Sunday

23rd Jan 2022

European defence league poised for debate on dormant pact

A group of the EU's major foreign policy players is waiting to find out what happens to the Lisbon Treaty before deciding if it should keep or scrap an old "musketeer" defence pact.

The security pact is found in Article V of the Modified Brussels Treaty, created in 1954 at the height of the Cold War.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Illustration from an 1894 edition of Dumas' book "The Three Musketeers" (Photo: Wikipedia)

"If any of the high contracting parties should be the object of an armed attack in Europe, the other high contracting parties will ...afford the party so attacked all the military and other aid and assistance in their power," it states.

The contracting parties are EU and Nato member states France, Germany, the UK, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Greece.

The pact is similar to Nato's Article 5, which is sometimes called the musketeer clause as it echoes the "all for one, one for all" motto of the protagonists in Alexandre Dumas' novel The Three Musketeers.

The Brussels Treaty is significant because it is the only European defence pact in existence.

In terms of legal theory, if a Nato and Brussels Treaty member state was attacked and the US-led Nato alliance failed to honour its musketeer clause, the country could instead invoke the Brussels Treaty as a back-up.

In practice, the scenario is unthinkable due to Nato's political and operational importance.

But the 1954 treaty is also significant because some of its 10 parties are interested in keeping it alive so that Article V could in future be used as the basis of a new EU-level defence pact, a source at the Western European Union (WEU) told EUobserver.

Don't throw out the baby with the bath water

The WEU is the largely-dormant institution in charge of implementing the Brussels Treaty. It costs €13.4 million a year to run, has 65 staff at offices in Brussels and Paris and is chaired by EU foreign relations chief Javier Solana.

The WEU expects its 10 member states to hold talks on its future in the few months after the fate of the Lisbon Treaty becomes clear.

One option is to scrap the WEU secretariat but to keep the Brussels Treaty intact as a legally-binding agreement, so that Article V lies ready to hand.

If the Irish referendum on 2 October says "yes" to Lisbon, ratification could follow before 2010. A No result could unravel the Lisbon Treaty, with no official EU plan B.

Framing a European defence

The Lisbon Treaty does not contain a European defence pact. But Lisbon would give EU member states a mandate to progressively frame "a common defence policy that might lead to a common defence."

An EU official told this website that if the Brussels Treaty musketeer clause is in future put forward as the basis of a new EU defence pact, it would need to be rephrased to reflect post-Cold War sensibilities.

"If it was ever transposed into an EU treaty, it would have to be different language. It's in the past. Times have changed," the EU official said.

Lawyers threaten action over new EU gas and nuclear rules

Environmental lawyers are threatening to take legal action against the European Commission if gas is included in the EU guidelines for sustainable finances. But the draft taxonomy has also triggered discontent among some EU national capitals and MEPs.

MEPs urge inclusion of abortion rights in EU charter

MEPs have recalled their demands to include the right to legal and safe abortion into the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, a day after French president Emmanuel Macron pledged to open such a debate in the EU Council.

EU orders Poland to pay €70m in fines

The case is one of many disputes between the EU and Poland's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, which have started to cost money for Warsaw.

Dutch mayors protest strict lockdown measures

Thirty Dutch mayors have asked the national government to rethink its corona pandemic measures amid protests from museums and cultural centres against continued lockdown.

Macron promises strong EU borders

Obligatory detentions, more security-screening, and faster deportations - these are the French EU presidency's migration priorities.

MEPs to crackdown on digital 'Wild West'

MEPs will vote on new rules setting out transparency obligations for online players and holding Big Tech giants accountable. But some issues proved to be divisive after EU lawmakers tabled over a hundred amendments on the file.

News in Brief

  1. 'No embargo' on meetings with Putin, EU says
  2. Austria to fine unvaccinated people €3,600
  3. MEP: Airlines should start paying for CO2 sooner
  4. Twitter forced to disclose what it does to tackle hate speech
  5. EU watchdog calls for ban on political microtargeting
  6. MEPs adopt position on Digital Service Act
  7. Blinken delivers stark warning to Russia in Berlin
  8. Hungary's Orbán to discuss nuclear project with Putin

Analysis

Hydrogen - the 'no-lose bet' for fossil-fuel industry?

The EU plans to label natural gas as 'green' in sustainable investment rules. From 2026 it will have to be blended with low-carbon gases like green hydrogen - but many scientists warn this is inefficient, costly and damaging to health.

Opinion

Macron's vision will hit EU Council veto buffers

President Emmanuel Macron's address to the European Parliament championed a bold and ambitious pro-European agenda. There is one problem though - the plans rely on a system of governance that has gridlocked the EU for over a decade.

Latest News

  1. Lawyers threaten action over new EU gas and nuclear rules
  2. MEPs urge inclusion of abortion rights in EU charter
  3. EU orders Poland to pay €70m in fines
  4. Dutch mayors protest strict lockdown measures
  5. Macron promises strong EU borders
  6. MEPs to crackdown on digital 'Wild West'
  7. Macron calls for new security order and talks with Russia
  8. Macron's vision will hit EU Council veto buffers

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us