprising that such an agency would be part of the new EU Constitution, which was on track to boost the EU’s military dimension. Indeed, during the preparatory work for the Constitution by the EU Convention, 13 'expert’ witnesses were called before the Working Group on Defence including a General, military reps from the EU and member-states, two reps from the arms industry, and President of the European Defence Industries Group. The working group never asked to hear from civil society representatives.

Measures to boost EU military capabilities pre-dated the EU Constitution. Member States in 2003 promised to develop their military capabilities to an agreed state of readiness by 2010 (the so-called Headline Goal), so the EU could 'respond with rapid and decisive action ….to the whole spectrum of crisis management operations’ included in earlier EU Treaties. Under the 2004 Irish Presidency, the European Council gave its final blessings to these Goals, adding that the EU must consider pre-emptive actions and have the 'ability to conduct concurrent operations … simultaneously at different levels of engagement’. This was all underpinned by the European Security Strategy authored by EU Foreign Affairs and Security chief, Javier Solana, in 2003.

The EU Constitution would have leant a helping hand to these military improvements. When it was defeated in 2005, its military provisions were fully incorporated into the Lisbon Treaty.

Lisbon spells out the EDA’s role in ensuring that the EU is fighting fit. Not only will the Agency be responsible for supporting the defence sector and defence R&D, but it will identify operational requirements for the EU’s developing military force, assist in defining a European capabilities and armaments policy, and monitor the improvement of EU military capabilities. It has a special responsibility for the new Permanent Structured Cooperation provision in Lisbon, a mechanism allowing certain member states to form mini-military alliances within the EU’s structures for the EU’s 'more demanding’ missions. The EDA is to ensure that these states are fully equipped to carry out these demanding missions.

The EDA has no misapprehensions about the importance of its role. It shouldn’t have. It already exists. So eager were the EU Powers That Be to have its services, that the EDA didn’t have to wait for the Constitution’s blessings. It was up and running from July 2004, when approved by the EU Foreign Ministers. In other words, with the Constitution defeated and Lisbon knocked down by Ireland, the EDA has still not been placed into the EU Treaties. The EU’s Foreign Affairs Supremo, Javier Solana, is head of the EDA. Its steering group consists of the EU defence ministers and the EU Commission.

The self-assured Agency even produced a Long Term Vision Statement in 2006, outlining some of the tasks it sees before it: "The Headline Goal and European Security Strategy envisage a broad and significantly challenging set of potential missions. These include separation of warring factions by force, on the sort of scale that would have been required had a ground invasion of Kosovo in 1999 turned out to be necessary. They may also encompass stabilising operations in a failed state .... So the demands of today’s European Security and Defence Policy are already potentially deep and comprehensive."..."Future joint forces will need agility at the operational and tactical levels as well as the strategic. Once deployed, EU Member States’ joint forces may need to be able to operate at will within all domains and across the depth and breadth of the operational area, possessing combinations of stealth, speed, information superiority, connectivity, protection, and lethality. They may need to operate in complex terrain and inside cities."

These EU joint forces are already under development, including a 60,000-strong Rapid Reaction Force capable of intervening far beyond the EU’s borders. The French Presidency next month hopes to speed up that process. Meanwhile, the EU is already in action with a number of rapidly deployable Battlegroups, consisting of up to 2500 troops, with capabilities for high intensity operations. NATO has described the Battlegroups as "providing the EU with 'ready to go’ military capability to respond to crises around the world". Ireland has been a member of the Nordic Battlegroup since 2006.

This Vision Statement was also written with the knowledge that the EU’s military tasks had been expanded by the EU Constitution (and now Lisbon). In addition to the humanitarian, peace-keeping/peace-enforcement tasks of previous treaties, there are new provisions for joint disarmament operations, post-conflict stabilization and combating terrorism in countries outside the EU. There are also mutual defence and solidarity clauses, with the latter dealing with joint actions against terrorism, including the need to counter perceived 'threats’ as well as attacks.

Ireland: eager members of the EDA
Ireland joined the EDA immediately, in July 2004. There was no Dail debate and no vote. The decision was taken by the Government. Defence Minister Willie O’Dea stated the EDA was an intergovernmental agency within the framework of the EU’s European Security and Defence Policy and that membership didn’t oblige or commit Ireland to do anything other than contribute to the EDA’s budget. The fact that the EDA would be in the business of promoting armaments and boosting the arms trade didn’t seem to bother the Minister or the Irish Government.

It is within the Lisbon Treaty provisions concerning the EDA that Member States are obliged to improve their military capabilities. EDA Head Javier Solana has made it clear that there is an 'absolute requirement for us to spend more, spend better and spend more together’.

In 2008, Ireland will be making a financial contribution of €327,000 to the EDA. In addition, Ireland has, since 2007, been participating in the Joint Investment Programme on Force Protection. This has a budget of €55 million over 3 years, to which Ireland is committing €700,000. (Research areas include: Stand off detection of Chemical, Biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosives; Defence options for airborne threats; Scope spotting and sniper detection: Research on new materials for force protection).

There are basic questions which must be asked about Ireland’s involvement with the EDA. Historically, Irish Governments – in keeping with popular sentiment -- have not been proponents of the arms industry. Ministers have invariably denied the existence of any indigenous Irish arms sector (despite evidence from Amnesty International and Afri to the contrary). Indeed, for over thirty years, Irish state boards promoting research and enterprise, such as Enterprise Ireland, have been bound by legislation stating they: "shall not engage in or promote any activity of a primarily military relevance without the prior approval of the Government"

The Department of Defence’s Strategy Statement, 2008—2010, extols the EDA as providing "opportunities of interest to Irish-based enterprises and researchers" and states: "We will work closely with Enterprise Ireland to exploit potential research and commercial opportunities arising".

Ireland’s relations with the developing world have prompted concerns about arms spending and the global arms trade. But the EDA is focused on increasing global competitiveness for EU arms industries, particularly in relation to the United States, a direction reinforced by the EU Commission in its 2007 "A Strategy for a Stronger and More Competitive European Defence Industry". Already, EU companies are responsible for over €80 billion a year in arms sales.

The EDA and Lisbon
Since the EDA already exists, one might ask: how has defeating Lisbon affected that organization? There are at least four implications.

  1. Without Lisbon, Member States are not legally obliged to progressively improve their military capabilities;
  2. The EDA has still not been placed into the EU Treaties;
  3. The new expanded military tasks have not been given Treaty status and the EDA should not be promoting capabilities, etc. in these areas;
  4. The provision of Permanent Structured Cooperation -- in which the EDA was to have played a major role -- has not been approved.

How Ireland ever joined the EDA without parliamentary debate or approval is incomprehensible. Maybe now, post-Lisbon, questions will begin to be asked about Ireland’s involvement in this agency and about the entire EU military project.

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