Wednesday, November 16, 2011
9:18 AM Illinois European Union Center 1 comment
The European Union and NATO are the most important international organizations to emerge in Europe after World War II. Established barely two years apart, both endeavored to prevent another war, but went about that goal in different ways. While the European Coal and Steel Community, the foundation of the EU, focused on economic integration, NATO concentrated on integrating American and European militaries to better defend against the Soviet threat.
As the EU has grown far beyond a simple coal and steel regulator, the areas of responsibility of these organizations have increasingly begun to overlap. As Professor Paul F. Diehl noted, 50 years ago the idea that the EU would be playing any significant role in the security field would have been quite hard to believe. Yet, in a study of all peace operations between 1947 and 2009, Alexandru Balas (p. 407) found that the EU has in fact carried out nearly double the missions of NATO (23 vs 12). Moreover, Balas notes that the EU rarely works in tandem with NATO—and often when it does, “cooperation” amounts to the EU taking over a formerly NATO-led operation (for instance, the EU replacing NATO-led forces in Bosnia in December 2004).
This lack of cooperation seems quite surprising. After all, the membership of the two organizations overlaps considerably: 21 of the 27 EU member-states are NATO members (including the 13 largest EU member-states), and, other than the US, Canada, and Norway, all NATO members are either EU member-states, candidates for EU accession, or on the EU enlargement agenda.
The most often cited explanation for EU-NATO deadlock is Greece and Turkey's longstanding rivalry, particularly over the divided island of Cyprus. Both are members of NATO, but only Greece is an EU member-state. Following the EU's admittance of the Republic of Cyprus in 2004, Turkey, which occupies northern Cyprus, has prevented high-level formal meetings between NATO and the EU.
Clearly, the division of Cyprus is a major problem, but is the primary obstacle to EU-NATO cooperation really a dispute over a Mediterranean island?
A 2008 Congressional Research Service report on EU-NATO relations suggested that problematic EU-NATO relations comes in part from questions about the future of the European Security and Defense Policy (p. 23). While the report notes that successive US Administrations have supported the ESDP, whose development might allow America's allies to operate more effectively with US forces and shoulder a greater proportion of the mutual security burden, there are those who remain concerned that some EU member-states might press for more autonomous EU institutions that would rival NATO's structures, leading to EU-NATO competition and weakening the transatlantic security guarantee (p. 23).
In other words, for all the bluster Cyprus is not the core problem. As such, while I think Professor Diehl is absolutely right that EU-NATO synergy in peacekeeping would work rather well, I doubt that we will see much effective cooperation until we have resolved the fundamental question of what sort of role NATO should play beside an increasingly state-like EU.
Michael Slana is a political science graduate student in the Civic Leadership Program at the University of Illinois. He completed his bachelor’s degree with a major in political science and a minor in history. During his freshman, sophomore, and junior years he interned for Champaign County State Senator Michael Frerichs, with responsibilities including constituent service and correspondence. In spring 2009 Michael studied in Austria as a participant in the Vienna Diplomatic Program, where he developed a strong interest in European and Transatlantic politics. During his junior year Michael began contributing to research on the impact of natural disasters on societal stability through a class at the Cline Center, and has continued this work first as an hourly research employee and later as part of a graduate assistantship. To fulfill his Civic Leadership Program residency requirement, Michael completed an internship in spring 2011 with the US State Department’s Mission to the European Union in Brussels, Belgium.