A guest post by Unite member and former Socialist MEP, Paul Murphy.


Some people were probably appalled by the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to the EU. I say it was about time.

If drone-warrior in chief, Obama, deserves it – then why doesn’t a political project that collectively expects more arms than anyone else, which is pursuing an aggressive expansion agenda around itself and waging war on its own peoples? The EU seems to be a perfect candidate for what the Nobel Peace Prize has become.

One of the most irritating pieces of rhetoric about the EU, which I had the misfortune of hearing regularly in the European Parliament – is that peace is at the heart of the EU. Gay Mitchell, the former Fine Gael Dublin MEP has written a pamphlet on the history of the EU effectively dedicated to putting forward the line that the EU is a peace project.

This could not be further from the truth. Peace is not at the heart of the European Union. Big business interests, imperialism and war are at the heart of the ‘European project’. It has both an internally and externally imperialist character.

Internally, we see it more and more clearly at the moment, whereby working people in Europe, in particular in the weaker peripheral states are subjected to the interests and domination of the powerful capitalist classes in Europe – in particular that of Germany. This occurs with the slavish acceptance of the capitalist establishments in the periphery and at the expense of working class people in Germany.

It also has an externally imperialist character. This is about the capitalist classes of Europe ceding some sovereignty and coming together in order to better exploit Lesser Developed Countries on the one hand, which we see with predatory exploitative trade deals like the Economic Partnership Agreements with countries in Africa, and on the other hand to try to rival other major powers – the US and the rising powers to the east. It is also seen in the expansionist so-called ‘Neighbourhood Policy’, which is about tying all of the surrounding countries to the same neo-liberal rules as the EU and accepting the dominance of the leading capitalist powers in Europe.

Because of the Cold War and the bipolar world that existed until the collapse of Stalinism, this did not have a particularly pronounced military dimension at the earlier stages of the European project. However, with the end of the Cold War, we have seen a rapid process of the militarisation of the EU. This is a process that is proceeding both covertly and openly and it is speeding up.

Tony Blair accurately summed up this strategic vision of the elites in Europe:

“For Europe, the crucial thing is to understand that the only way that you will get support for Europe today is not on the basis of a sort of post-war view that the EU is necessary for peace… The rationale for Europe today therefore is about power, not peace. In a world in particular in which China is going to become the dominant power of the 21st century, it is sensible for Europe to combine together, to use its collective weight in order to achieve influence.”

This reveals the deep strategic goal which lies behind the process of militarisation and explains why they push ahead with it relentlessly in a number of different ways.

There is a massive scale of expenditure on weapons in the EU – around €200 billion on a yearly basis. This spending is being effectively maintained, despite all of the austerity imposed on our public services across Europe. This expenditure takes place primarily at the member state level. However, there are a number of processes taking place at the level of the EU.

Firstly, there is the Lisbon Treaty, which in Article 42.3 sets out very clearly: “The Member States shall undertake progressively to improve their military capabilities.” When confronted with this Article, those who defend the Treaty try to say, “well it doesn’t mean anything, it’s just an aspiration.” But an earlier draft explicitly mentioned the figure of 2% of GDP. This shows that it is clearly about furthering militarisation and transferring yet more wealth to the armaments corporations.

Secondly, with the establishment of the European Defence Agency and giving it a legal basis within the Lisbon Treaty, the armaments industry is placed at the heart of the EU. The original and more honest name for this was the “European Armaments Agency”. Its own charter explicitly identifies its aim as: “The improvement of the military capabilities of the participating Member States as well as the identification and further development of new ones.”

Thirdly, you have the establishment of Battle Groups, which PANA has done very good work in researching and publicising. The result is that the EU can field 50,000 troops anywhere in the world within five days.

Fourthly, the method of permanent structured co-operation gives a legal basis for these Battle Groups. With the Mutual Defence and Solidarity clauses, it means that a number of countries can form a Battle Group, engage in military adventures, and then require the other EU countries to become involved in those military actions.

Fifthly, is the significant funding of military research with European taxpayers funds. In the seven-year EU research programme that goes up to the end of 2013, €1.4 billion has been spent on security. The beneficiaries are Thales, Saab, EADS, BAE – the major EU arms manufacturers – beneficiaries to the tune of hundreds of millions of euros. The new programme, Horizon 2020, will see even more money allocated to this.

It is not even just European based armaments corporations that have benefited from these funds, but also Israel Aerospace Industries and Elbit Systems – who are responsible for developing drones to kill Palestinians and played a central role in the development of the apartheid wall.

There are also projects like the Galileo satellite project, which is nominally a civilian project, but in reality is a military one. One of the latest projects is OPARUS, which is about developing common drone technology between armaments corporations in Europe. Part of the plan is to develop a drone to be used against immigrants trying to get into Europe. The connection between the external imperialist EU policy and the war against immigrants known as Fortress Europe is self-evident.

Where this is all going is very clear. A report on the implementation of the Common Security and Defence Policy came up in the European Parliament at the end of last year which illustrates the strategic direction. The report aimed at transforming the EU into a global military actor, advocating an EU HQ with intelligence support as well as a permanent Defence Council. It supported financing the European Defence Agency from the EU budget and stated that it regrets that the Battle Groups have not yet been deployed in EU military operations. Another report in the Parliament was about the defence industry and called for military funding from the EU budget.

In Ireland, there is another angle to this process – it is a way of undermining the concept of neutrality by the back door. It is ironic that Gay Mitchell who describes the EU as a peace project has written another pamphlet for Fine Gael, entitled ‘Beyond Neutrality”. Lucinda Creighton has said that Ireland has a ‘narcissistic attitude’ to neutrality. The current government, including the Labour Party, has cheerled the military intervention into Mali. This involves the use of Irish troops assisting an army that Human Rights Watch has pointed out are guilty of revenge attacks, torture, summary executions and disappearances.

Of course, the Irish ruling class was never really neutral. Shannon Airport stands as a current example of the fact that it supports the interventions of western imperialism. Neutrality is rhetoric that they sometimes are forced to nod towards, but it has no basis in their actions.

But the notion of neutrality and the sense of the importance of neutrality, as reflected in the 78% of people in a PANA opinion poll who are in favour of neutrality, acts as a certain barrier and limitation on the ruling class’ wish to openly support imperialist intervention and drive militarisation. The popularity of this idea comes from historic struggles in Ireland – the struggle of James Connolly and others who resisted the slaughter of the First World War with slogans like “we serve neither King nor Kaiser”, the 1918 general strike against conscription and the revolutionary struggle against British imperialism.

This places a limit on the ability of the government to do what it would like and the government would like to undermine it. Posing the EU as a peace project, when in reality it is a military project, and increasing involvement in things like Battle Groups, is a way for them to get around the issue of neutrality while simultaneously undermining it.

What is the role of MEPs in struggling against this militarisation process? Firstly is obviously to vote against these processes, such as these militarisation reports in the European Parliament. However, there is a big majority in the Parliament for this process, so that alone is not enough. MEPs have to use the position to speak out and expose this process of militarisation, using the Parliament as a platform to try to mobilise people into action outside the Parliament – that is the only way that it can be resisted.

James Connolly summed it up well when he wrote: “We have held and do hold that war is a relic of barbarism only possible because we are governed by a ruling class with barbaric ideas; we have held and do hold that the working class of all countries cannot hope to escape the horrors of war until in all countries the barbarous ruling class is thrown from power.”

That means we have to struggle against war and militarisation, link it to the austerity and war against working people in Europe and struggle for a fundamentally different Europe than the militarised and big business EU, a socialist Europe.

Authors note: This article is based on a talk given to a Peace And Neutrality Alliance meeting in November 2013. Therefore, some of the latest developments, such as in Ukraine are not referred to.

Guest post submissions, essays and reports are welcome at The Flame. You can email us at Unite.youth.dublin@gmail.com. Just give us a basic pitch for a post you feel would be appropriate for our site. Remember to let us know if it’s a news or culture piece and if its time sensitive.


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