Stanley's blog

Solidarity: Polish version

‘Solidarity’ used to be regarded as a foundation stone of the ECSC, EEC, EC and now EU.

In response to criticism by Nicolas Sarkozy of the proposed siting of the US missile, system, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said that it wasn’t Sarkozy’s place to take a stand on missile defence. Tusk said missile defense is a matter strictly between the US and Poland, and doesn’t involve France or any other “third parties.” “On the issue of the shield, I don’t expect either commentary or actions from third parties,” Tusk said.

This reaction by Tusk takes us from the sublime to the ridiculous. First, the very essence of the Union is to be able to discuss problems with each other. Second, nuclear warheads show no respect for borders and the siting of the system in Poland and Czech Republic directly affects the other Member States. This attitude risks eroding the very basis of European integration.

That it should involve relations between Russia, the United States and Europe is deeply worrying. The issue of European and American relations with Russia is likely to come to the boil in 2009. The official results of the 14 November in Nice conceal more than they reveal.

Despite Russia’s failure to honour all the terms of the ceasefire agreement (or in diplomatic terms, the EU “noted that Russia had fulfilled a very large part of its commitments”), negotiations for the partnership agreement between the European Union and Russia will continue.

The EU expressed its concern with regard to President Medvedev’s speech in Berlin and his promise to place short-range missiles on Russia’s western border if Washington proceeded with its planned missile defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

President Sarkozy proposed holding a meeting in mid-2009, perhaps in the framework of the OSCE, to lay the foundations of what could be the future security of Europe, emphasising the importance of involving the US in this process.

The Member States are divided about the US project but many are reluctant to say so. Sarkozy was forced to back down from comments critical of the planned system, when he told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that the missile shield plans are misguided and will not make Europe safer.

The future of the project is not assured. President-Elect Obama throughout his campaign declared he would continue with a missile shield project in eastern Europe, but he has given no commitment to deploy the system. According to an adviser, Obama supports deploying a missile defence system “when the technology is proved to be workable” The worsening state of the American economy may force the president to halt or at least delay the programme, in favour of domestic priorities.

It is no use hiding the fact that we are dealing with an aggressive and aggrieved Russia which both wants a seat at all the high tables and to be recognised as being entitled to one. With Georgia, Kosovo and Bosnia all unresolved, anything can happen. While opposed to the soft line we are taking over Georgia, I believe Russia is right both to object to the missile shield and Georgia and Ukraine joining NATO (although this is now off the agenda).

No-one sensible wants to return to the balance of power/containment days. Obama has two excellent excuses to ‘kick the project into touch’: unproven technology and better use of funds. I believe that he will not miss this opportunity.

If Europe is going to manage effectively its relations with Russia, our Czech and Polish friends will need to understand that the EU is more than about cashing sructural funds. Article 16 of the current treaty obliges all Member States “to inform and consult one another within the Council on any matter of foreign and security policy of general interest in order to ensure that the Union’s influence is exerted as effectively as possible by means of concerted and convergent action.”

Unfortunately the other Member States failed to call the two to order before they took their decisions. Who can doubt that their action has profoundly affected EU-Russia relations.

All 27 Member States could do well to remind themselves of Article 16 and indeed one or two more treaty provisions in relation to common foreign & and security policy.

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