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WEU AND THE EUROCORPS
Part Three
With the Maastricht Treaty, the WEU has become an integral part of the West European integration process. The WEU has been designated the EU’s organization of choice to formulate and implement defense and military aspects of policy. Although the WEU maintains its independent legal basis (the 1948 Brussels Treaty, as modified in 1954) for the Union’s CFSP to be effective, close cooperation between the EU and WEU is indispensable; this might eventually result in the amalgamation of both organizations.

Only six months after the Maastricht Treaty had been signed, WEU member states adopted the Petersberg Declaration (19 June 1992), which clarified the WEU’s role in conflict prevention and crisis management. The ministers of foreign affairs of the WEU member countries agreed that, besides making a contribution to collective defense in accordance with the treaties of Brussels and Washington, military units of the member states of the WEU could be deployed for “humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping tasks, [and] tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking.”35

Deployment could take place on the basis of a mandate from the CSCE or the United Nations Security Council. In order to implement the decisions, a Planning Cell was set up in early 1993 in the WEU headquarters in Brussels. “With these Petersberg tasks the WEU was a step ahead of NATO since peace enforcing could be carried out by the WEU, but not by NATO.”
36

The new Franco-German “Eurocorps” which was announced on 22 May 1992 would be excellent for carrying out the Petersberg tasks.
37 This new army concept was consistent with the decision of the Alliance Strategic Concept that “integrated and multinational European structures, as they are further developed in the context of an emerging European Defense Identity, will also increasingly have a similar role to play in enhancing the allies’ ability to work together in the common defense.”38 The United States was at best ambivalent toward the Eurocorps proposal. The Pentagon, often more relaxed toward European initiatives than the State Department, was generally supportive of the Franco-German initiative. The Administration generally saw it as needless at best and at worst potentially damaging to the North Atlantic Alliance.39

One of the most difficult and controversial aspects of the corps has been its relationship with NATO and its integrated commands, a question that produced differences not only between the corps’ Franco-German sponsors and their allies, but between the French and the Germans themselves. Whereas Germany (all of whose troops are assigned to NATO anyway) wanted a close NATO link, France (whose forces are not integrated in the commands) had reservations. NATO leaders such as SACEUR John Galvin argued that independent European structures would create force redundancies, cause confusion in command structures, and complicate military planning. Germany was caught in a familiar position of trying to placate both Washington and Paris and often found itself making somewhat contradictory promises to both sides on the “priority” of the corps’ forces.
41 This was one of the many instances of Germany trying to find middle ground between the French and American positions.

From the French perspective the Eurocorps would represent the first step toward truly independent European capacities for scenarios in which the United States would be unable or unwilling to act, and function as a means to influence more heavily U.S. decisions when it did act. The corps would be the basis for a future European army with autonomous capabilities for defense within Europe, peacekeeping and peacemaking tasks, and force projection abroad. It should also be recalled that numerous French leaders (for instance, Mitterrand and Rocard) have claimed to be uncertain whether the Americans would remain in Europe and whether they would be as prepared in the future to provide leadership in dealing with European security challenges as they had been during the Cold War.

The German conception emphasized the Eurocorps’ role in organizing a better European contribution to the Atlantic Alliance and in drawing France closer to NATO. German officials repeatedly stated that they could not imagine the Eurocorps ever acting without the United States and often described it as a “second best” solution to full Euro-Atlantic integration. As one German diplomat put it: “We would have preferred that France simply reintegrate within NATO and that NATO serve as West’s primary security organization. But the French aren’t willing to do that, so we took the next best thing.”
42

Another opinion was that creating common instruments (such as the Eurocorps) without ensuring a common foreign, security, and defense policy that such instruments would have to serve, is not without risk. It could well lead to disappointment when it becomes clear that common instruments could not be used in a given situation where no commonality in interest does exist.
43

Despite these risks and constraints (including the CFE Treaty), multinationality became an increasingly important concept for the Germans. It was to be used to tie as many units as possible into the defense of the national territory and to “broadcast the message that [Germany] was not aiming at solo initiatives in Europe.”
44 Moreover, the acceptance of a military unit with international peacekeeping and peacemaking as declared missions represented a new commitment to play an international security role and to do so in the multilateral context. However, as Guillaume Parmentier has pointed out,

Germany remains marked by an extremely territorial conception of its defence, as reflected by its strong resistance to France’s discreet requests aimed at encouraging the Eurocorps to move towards greater flexibility and inter-army capabilities and hence to its adaptation to selective light operations.45

Initially, several West European governments were skeptical about the benefits of the Eurocorps, which could be seen as an unproductive duplication of military cooperation that was already taking place in NATO. Much of the doubt was taken away by the so-called SACEUR agreement of January 1993, which stipulated that the Eurocorps would be deployed within NATO in case of war in Europe, and that it could be also used by NATO for peacekeeping and humanitarian missions.46 In practice this implied that the French troops of the Eurocorps would be subordinated to the SACEUR in a case of Article 5 engagement (i.e., in the case of war).47

Owing to its limited operational military capabilities, the Eurocorps today primarily serves as a political signal and will perhaps, in due course, offer an institutional model for closer military cooperation between WEU member states. In the long run, considered as a contribution to the development of an ESDI, it could create—as many American officials fear and as many French officials explicitly seek—a European “caucus” that would make it difficult for the United States to influence European decisions once they are taken.

ENDNOTES (Part Three)

  1. WEU Council of Ministers, Petersberg Declaration. Bonn, 19 June 1992, chapter 2, sect. 4.
  2. Rob de Wijk, NATO on the Brink of the New Millenium: The Battle for Consensus (London and Washington, D.C.: Brassey’s, 1997), p. 56.
  3. At the May 1992 Franco-German summit in La Rochelle, the Common Defense and Security Council decided on the implementation of the measures necessary for the creation of the Eurocorps. The corps’ missions were also officially announced: (1) the defense of Western Europe in the context of Article 5 of the NATO and WEU treaties; (2) peacekeeping and peacemaking; and (3) humanitarian tasks. See “Summit of the French-German Defense and Security Council on 22 May 1992 in La Rochelle,” press release provided by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, Washington, D.C., 26 May 1992.

  4. North Atlantic Council (Heads of State and Government), The Alliance’s New Strategic Concept. Rome, 7-8 November 1991, par. 52.
  5. Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney called the proposal “basically sound.” The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell, suggested that European units like the corps would be “politically and militarily well equipped to deal with interregional crises, humanitarian missions and peacekeeping.” NATO SACEUR John Galvin, while expressing some misgivings about command structures, urged Congress to support the Eurocorps because “we want the Europeans to grow stronger without loosening their Atlantic ties.” See Scott A. Harris and James B. Steinberg, European Defense and the Future of Transatlantic Relations, MR-276 (Santa Monica: Rand Corporation, 1993) and The Franco-German Corps and the Future of European Security: Implications for U.S. Policy (Washington, D.C.: Foreign Policy Institute Policy Consensus Report, June 1992).
  6. See William Drozdiak, “France, Germany Unveil Corps as a Step Toward European Defense,” Washington Post, 23 May 1992.
  7. See, for example, the German agreement at La Rochelle that the new units would be given assigned “as a priority” to the Eurocorps, and Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel’s assurance to U.S. Secretary of State James Baker in Lisbon one week later that NATO would have first rights. (“ Das erste Zugriffrecht hat die NATO,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 29 May 1992).
  8. Interviews conducted by Philip Gordon with a German diplomat in Washington, D.C., May 1992. As quoted in Gordon, p. 44.
  9. Holger M. Mey, “View from Germany: A European Security and Defense Identity—What Role for the United States?” Comparative Strategy, vol. 14, no. 3 (July-September 1995), p. 313. A typical example could be different perceptions by France and Germany regarding operations in the former French colonies in Africa.
  10. de Wijk, p. 44.
  11. The word “projection” is not in the Germans’ military vocabulary. See Guillaume Parmentier, “Painstaking Adaptation to the New Europe: French and German Defence Policies in 1997,” France and Japan in a Changing Security Environment, 23-24 June 1997, The Japan Institute of International Affairs, Tokyo, Cahiers de L’IFRI, no. 21., p. 28.
  12. See Karl Feldmayer, “Einbindung des deutsch-franzosischen Korps in das atlantische Bundnis,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 5 December 1992.
  13. The Eurocorps represents the first French acceptance of multinational military integration since 1966, allows for the first peaceful permanent stationing ever of German soldiers on French soil, and provides a legal means for the continued presence of French troops in Germany.


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