European military police forerunners of European army

27 January 2006

European military police forerunners of European army

In the opinion of SP Euro-MP Erik Meijer, the European Gendarmerie Force (EGF) inaugurated in Italy last Monday will be the forerunner to a soon-to-be-established European army. Mr Meijer was speaking on the European programme of BBC World, broadcast on Saturday and again on Sunday. Also taking part were the French General Philippe Morillon and the British Tory Euro-sceptic Charles Tannock. In addition to this panel discussion involving Members of the European Parliament, the programme outlined the aims of the new European militarised police force which is intended to be in a position to send an 800-strong unit at thirty days' notice to anywhere in the world where trouble flares.

In total 3.000 armed military police officers will be available for international missions. The primary intent is to provide police support for peace-keeping missions in areas where there is a need to restore law and order. The force was established under the Dutch presidency in 2004, and Minister of Defence Henk Kamp was present last Monday at the opening of its headquarters in the Italian city of Vicenza. The Netherlands is one of only five countries involved in the initiative and will provide sixty military police officers.

Erik Meijer"At the moment they're calling it a police force, but in fact what we have here are of course the preparations for a European army,” Erik Meijer told the BBC. "Our political group (the United Left Group – GUE/NGL – to which the SP is affiliated in the European Parliament) has always been against this and this was also one of the reasons to vote against the European constitution last June. On that point I agree with Charles Tannock: military cooperation is an important symbol of the European superstate against which we continue to campaign. I prefer the current situation in which the different member states conduct their own defence policy and are not obliged to line up behind the same European flag. The French and German position against the invasion of Iraq provides a good example of how these divisions can lead to a better position than would be the case were the whole of Europe obliged to follow the United States unanimously."

The SP is opposed in principle to any military operations outside the territory of the member states. "We would allow two exceptions to this," said Meijer. "Specifically, for humanitarian aid and for peace-keeping tasks, provided in the latter case that they are requested by the warring parties." A good example would be Macedonia, which in 2001 stood on the brink of civil war, a brink from which it pulled back following effective intervention from a European peace-keeping force requested by both sections of the population, the ethnic Albanians as well as the Macedonians. This is in contrast to Bosnia, where against the will of the various population groups an artificial unity was cobbled together and preserved by military authority.

To General Morrillon, who in 1992 was head of the international mission in Bosnia, Erik Meijer said that while at the time he admired his courage and commitment in the defence of the Muslim enclaves, such as that of Srebrenica, "it was nevertheless seen in what followed that it had been unjust to give the people there the illusion that with the United Nations they would be in safe hands."

The mistakes made at the time in Yugoslavia have certainly contributed to the intention to establish a European army that could take over some of NATO's tasks, such as is now happening in Bosnia. In a certain sense you could see the rapid reaction force now being established within the EGF as a riposte to the NATO Response Force. As Erik Meijer says, "I don't think it's advisable for Europe to want to see itself as a superpower which must as a consequence compete with the United States.”

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