The Western European Union at the Crossroads: Between Trans-Atlantic Solidarity and European Integration

The Western European Union at the Crossroads: Between Trans-Atlantic Solidarity and European Integration

The Western European Union at the Crossroads: Between Trans-Atlantic Solidarity and European Integration

The Western European Union at the Crossroads: Between Trans-Atlantic Solidarity and European Integration

Synopsis

Seeking to explain the development of the Western European Union, this book focuses, in particular, on its current role. It investigates the WEU's institutional and operational development, its proposed enlargement, and the motivations of its leading members - France, Germany and the UK.

Excerpt

To publish a book in 1998 about the Western European Union (WEU) is a particularly appropriate moment for it is the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the organisation. It is also a short time after the Amsterdam European Council (June 1997), which sought to determine the WEU's institutional position for the foreseeable future. The WEU has always been a curious structure in Europe's security architecture. On the one hand, it has represented an autonomous European defence actor, based upon a treaty guarantee amongst its members. On the other, it has acted as a grouping of European states within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). As a result of its dual identity, the WEU has performed a variety of roles over the years. It has assisted in preserving the security of the continent, it has helped to smooth relations between the United States and its European allies and it has resolved tensions within Europe.

Whilst the focus of this book is on the period after 1990, it is necessary in the first two chapters to elucidate the background of the WEU. Although these chapters do not seek to be historically exhaustive, they explain the genesis of its multi-functional nature and the tasks for which it was prepared. The Cold War period determined the initial development of the organisation and this was to prove highly influential on its post-Cold War character. Despite the fact that the WEU had faded into relative obscurity by the middle of the 1970s, its members chose to revitalise the organisation in 1984, demonstrating that they believed it had a useful function to perform.

In 1990, amidst a transformed security enviromnent, the WEU was suddenly under the international spotlight. The certainties of the Cold War were over, the Soviet Union was in retreat, Germany was unified and there were doubts about the continuing presence of the United States in Europe. The WEU was at a crossroads. The organisation had to choose between two roles: its traditional function of promoting Atlantic solidarity and the new-found opportunity of becoming a key participant in the process of European integration. In the past, integration had never extended into the realm of defence but after 1990 there were ambitions to develop a meaningful defence identity in Europe and the WEU was identified as the vehicle to carry this forward.

In order to understand the development of the WEU after 1990, this book contends that two lines of enquiry must be pursued. Firstly, the WEU must be analysed in relation to its two partner and larger organisations on the continent: the European Community (later the European Union) and NATO. The extent to which the Atlantic Alliance was capable of . . .

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