Editorial: Europe headed towards collective defence

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Photo: Urmas Nemvalts

Right after the tragic Friday, it was obvious that France was not going to be left alone in fighting ISIS. Meanwhile, the way military assistance is being provided sets a presedence and may lead towards improved defence cooperation in European Union.

Instead of evoking NATO article 5 citing that attack against one member is attack against all, France went the way of Lisbon treaty solidarity clause prescribing use of EU member states’ military, political or civilian means to help a fellow member against whom an armed attack has been committed.

As a reason to do so, France says they do not want to pressurise the USA nor further destabilise the situation in the Middle-East.

Presumably, there are other reasons. Always, France has been among those desiring to strengthen the common EU defence policy. Now, there’s a real need for that with an outlook for the future. At the emergency summit of EU  justice and interior ministers on Friday, they will probably talk about securing the external border and thence the increased cooperation among member states. An important detail will be access for border guards to police databases allowing the check of potential criminal background of entrants into EU.  

Also, the topic allows for France to raise economic and domestic security aspects. Seeing that France will, following the terrorist attacks, have to spend extra on security, the cutting of budget deficit and adherence to EU budget rules is no longer possible.

Also, France hopes for EU help not only in Syria and Iraq, but at its other military missions – to free up resources needed at home.  

Interestingly, with use of Lisbon treaty Turkey is left hanging. A sign perhaps of wobbly trust between EU and Turkey.

Clearly also, the Lisbon-precedent is meaningful to us. Need for collective defence has been on the agenda repeatedly, but member states vary in their positions according to size, location, neighbours and belonging/not belonging to NATO. With the likes of Finland – not in NATO but next to Russia – the collective defence idea should be welcome indeed.