30 MAY 1992, Page 5


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What we kept out of the Maastricht treaty is as important as what is in the treaty,' said Mr Major last week. 'There is no diminution in the role of Nato...' The Prime Minister was being, as always, scrupulously correct. There is no clause in the Maastricht treaty which says: 'The role of Nato shall be diminished'. Our EEC partners are a little more subtle than that.

At least, they usually manage to be a lit- tle more subtle than that. But sometimes their unsubtlety overcomes them. Just two days after Mr Major gave those assurances in the House of Commons, Chancellor Kohl and President Mitterrand mkt at La Rochelle to announce the creation of a new Franco-German military force which, they hope, will become the nucleus of a Euro- pean army. The German Chancellor explained that this new development was a natural consequence of the Maastricht accord: 'A common policy on defence and security,' he said, 'is a vital component of European unity, as the Maastricht treaty emphasised.'

The truth is that the treaty itself empha- sises nothing; it is up to the readers to decide what they will emphasise. Here, for example, is the relevant clause of the treaty with emphasis added to just four words: 'The common foreign and security policy shall include all questions related to the security of the Union, including the eventu- al framing of a common defence policy, which might in time lead to a common defence'. That is rather how one would expect Mr Major to read it, his voice linger- ing over the phrase 'might in time' in order to allow the imagination to dwell on the distant lives of generations yet unborn. Whether he had any particular idea of how long it would take before his European partners began constructing the 'common defence' of the EEC, we cannot know. But we can be pretty sure that he thought it would take more than two days.

Why the haste? Several different reasons are at work, and one long-term aim. On the German side, part of the explanation is Herr Kohl's perpetual urge to display his country's 'good European' credentials. But another part of the explanation is the desire of the German military to spread their wings: a recent report commissioned by the Inspector-General of the Bundeswehr demanded a force of 'about 100,000 men' for use outside the Nato area — something which the creation of a Franco-German corps would render far more palatable to the outside world.

The real driving force in this new devel- opment, however, is France. The French government has worried more deeply than most other governments about the winding down of American deployment in Europe; and, by trying to anticipate what it fears, is merely hastening its progress. The most obvious positive step which France could take — strengthening Nato by rejoining the military structure which it left in 1966 seems to be ruled out by 26 years' accumu- lation of pride and prejudice. The idea of creating a European defence entity, on the other hand, flatters French self-esteem. As a nuclear power with a strong independent tradition of strategic thinking, France hopes to take the leading role in such an entity, and fantasises about being the clever mahout riding on the German elephant.

Despite all their pious statements about building up the European pillar of Nato, it is perfectly clear that what the French are doing, with German connivance, is to attempt to create a defence formation which will parallel Nato, rival it and eventu- ally replace it. But 'parallel' is a misnomer, given the number of crucial differences that will remain between the two. A European defence force will never match the capabili- ties of the Atlantic Alliance, which depends on America not just for large-scale nuclear protection, but also for a whole range of highly expensive non-nuclear services: logistical support, monitoring and signals intelligence, satellite reconnaissance, etc. For Europe to pay the real bill for its own defence would require not just forgoing the `peace dividend', but making huge extra payments as well.

The biggest difference between Nato and the projected European defence force, however, is political. Contrary to popular belief, membership of Nato does not involve a sacrifice of sovereignty. Each member state is committed by the 1949 Nato treaty only to 'taking forthwith, indi- vidually and in concert with the other Par- ties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force'. Even at the outbreak of war, therefore, each state retains its own independence of judgment and of action. But when 'Europe' eventual- ly has its own army, things will be very dif- ferent. The decisions will then be taken by a European government. British soldiers will be required to die not for Queen and country, but for Council and Commission. This is the real long-term aim of the Euro- pean army-in-embryo: the creation of a truly sovereign European state. It is a sad irony that the French, having spurned the military structure of Nato out of excessive zeal for national sovereignty, should now be helping to set up the very kind of Euro- pean state which will eliminate French sovereignty altogether.