CIAO DATE: 03/04

The International Spectator

Volume XXXVII No. 3 (July — September 2003)

Editorial Note

It has become a tradition for The International Spectator to devote one core issue each year to analysis of the state of relations between Europe and the United States. The goal is to contribute to discussion of the ways and means to adapt the transatlantic partnership to the new realities and challenges emerging on the international scene.

The transatlantic section of this issue features five articles that examine the latest developments and future prospects of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), focusing on their implications for the evolving security partnership between the EU and the US. The first article by Timothy Garden gives a critical assessment of the plans to strengthen common European military capabilities, comparing them with the parallel efforts undertaken within the NATO context to build a quickly deployable military force. Garden notes that EU countries have recently taken several steps that indicate greater resolve than in the past for giving the Union a credible military role, including the decision to work out a European strategic doctrine. He stresses, however, the need for the EU countries to move without further delay towards the pooling of some force elements. The development of pooled capabilities would not only help the Union address a number of practical problems more effectively but also contribute to making it a more credible partner for the US in the planning and execution of major military operations. To make more effective use of European national defence budgets, Garden also suggests establishing a planning and budgetary system at the European level. Finally, he argues in favour of extending the EU's competition rules to the defence sector as a key measure for eliminating the current inefficiencies caused by national preferences.

In the second article of the transatlantic section, Udo Diedrichs and Mathias Jopp examine the rules and procedures regulating the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). They concentrate, in particular, on the mechanisms for flexibility in conducting ESDP which allow willing and able EU members to engage in deeper defence cooperation even if other European partners do not wish to participate. The authors give an overall assessment of the new forms of flexibility introduced in the draft Constitutional Treaty adopted by the Convention. They emphasise that, if enacted, the many new flexibility options could contribute substantially to the consolidation and development of CFSP and ESDP, even if decision-making in those areas will mostly continue to be subject to unanimity.

In the third article of the section, Alyson Bailes analyses the rationale for reform of ESDP and its interrelationship with the parallel transformation of NATO. She notes that from the outset ESDP has been characterised by an emphasis on capabilities and crisis management based on coalitions of the willing and the able. However, the European Convention adopted reform proposals that seem to go in a different direction. One of these is to create a "defence Euro-zone", which, in Bailes' view, could prove divisive and is unlikely to be accepted by the smaller and weaker countries. More convincing, according to Bailes, are other proposals such as introducing a solidarity clause for mutual assistance to deal with natural and man-made disasters and extending the so-called Petersberg tasks.

The problem of cooperation between the EU and NATO is specifically addressed by Daniele Riggio in the article that follows. He concentrates, in particular, on the problem of how to create a strategically sound complementarity between the respective rapid reaction forces of the two organisations. He argues that the European Rapid Reaction Force (ERRF) will presumably deal with traditional peacekeeping, conflict prevention and postwar reconstruction, while NATO's Response Force (NRF) is more likely to deal with high-intensity conflicts. Riggio notes, however, that the fact that EU member states and even EU officials have different views on the Union's security and defence tasks continues to constitute a major obstacle to the development of EU-NATO cooperation. Hence the need for the EU countries to develop a common understanding on the meaning and scope of the Petersberg tasks.

The transatlantic section ends with an article by Daniel Keohane which evaluates whether and to what extent the current European defence plans can actually contribute to filling the transatlantic gaps in defence capabilities. Keohane expresses cautious optimism with regard to ESDP's prospects. He underlines that two important innovations have been introduced, that is, the concept of a "framework nation" to take the lead in procuring a particular common asset, and the member states' commitment to interim arrangements to fill their capabilities gaps. Keohane warns, however, that there continues to be a serious intra-EU capabilities gap, which is likely to widen as the EU takes in new member countries. He concludes with a set of policy suggestions including the creation of a specific EU institutional figure responsible for ESDP and the introduction of provisions providing for a EU-wide integration of national defence markets.

The section on Italy's foreign policy opens with three articles that analyse various aspects of the foreign policy priorities of the six-month Italian presidency of the EU which started on 1 July 2003. The first article of the section by Stephan De Spiegeleire gives a critical evaluation of Italy's plans to boost EU-Russia cooperation during its presidency term. He underlines that Russia has made substantial progress in both the political and economic realms in the last few years, even though it still has a long way to go to achieve full normalisation. Given this mixed picture, there are no compelling reasons, he argues, for a major review of the EU's cooperation instruments with Russia. De Spiegeleire is against any fuites en avant, such as offering Russia the prospect of EU membership, which appears to be a rather remote and problematic eventuality. By contrast, he emphasises the need to concentrate on developing EU-Russia cooperation on more practical issues of common interest such as energy supply, the reduction of ecological risks, and the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

In the article that follows, Álvaro de Vasconcelos focuses on the initiatives that the Italian presidency can take in view of the relaunching of the EU's Common Strategy on the Mediterranean. He argues that the time has come to reconsider the EU's Mediterranean policy guidelines which have, over the years, revealed a number of shortcomings. One of these is the preference for regime stability even at the cost of reducing the possibilities for political transition towards more democratic political systems. According to de Vasconcelos, the Italian presidency could make a major contribution to changing this pro-status quo policy by encouraging the EU to be more active in the promotion of human rights and in supporting political reform. As for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, he argues that the Italian presidency should insist on the need for not only a credible monitoring mechanism for the "Road Map", but also an international military force with clear rules of engagement.

In the third article of the section, Marie-Janine Calic discusses the initiatives that the Italian presidency can take to update and strengthen the EU's strategy and instruments for the stabilisation of the Balkans. According to Calic, the EU continues to face a number of challenges in the region, including the continued fragility of peace in some areas, the possible negative repercussions of the 2004 enlargement and the persistent inconsistencies between bilateral and regional policies. Calic notes, however, that in its June 2003 Thessaloniki summit, the EU made a serious effort to increase the credibility of its Balkan strategy by opening new opportunities for cooperation. She therefore concludes that the Italian presidency should focus on implementing the Thessaloniki decisions. In particular, it should encourage the member states to transfer more responsibilities to the countries of the region as part of a long-term strategy to provide the Union's partnership with a more solid foundation.

The section on Italy's foreign policy ends with an article by Ettore Greco and Raffaello Matarazzo providing an overview and assessment of the new trends in Italy's stance towards the EU. They note that, under the Berlusconi government, Italy has become more cautious and selective than in the past about supporting new transfers of powers to Brussels. It has also shown a strong inclination to take sides with the US even when this complicates the definition of a common European position. All this seems to indicate that closer European political integration has ceased to be the lodestar of Italy's European policy. Greco and Matarazzo remark, on the other hand, that at the European Convention the Italian government eventually supported most of the proposals aimed at reinforcing the EU's institutions and expanding its sphere of section. The authors conclude, therefore, that the overall direction of Italy's European policy remains uncertain and that, in this sense, the Italian presidency of the EU will be a crucial test of the country's ability to contribute actively to further development of Europe's integration process.

Finally, the Opinions section hosts an article by Peter Brownfeld on the security risks connected with the spread of radical Islam and terrorist groups in Chechnya. The author notes that only recently has international terrorism become interested and involved in the Chechnya conflict and that this should be attributed to the continued deterioration of human right conditions since 1996 caused by the bloody Russian repression. As a result, there is now a serious risk that Chechnya is increasingly serving as a base and recruiting ground for al Qaeda and other terror networks, becoming a sort of new Afghanistan. According to Brownfeld, the West would be ill advised to support or close an eye to Russia's repressive policies. Even Moscow's recent attempts to promote a political solution have been, he argues, intrinsically flawed as they fail to address the root causes of the conflict. Brownfeld's suggestion is to work for an arrangement that would temporarily place Chechnya under UN administration and grant it independence only after a process of security stabilisation and democratisation has been completed.