September 2001

EU to take lead against terrorism?

European Union could take a leading role in co-ordinating the action against terrorism. This is the conclusion of Esko Antola, Jean Monnet Professor at the University of Turku. Writing in Helsingin Sanomat (24 September 2001), Antola points out that the EU has the most developed system of internal security and an emerging culture of co-operation. The Union also has functioning relations with areas where terrorism is believed to originate.

Taking the leading role requires among other things speeding up the so-called Tampere process, Antola writes. This would not be the first time that an external disturbance intensifies European integration, he adds.

"A basis for the EU role would be the fact that the Union has sustained cordial relationships with Middle Eastern states. Also, the Union now has a key role in supporting the Palestinian administration. For a leading role in campaigning against terrorism, the EU also needs effective foreign and security policy. The European Council states in its conclusions that the campaign against terrorism will be more effective when it is based on an intensified political dialogue with the areas where terrorism is believed to be emerging.

"European security and defence policy needs quickly to become more operative than is the case today. If the EU wants a stronger voice in the campaign against terrorism, it has to be a more effective operator in security matters.

Professor Antola thinks that in questions of internal security, the requirements for more effective action can probably be attained. Building a more operative role in security policy, however, is difficult. The biggest problem is the fact that the EU will have to change its basic characteristics as an international operator, Antola says.

"The EU is an economic superpower but it has been acting as a civilian power. It has been able to use its influence only through economic and political persuasion and by emphasising international agreements and the importance of international institutions.

"It is a different and 'softer' superpower. But can one stop international terrorism without a stronger security policy role?

Antola says that another problem is the EU's relationship with the United States.

"Eleven of fifteen EU member states have, in line with Article Five of the Washington Treaty, decided to regard the acts committed in the United States as a collective defence issue. The allies' chances to influence the acts of the United States government are very limited. Is there in this configuration space for the EU's own policy and could it deviate from commitments which most of the member states have taken in NATO?"

Antola points out that the EU has in its Friday summit decided to speed up making its security and defence policy operative.

"This must reflect on the relations between the EU and the United States. Presumably only few European allies will take part in any concrete way in possible military operations. Will the United States' greatest fear now come true in the sense that despite of all the rhetoric, its allies will adopt security policy choices without the United States' participation?"

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