Wednesday, September 15, 2004

All this rethinking is very bad for you

Why does Javier Solana do this? He keeps commissioning reports from study groups of unknown provenance.

Last year he convened another one and set them the task of providing him with independent advice on how best to pursue a common security policy for Europe. (I assume that means the EU but maybe the study group had no geographers amongst its members.)

The group has now come up with the answer: a fundamental rethink is needed. I wish I had a fiver for every time a study group produced the suggestion of a fundamental rethink in whatever it is they were asked to investigate. As a matter of fact, my bank manager wishes I had a fiver for every time ….

Anyway, this fundamental rethink will be a real chestnut. The study’s starting point is that “in the 21st Century, no country is immune from terrorism, organised crime, or the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction”. Setting aside those weapons, could the members of the group tell us in which century were countries immune from terrorism or organised crime?

“… the security of Europe is indivisible from the security situation in the rest of the world, and … it is in Europe’s own interest to tackle the growing global insecurity, within its borders and beyond.”
Well, well. I wonder how many thousands of pounds that particular conclusion cost to arrive at? Of course, the obvious next step in the rethinking ought to be that the idea of an EU force that somehow undermines the western alliance or the alliance against terrorism is illogical, but this study is not that fundamental. It cannot get away from the need for a security policy and a security force for the EU or, as they prefer to call it, “a European security policy”. After all that is what they were asked to produce. Too much rethinking and Solana might never ask them again.

So we have a security policy that is not a security policy. The study suggests that it should be “human rather than nation-state security”, which means apparently that

“Rather than just defeating enemies, EU missions should focus on protecting civilians through law enforcement and with the occasional use of weapons.”
Under no circumstances is this to be equated with the war on terror.

Exactly how is this going to be done? How is the EU going to protect civilians through law enforcement? What if those countries or their rulers do not want to be protected? Presumably weapons will have to be used and enemies will have to be defeated first? Who is going to do that? And what sort of law enforcement? Whose law and against whom?

To solve all this, the new study is proposing a European Human Security Response Force with 15,000 personnel. Where this force is to come from, how it is to be organized, to whom it will be responsible to, seem to be details not mentioned in the paper.

To make the whole exercise even more surreal the study is being presented at the Barcelona Forum, described by the BBC website as “a five-month international extravaganza which has focused, amongst other things, on world peace”. That must have been a short session.

The Barcelona Forum seems to be everything to everyone, though few people outside that city have heard of it. It is an urban forum, a youth forum, an anti-racist forum and, clearly, a world peace forum. One cannot help being reminded of all those various forums organized by the dear departed Soviet Union

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