Academic journal article McNair Papers

Franco-German Security Accommodation: Agreeing to Disagree

Academic journal article McNair Papers

Franco-German Security Accommodation: Agreeing to Disagree

Article excerpt

Washington continues to have a vital stake in European stability, which in turn hinges on Western European political consistency and economic growth. Prolonged confusion over the future course of European integration affects European efforts to reform its international defense institutions to meet the post-Cold War challenges. The only certainty is that Paris and Bonn will be at the heart of efforts to resolve current dilemmas, for the Bonn-Paris axis has been the engine that has driven greater European integration and provided a means to overcome a long

history of Franco-German conflict and discord. This article focuses on the implications of this important bilateral relationship on bilateral defense cooperation.

In and of itself, the establishment of the European Economic Community represented a significant historical achievement. More recently, members of the European Community (EC) have expressed an intent to build a more comprehensive foundation of European unity that looks toward complete economic union. Moreover, these nations seek a European political union that will further expand European integration. Naturally, discussions concerning political union have generated considerable dialogue over closer integration of security and defense policies.

Progress toward these goals initially appeared to be accelerating. The Single Economic Act (signed in July 1987), one of European Commission President Jacques Delors' greatest accomplishments, was implemented, in principle, on January 1, 1993. At the December 1991 Maastricht summit the EC heads of government agreed to the "Draft Treaty on Political Union" that laid out the plan European political union. (1)

Nor has cooperation been limited to economic and political issues. At Maastricht, the EC heads of government also agreed to the goal of establishing a common defense policy and the development of the Western European Union (WEU) "as the defense component of the European Union...." (2) Moreover, in May 1992 at their summit in La Rochelle, President Mitterrand and Federal Chancellor Kohl formally announced the creation of a joint multinational corps, which, in time, could include other European participants. (3) To many observers and officials, the combination of these events indicated that the long elusive objective of European integration appeared to be close at hand.

Obstacles to European Integration

But events have proven otherwise as EC politics have become rather messy, not to mention complicated, of late. (4) For example, prior to the Danish referendum on the Maastricht Treaty in May 1992, the path toward greater Western European integration appeared clearly set. However, the Danish electorate rejected the Maastricht draft treaty in June. (5) This rejection, in the words of Daniel Vernet, Foreign Editor of Le Monde, "... has brought into the open in many European countries a situation their governments had been trying to pretend did not exist: a crisis in foreign policy." (6)

Shortly thereafter, when, for domestic political reasons President Mitterrand placed the Maastricht Treaty before the French electorate, it passed by only the narrowest of margins (50.95 to 49.05 percent). (7) Even the much vaunted Single Market may well not function in practice (e.g., due to lack of consumer confidence in product quality and efficiency), despite the implementation of all the necessary legal instruments. (8) And, high German interest rates (due to the ever escalating costs of unification) and low British interest rates (to stimulate a lagging economy), combined to force Britain and Italy out of the EC's Exchange Rate Mechanism in September. (9) Finally, the EC's inability to achieve consensus on the means for halting the war in the former Yugoslavia, underscored the difficulties inherent in crafting common security and defense policies.

The obstacles to full implementation of these policies raises the question: where does European integration, particularly in the realm of security, go from this inauspicious point? …

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