in the light of the events in Brussels today a thought comes to mind. Who is in charge of protecting Europe ? There is the EU that is supposed to be representing interests of its members and also the Schengen system that relies on common defence and border security. In the United States the picture is quite clear. There is the NSA,CIA and FBI and maybe few others, but when something goes wrong it is usually not so hard to find out who is sleeping on the job.
What about Europe then ? If you want a short answer you’ll have to skip a continent. Not many of those in Europe. It all seems to come down to the Lisbon treaty from 2009. Based on this treaty 2 key policies were designed : Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). To make it easier let’s call CSDP the “army people policy” and CFSP the “big mouths policy”.
To understand this we also have to look at the EU governing institutions. Fair warning, soon it’s going to look like that family gathering where you find out about your weird uncles whom you’ve never met, but they seem to know all about you. There is the EU parliament and the Council of the EU. Pretty straight forward. Just EU lawmakers and council of ministers of member states jumping in on the fun. Then the European Commission that executes the law and finally EU Council that is basically a council of heads of states or governments of member states. All they do is to sit around every once in a while and decide on “political strategy” of the Union.
Now back to the army people policy. According to this, all member states must participate in training, preparations and engage if the EU Council says we need to go to war. In such case there is the European Defence Agency that would be used to organise everything. It must provide information for approval to the Council of the EU. So at this point we have 3 autonomous institutions that are supposed to act perfectly together if we want to exert any military power. That’s quite crazy considering the defence is put together from units coming from multiple states and commands. It gets even more insane when you think that European security is also cemented by NATO with which all EU efforts have to be coordinated and of which the member states are members too as well as the US. So just like Brussels today, if attacked, our military command will probably burn down in flames.
Now back to the big mouths policy. It is very similar. The main goals of the foreign policy is decided by the lazy heads in EU Council and then the specific tasks and positions are divided by the Council of the EU. The job of the top diplomat is given to High Representative to Foreign and Security Policy who is assisted by diplomats employed by European External Action Service. Now while that looks pretty straightforward, here is something that will make you either angry (if you are European) or laugh at our stupidity. Each of the three main institutions have their own foreign affairs committee or subcommittee or foreign affairs policy or office. I mean that is just stupid. The degree of stupidity can only be compared to the number of doubled letters in the word committee.
Now, diplomacy and military actions are not the only responses to terrorism. What about the secret services. You know.. the cool guys in polished cars saving our lives by wrestling villains in dark alleys. Turns out when it comes to common secret services the good old Europe prefers to shove carrots in its ears and scream loudly. In fact, a pan-EU secret service does not exist. Sure there is this thing called EUROPOL (ha ha cute play on Interpol, we got it, you guys are so funny..) that was created in 1998, but essentially all it can do is to cry alone in the corner since nobody is talking to it. We also have the EU Satellite Centre, whatever that is (probably just exists to prove that we have space toys too), and of course the EU Institute for Security Studies that helps us out with thinking things through -> terrorism = bad. Got’ya !
If you think all that is just way over the top and makes little sense then what comes now will be as pleasant to hear as when you find out that weird uncle you met before is sleeping in your room tonight. EU member states are all sovereign all have their own governments and foreign policy departments and officials and most also have their own intelligence and security agencies. In theory they should all play nicely together and keep us safe. In reality Joan of Arc and Britain were “besties” compared them. So the EU becomes this morally biased teacher that is desperately screaming in a room full of kids that don’t talk to each other.
To sum up, I think our fight against IS will be probably as effective as if we’d all just played angry birds instead.
(I feel your pain Angela)