Friday

22nd Mar 2019

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

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join 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.

EUobserved

Campaigning commissioners blur the lines

EU commissioners campaigning for a national post have to take a leave of absence - while those running for an EU job do not. This distinction undermines the effort to close the gap between EU and national politics.

Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election

Smer, Slovakia's ruling party, wants the country's media to give politicians a right-of-reply, or face stiff fines. Advocates of a free press are alarmed, and it poses a problem for the European Commission, whose vice-president is a Smer presidential candidate.

EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party

In a compromise decision, Europe's centre-right grouping stops short of expelling Hungary's ruling party - which has been accused of rolling back democracy and the rule of law.

Opinion

Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Jan Zahradil, EU Commission president Spitzenkandidat for the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, responds to Emmaneul Macron's European vision ahead of the May elections.

May tosses Brexit spanner into EU machinery

The UK is seeking a three-month delay to leave in the European Union. But its 30 June deadline is a major headache given the European elections in May. The European Commission is demanding EU summit leaders reject May's proposal.

Centre-right EPP faces showdown with Orban

The EU's largest political alliance, the EPP, will try to put the 'Orban issue' behind it going into the European election campaign. Hungary's ruling party, Fidesz, could be expelled or suspended from the political family.

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us