4 June 2005

EU goes military

By Tapani Lausti

Gerald Oberansmayr, Supervalta EU: Euroopan Unionin militarisoimisesta. Like 2005. (Austrian original in German: Auf dem Weg zur Supermacht – Die Militarisierung der Europäischen Union)

For some time I have suspected that many EU politicians and bureaucrats as well as newspaper commentators have a secret fascination with warfare. This suspicion started during the Balkans conflict. A lot of people seemed strangely enthusiastic about aerial bombardments. They seemed to be in awe of the destructive powers in action. What a wonderful way to punish the baddies, they seemed to be thinking.

In Gerald Oberansmayr’s book Auf dem Weg zur Supermacht – Die Militarisierung der Europäischen Union, which has now been translated into Finnish, there are many quotes from leading European protagonists which seem to confirm my suspicions. The German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder waxed lyric about the Western role in the violence in the Balkans: “This is an act creating something new and such things are never carried out with joy but suffering.” Schröder wants Europe “to act as a strong operator which will have a crucial influence in creating the world order of the 21st century”. He demands the improvement of EU military capabilities.

Army officers have found the atmosphere conducive to straight talk. The influential German general Klaus Naumann did not mince his words: “Once again, the German army has to teach soldiers to die.” Most of the time the EU rapid reaction forces are dressed in humanitarian masks but often a military spirit is being openly paraded. Whilst we are told that social expenses have to be slashed, there is no shortage of money for military purposes. Also, the plans look beyond Europe: A new colonially minded Europe is emerging.

Indeed, a blatant contradiction is now visible. One of the European Union’s main lofty aims has been to put an end to the wars which in the past have ravished the continent. Now, however, enthusiasm for military capabilities is there for everyone to see. Yes, the talk is about “crisis management”, but the record is not encouraging. Frighteningly casual attitudes towards violence have re-emerged around Europe. We are supposed to rejoice about what happened in Kosovo. Oberansmayr reminds us of what happened: “78 days of continuous bormbardment using over thousand fighter planes, 35,000 aerial bombings, 15,000 tons of bombs, about 10,000 dead, almost totally destroyed infrastructure.”

Too many people have fallen for the dangerous notion of humanitarian intervention. Suddenly the line between peaceful and violent crisis management has become blurred. Meanwhile, the wheels of the European arms industry are turning frantically. The EU military programmes aim to fill in any “deficits of readiness” which might slow down the Union’s drive towards being a superpower: “What is being prepared is full-range armament — including weapons of mass destruction — needed in aggressive wars like the ones we have seen in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq”, Oberansmayr writes.

Personally I rejoice in the no-vote against the European constitution. I share the deep distrust of European leaders and their political, economic and military visions. Hopefully a new democratic spirit will eventually spread in European civil societies. How it will be turned into a new vision of Europe is one of the urgent questions for the continent’s citizens.

See also:

Militarisation of Europe?

Polarities, 22 June 2001

See also EU section in the archive

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