The EU in the 21st Century - a Democratic or Imperial Future?

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The Peace & Neutrality Alliance was established in 1996 to advocate that Ireland should have its own independent foreign policy, that neutrality should be a key component of this policy and that it should be pursued primarily through a reformed United Nations. Our vision of the future of the EU is as a Partnership of Independent Democratic States, legal equals, without a military dimension.

The United Nations with all its faults is the only inclusive global institution committed to collective security. The EU on the other hand is an institution dominated by states such as Britain, France and Germany with deeply rooted imperial traditions, whose elites having lost their empires in the 21st century seek by combining, to restore their imperial power in the world.

While there is an imperial tradition in Ireland, PANA belongs to that other deeply rooted tradition of independence, democracy and neutrality founded in Ireland by Wolfe Tone and the United Irishmen in the 1790’s.  While is open to all groups and individuals, we focus on seeking to ensure that as many groups that agreed with our objectives affiliated and do not have an individual based branch structure. Over 30 groups are now affiliated, the most recent being the Irish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign and Shannonwatch.

It was established because we believed that the Irish political/media elite intended to destroy Irish independence, democracy and neutrality by integrating Ireland into the EU/US/NATO military structures in order to ensure Ireland’s full and active participation in the resource wars of the 21st century. We believed that an effort had to be made to bring together all the political forces opposed to this imperialist project and defeat them.

This commitment to a neo-liberal militarist ideology will have only one absolutely inevitable outcome. The military defeat of the EU/US/NATO axis and the collapse of the economy. All they offered is war and poverty. This reality is a great deal clearer now than it was in 1996.

The then leader of the opposition, Mr. Ahern professed his support for neutrality to the extent of calling for a referendum on Ireland’s membership of NATO’s Partnership for Peace. We did not believe him. On achieving power Mr. Ahern ensured Ireland join the PfP without the referendum. He ensured that there was a substantial increase in military expenditure focused on upgrading the Irish Army’s military equipment to be compatible with that of the NATO. So that while the Irish Army remained small (about 10,000), he increased the total military expenditure to €1billion per annum so that, per soldier, it became one of the highest in Europe.

Mr. Ahern in fact, played a key role in supporting and advocating all the growing military provisions of the Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon Treaties.

His support for the Irish peace process should be understood as seeking to ensure not only that the 6 counties remained part of NATO, but also that the 26 county state became integrated into the EU/US/NATO structures. For Mr. Ahern, the peace process was in reality a war process so that all of Ireland and not just the 6 counties, became actively involved in imperial wars. Mr. Ahern is a true neo-Redmondite ensuring all Ireland support for the Imperialist wars of the EU/US/NATO axis in Palestine, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan and possibly in Iran as well.

The reality is that the emergence of the EU as a militarised neo-liberal Superstate can only be understood as part of the process of the expansion of the EU/US/NATO axis. The key to this process has been the decision by the Ahern government to destroy the long standing policy of neutrality and to turn Shannon Airport into de facto US Airforce base in the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. So far the EU and the states of the states of the EU support these wars by sending thousands upon thousands of troops to help (including 7 troops from this state).

PANA held the first demonstration at Shannon Airport in May 2002 and organised or taken part in many demonstrations about the use of Shannon by NATO forces since then including the massive demonstration in 15/2/03. By 2007 the numbers turning out on demonstrations but convinced that the Irish people still opposed its use, PANA commissioned an independent polling company Lansdowne Marketing at a cost of over €1,000 (a considerable sum for PANA) to ask the people about the use of Shannon Airport just before the last election. 58% were opposed and 19% were in favour. Even if in the unlikely event all 21% who had no opinion broke in favour of its use in war, a decisive majority were opposed.

It could be said that the process of Ireland’s integration into supporting these wars culminated in the use of Shannon Airport.

This process included a series of treaties including the Single European Act that initiated this political/military project, but it was the Maastricht Treaty that really accelerated militarisation.

The Danish people rejected the Maastricht Treaty and gained a number of key concessions by way of Protocols which are legally binding parts of a treaty, one which ensured that Denmark would not pay for or be involved with the militarisation of the EU. This Protocol was then added to the next treaty, the Amsterdam Treaty.

In our campaign against the Amsterdam Treaty, PANA focused on seeking to ensure that a similar Protocol be added to include Ireland. This demand has been central to our campaigns against the Nice Treaty and the EU Constitution/Lisbon Treaty.

The military provisions of the various treaties that sought to transform the EU into a centralised, militarised, neo-liberal superstate, or “Empire” as President Barroso calls it, are well documented on the PANA site:

I intend to focus in my remaining remarks on what has happened since the Irish people were bullied and intimidated into reversing their decision to reject the Lisbon Treaty.

One of the key provisions of the Lisbon Treaty was Article 28 A(7) which provides a mutual assistance clause for all EU member states in case of armed aggression. It states:

“If a member State is a victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all means in their power, in accordance with Art.51 of the UN Charter. This shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States. Commitments and cooperation in this area shall be consistent with commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which, for those States which are members of it, remains the foundation of their collective defence and the forum for its implementation.”

PANA’s contention during the debate (such as it was) on the treaty was that this was a mutual defence clause that would make the last remaining competence of the Western European Union ( a European based version of NATO) redundant leading to its abolition. This view was supported by Andrew Duff MEP, Rapporteur of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Lisbon Treaty.

As predicted the Western European Union has now been abolished thus validating PANA’s contention that the EU is committed legally to collective defence.

The Lisbon Treaty was also ensured the appointment of a Minister for Foreign, Security and Defence (called the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy) and Baroness Ashton of Upholland was appointed to the post. With a level of power sharing with other institution such as the EU Commission and the EU Council of Ministers (the EU Parliament seems to have lost out) throughout the world and allocating her budget.

Her budget over the next three years is €51 billion. Her own annual salary is €375,000. Her annual pension after five years is €74,000 plus a €530,000 lump sum payment. These massive amounts of money gives some idea of how much the rest of the members of the new EU Dept. of Foreign Affairs are being paid and why so much money was spent by the Irish Dept. of Foreign Affairs to ensure a yes vote so they could get a reasonable number of the jobs allocated to themselves.

She has also withdrawn her alleged opposition to the creation of an EU Military HQ and centralised EU Secret Service.

Crucially, the new de facto EU Minister for Foreign, Security and Defence Policy has control over the development budget. From now on Oxfam, Trocaire, Concern are to be an integral part of EU military strategy. One might say the EU elite with a bag of rice in one hand and a military drone in the other seek, via they're newly emerging EU State to dominate the world.

There is however one major problem. The people living in the EU don’t agree with this Imperialist vision. The crucial decisions that will lead to their defeat have already been made.

The first is that the Dutch people forced their political elite to withdraw 2,000 soldiers from Afghanistan. While most EU states including Ireland have not yet also declared their intention to withdraw their troops, when the Dutch troops leave this August this decision will accelerate the rapidly growing demand by the people from all the EU states to ensure their governments invest their diminishing resources to job creation at home rather than wasting money in an unwinnable war by also withdrawing their troops, will become unstoppable. For example polls in Britain show that 77% of the British people want them withdrawn and 65% of the German people want to withdraw their troops.

In short, the EU elite in Holland have lost control. The dam has broken. There is no way back. They will not be able to hold back the torrent that will destroy their dream of Empire.

This torrent will also sweep away the European Defence Agency which was to ensure the expansion of the EU military-industrial complex.

 In recent visits to the Brussels both Clinton and Gates have called upon the EU to spend more money on weapons as unlike the US that spends over $1 trillion a year on defence, over 50% of its annual income, the EU states spend on 2% of its GDP (less than half that of the US). They have not received a favourable response. The EU elite under pressure to provide for health, education and social welfare for their own people from a declining income have to in fact cut military expenditure, all of which will leave the EDA underfunded and force the EU to ignore Article 28(3 ) of the Lisbon Treaty which said EU states to:

“undertake progressively to improve their military capability”.

The second key decision has been the fact that the role EU Battle Groups have been massively constrained by the judgement of the German Constitutional Court on the Lisbon Treaty that German troops can only be sent abroad by a decision of the German Parliament which the second key decision.

The whole point of the EU Battle Groups and the Lisbon Treaty was that they were military formations which could be sent to any part of the world via a decision of the EU Council of Ministers without reference to the national Parliaments or people.

While Article 28 allows for a small number of EU states to create military groups “in accordance with the principle of a single set of forces” (in short an army) with the Germans now not able to send its troops abroad without the consent of their Parliament the EU military force to be created via structured cooperation is now very unlikely.

Even the provisions that state; “Convinced that a more assertive Union role in security and defence matters will contribute to the vitality of a renewed Atlantic Alliance” are becoming meaningless as the people’s of Europe refuse to back their political/media elite as they send their armies, mercenaries and drones to perish in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. The EU/US/NATO axis is being smashed to pieces on the rocks of the Himalayas as have so many Empires before them

Ahern, Cowen, Kenny etc did not lick their imperialist values off the stones. Up to January 1919 Ireland was part of a centralised militarised neo-liberal Superstate, the British Union. It sent its Battle Groups (which included large numbers of Irishmen) all over the world, using its military power to expand the Empire. They seek, like born again Redmondites to restore that tradition. They now celebrate Gallipoli, but for those of us who reject the Redmondite tradition, the lives of those Irish soldiers where lost in the service of a ruthless and vicious Empire.

The reality however is that no matter how much they call themselves European rather than Irish. No matter how much they identify more and more with Ireland’s imperial tradition such as Gallipoli, the Irish people will not go down that Imperialist road again.

For while they won the 2nd battle of Lisbon, it was Pyrrhic victory and they have cracked. Its rejection by the French and Dutch people and their need to spend € millions to crush the Irish people into the ground has drained the imperialists of their energy and confidence. This is a reality made manifest by their decision to appoint a complete nonentity, Baroness Ashton as the EU Foreign Affairs Minister.

Thus while the war between those of us who believe in the EU as a Partnership of Democratic States and those who want it to become an Imperial State is by no means over, we have already turned the tide. The Empire Loyalists are in retreat. As the neo-liberal militarist ideology cracks we need to

continue to build the links we have been developing with those in the other EU states and the United States even stronger and drive the stake deeper into the crack.

We should never underestimate them. For example the German SPD affiliated Friedrich Ebert Foundation in April 2010 published a strategy document which advocated even stronger EU/NATO links and the EU states should maintain a military force of 2 million soldiers financed by €2 billion a year.

They have no intention of giving up, but then neither do we.

Our vision of Europe as a Partnership of Independent Democratic States, without a military dimension operating through a reformed United Nations is more achievable now than it ever has been. We are building our own transatlantic alliance and our ability to ensure that Ed Horgan, PANA’s International Secretary regained his visa to attend a peace conference is the latest example of that process. The links between the progressive and democratic forces in the EU/US/NATO area are getting stronger.

Our victory is by no means assured but we should have the confidence to see it is a real option.

Speech to the Ireland Institute


Roger Cole

Chair,   Peace & Neutrality Alliance

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