Europeans interested in civilian control of the military and in democratic oversight of the EU’s foreign affairs (to include defence) would do well to consider the opinion of Jan Dirk Blaauw, former Netherlands MP and former President of the WEU Assembly. The Assembly of the WEU (an institution that many casual observers had thought long defunct), has been renamed the European Security and Defence Assembly, and is still very much in existence. Blaauw spoke in Brussels on Monday in a conference organised by IERI (Insitut Européen des Relations Internationales).
Perhaps the existence of the European Parliament and its Security and Defence (SEDE) Subcommittee reassures those who want their elected officials to have a firm command of matters military. But as Blaauw is fond of saying, “who pays, decides.” And it is the national parliaments of the 27 member states who pay for defence, or at least allocate their citizens’ tax monies to defence and other national priorities. Stress on national. For as much as we will be hearing about European foreign and security affairs, now that we have Lady Ashton in charge of both, the European part of defence is rather circumscribed, and defence remains resolutely intergovernmental in nature.
Which brings us back to the WEU/ESDA. This grouping of national deputies, specialists in defence matters, is what Blaauw believes needs to have closer ties with the European Parliament, encouraging the creation of an interparliamentary body which is envisaged by the Treaty on European Union. Given the unique nature of defence policy, this extra measure of democratic oversight would appear to be worth the trouble. After all, when European citizens – in this case, soldiers – are put in harm’s way, better to have their elected representatives (national and European) fully cognizant of the issues. A way to remedy the “democratic deficit” that Blaauw sees in parliamentary oversight of this sometimes-forgotten area of European cooperation.
Gerald Loftus publishes another blog on international affairs, Avuncular American.