The Notion of Solidarity in European Foreign Policy



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A. The Falklands/Malvinas Islands Crisis


The Falkland Islands are located in the South Atlantic with the two main islands, East Falkland and West Falkland, lying 480 km. east of the Argentinean coast and with a population of no more than 1800 habitants. Britain occupied and administered the islands since 1833. Argentina on the other side, since 1820 had occasionally declared claims to sovereignty over the islands. On April 2 1982, after a series of minor incidents, Argentinean forces invaded the Islands. The invasion force was in place by dawn, and in the early morning the Government House in Port Stanley was occupied. United Kingdom dispatched immediately a large naval task force with orders to re-establish the British administration on the islands. In late April, the task force reached its destination and retook the dependency of South Georgia. After a series of fierce fighting between the two sides, the crisis finally came to its end. On June 14, white flags came up from the Argentinean side at the besieged Port Stanley.

Argentina's act of aggression was promptly condemned by the EC ten member states at the same day that the invasion took place. The Political Directors in the Political Committee (PoCo), on the name of the Foreign Ministers of the Ten, issued a common declaration in which they stated that they "…condemn the armed intervention in the Falklands Islands…[and] urgently appeal to the Government of Argentina to withdraw its forces immediately…" (Bulletin EC 4-1982:7). It was a reaction of unprecedented speed, alacrity and unanimity (Freedman 1982:200, Gibran 1998:77, Pijpers et al 1988:64), which the EPC machinery had never managed to achieve during its 12 years of existence, and a decision of considerable symbolic importance and political impact (Nuttall 1992:207,210, Edwards 1984:302). On April 10, the Belgian Presidency of the Council restated the declaration of 2 April and added that

in a spirit of solidarity among the member states of the Community, the Ten have decided to adopt a series of measures against Argentina which should be implemented as soon as possible. The governments of the Ten have already decided to apply a total ban on exports of arms and military equipment to Argentina. They will also take the measures need to prohibit all imports into the Community from Argentina.

(Bulletin EC 4-1982:7-8, emphasis added)

The Community proceeded "particularly" swiftly in the implementation of this decision (Ifestos 1987:237). In the Council Decision of 16 April 1982 (O.J. L102 [a]) the Community suspended imports of all products originating in Argentina. The Regulation (O.J. L102 [b]) which put those measures into force referred in its introduction to both the EPC decision and the relevant articles of the Treaty of Rome11. The common EPC decision had been effectively implemented by the employment of Community means, in an almost extraordinary accomplishment of co-ordination between EPC and the Community (Ifestos 1987:237, Nuttall 1992:213). On 20 of April, after an informal meeting of the Foreign Ministers, the Ten reaffirmed "their full solidarity with the United Kingdom" (Bulletin EC 4-1982:8). The implementation of economic sanctions against Argentina by all EPC member states was certainly not based on any obligation on behalf of the governments involved (Ifestos 1987:237). How can we explain then this repeated manifestation of solidarity by the EC member states towards the UK?

As Ifestos argues EC's reaction "was rather the result of a 'natural' solidarity towards a partner, an exemplary behaviour towards a partner of the same economico-political 'club'" (ibid, emphasis added). There was a feeling in the Community of genuine indignation at the Argentinean action, and a willingness, or 'instict' (as Ifestos names it, 1987:216), to show solidarity with a member state in need. There was also the feeling that the community had in a sense been attacked itself (Nuttall 1992:207). But who actually felt this sense of 'natural' solidarity? Who really confined the position of the EC member states towards this direction?

At this point it is necessary to examine a most fundamental dimension of the nature of the EPC decision-making, and function in general. Nuttall provides us with an extremely revealing empirical and 'inside' view:

Foreign ministries made sure that [EPC] remained a self-contained operation, restricted to a small circle of initiates and powered by the forces of socialisation. The secret was that, in normal circumstances, those initiates had the power to sway national policies. The Political Directors, assisted by the European Correspondents, the Heads of Department, above all the Foreign Ministers themselves, were well placed to align their countries on EPC positions if the so chose. Their task was made easier because they had control over the EPC agenda.

(2000:272)

In their efforts to win support, the British were "enormously" helped by the "strong position" taken by the Belgian Government which held the Presidency of the Council of Ministers between January and June 1982 (Edwards 1984:301). This "strong position" was not accidental. On July 1 1981, the United Kingdom had taken over the Presidency of the Council. As the London Report12 on the EPC recommended, strong relations and contacts between the officials of the two Presidencies had been built. A highly indicative testimony of this was the fact that, as part of the recommendations of the London Report, a British official had been seconded to the Belgian Foreign Ministry as part of the EPC Presidency support team. This official was able to act as an additional, informal source of information and channel of communication. It additionally appears that the British and the Belgian Presidency were actually working constantly together, in order to assure the success of declaring united support and taking common action (ibid:303). In fact, the first measure adopted, the arms embargo on Argentina, was the upshot of a proposal put forward by the Belgian President of the Political Committee (Pijpers et al 1988:64).

It was also a related factor that proved "particularly" important. Leo Tindemans, the Belgian Prime Minister and President of the Council of Ministers, was profoundly devoted to the ideals of the European integration venture. In the area of EPC, as a "staunch European" Tindemans was eager to exploit the provisions of the recently agreed London Report (Edwards 1984:301). Evolutions were further accelerated simply because of the fact that the meetings necessary for effective decision making and intra-Community co-ordination, were arranged almost on a daily basis. The Political Directors happened to be meeting in Brussels on April 2 (Pijpers et al 1988:64). The Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) met on 6 and 7 April. Political Directors met on the morning of 9 April and COREPER the same afternoon and again on Saturday, 10 April. Rarely had the Community moved with such a speed (Edwards 1984:295). It was an achievement which -except the meeting of April 2- should be solely attributed to the Belgian Presidency, as it moved effectively not least in carrying out its role of consensus building (Pijpers et al 1988:64).

Nevertheless, the consensus on the EC's common position did not last for long as on May 2, the solid Community front broke up. When the EC Foreign Ministers met on May 16 to discuss the extension of the sanctions against Argentina, Ireland and Italy took advantage of the escape clause provided by Article 224 of the EEC Treaty to withdraw from the sanctions. The Irish government was sensitive to the charge that it had compromised the country's neutrality in the most embarrassing way possible by supporting a war to further in a sense the ambitions of British colonialism (Sharp 1997:80). But the Irish position has to be seen also in the context of deteriorating Anglo-Irish bilateral relations (Edwards 1984:310, Nuttall 1992:211). The Italian case was different in several respects. Italy's opposition was based on reasons of economic interests and most importantly of historical links with Argentina (Pijpers et al 1988:23). Large numbers of Argentineans were of Italian origin and the ties between the two countries were close. Reaffirming our previous assumptions on the EPC decision-making process, it appears that the decision to support sanctions had very largely been the responsibility of the Foreign Minister Emilio Colombo. It had rapidly came under fire (Edwards 1984:311). What it is important also to note is that the position taken by the Italian representatives in Brussels was actually seen as "forced upon them" by domestic politics (Nuttall 1992:212).


B. The Imia/Kardak Islets Crisis
The two Imia rocky and uninhabited islets lie in the Southeast Aegean Sea, at a distance of 10 km. from the Greek island of Kalymnos and 7 km. from the Turkish coast. The larger of the two islets has an area of approximately 2.5 hectares while the smaller and more easterly has an area of 1.5 hectares. Following a naval incident on December 25 1995, Turkey asserted for the first time in more than half a century that Imia constitute part of the Turkish territory, challenging thus the Greek sovereignty on the islands. Meanwhile, in Greece there was a shift in the leadership of the ruling party of the country, having as result the election of a new Prime Minister on January 18 and the appointment of a new government four days later. Arguably, as Kourkoulas advocates, the "Greek political developments in the beginning of 1996 had an immediate impact on the Greek-Turkish crisis…a dimension of the issue which soon should be examined" (1997:141). The incident soon escalated to a crisis as a major naval build up started to be developing around Imia in the end of the month. At this very critical moment the U.S. Government mediated between Greece and Turkey in order to avert an armed conflict between the two states. The mediation proved successful and within 24 hours an understanding between the two sides had been reached. Both sides would gradually -'step by step'- withdraw their forces from the area of Imia.

In absolute contrast to the EC's impressively immediate and decisive reactions during the crisis of the Falklands Islands, EU's reaction to the actual events of the crisis was virtually non-existent. It is indicating that during the critical and tense hours of the US mediation efforts, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke tried, but could not contact the Europeans because "they were literally sleeping through the night" (quoted in Ntouskos 1996:41). In the same spirit, the Greek Commissioner Christos Papoutsis referred to the EU's "inexcusable silence" during the crisis (MPA 07/02/1996).

Only at a later stage the Council and its Presidency decided to comment the issue by adopting a cautious approach. On February 8 the Italian Presidency of the Council issued a remarkably brief Press Release stating, that "a thorough review is being undertaken on the terms of the controversy between Greece and Turkey"13. The result of this review was nothing more than a statement on the 24th of February (sited in Kourkoulas 1997:65), in which the Italian Presidency kept the distances from both sides by adopting an almost neutral stance. In this spirit, the Presidency of the Council called "on the parties to continue to exercise restraint and to refrain from any action liable to increase tension and from any demonstration of armed force". At the General Affairs Council of February 26 the Council failed to reach a unanimous decision on making a statement on the recent Greek-Turkish confrontation due to a veto by the UK (ibid).

Britain has traditionally been the member state which has been favouring the most Turkey, in its relations with the EU. The most recent manifestation was Britain's strong support for the conclusion of the Custom's Union agreement between the EU and Turkey14. The British rationale in the specific circumstance was to avoid and if not possible, to postpone an official EU condemnation of Turkey's actions in the Aegean. By doing that, necessary time would be given to the Turkish government to solve the issue on the basis of bilateral negotiations, and no doubt would be cast over the recently signed Custom's Union agreement15 (Kourkoulas 1997:85-6).

What was not realised in February, was finally decided upon five months later. On July 15 1996 a CFSP Declaration was adopted by the General Affairs Council which stated that

…the resulting frictions involve, on the one hand, a Member State with which a natural solidarity exists and, on the other hand, a neighbouring country with which the European Community wishes to develop further a relationship of dialogue and co-operation in all the fields resulting from the Customs Union…

(SN 3543/96, emphasis added)

Greece's partners, although referring to a "natural solidarity" against a member state, they visibly tried at the same time to keep the distances as much as possible between the two rivals.


C. The Perejil/Leila Island Crisis
The island of Perejil is located in the straits of Gibraltar, 200 metres off the Moroccan coast and 6 km. from Spain's North African enclave of Ceuta. The uninhabited rocky island measures 13.5 hectares. In accordance to the Spanish position, Perejil belonged to Spain since 1668, but Morocco had disputed this on historical grounds arguing that the island was actually liberated from the Spanish protectorate over Northern Morocco in 1956. On 11 July 2002, the Kingdom of Morocco sent a dozen of frontier guards on the island, bearing with them a Moroccan flag. To the occupation of Perejil Madrid replied by insisting on its centuries-old claim to the island and demanded the immediate withdrawal of the Moroccans. When this did not happen the island was retaken on 17 July by Spanish elite Legion troops. The crisis seemed to dangerously escalate, as Moroccan Foreign Minister Mohammed Benaissa characterised the Spanish reoccupation "an act of war". The crisis was brought to its end after a US mediation effort which predicated that Morocco would not retake the island in case of Spanish evacuation and that the situation regarding the island would return to the situation that existed prior to July 2002. From what has been described above we can safely argue that it was a crisis remarkably resembling, in its environmental, escalation and termination elements, to the Imia Islets crisis (Kartalis 2002:20).

On July 14, an official CFSP declaration on the crisis was issued by the Danish Presidency of the Council. Although the declaration "could not have been briefer" (Monar 2002:252), at the same time it could not have been more definite in affirming EU's solidarity towards Spain:

The Presidency of the European Union is very concerned over the situation created by Morocco on the island of Perejil. The European Union expresses its full solidarity with Spain and urges Morocco to immediately withdraw its forces.

(CFSP Statement, 14/07/2002, emphasis added)

Nevertheless, it appeared that after few days the climate of sympathy and support towards the Spanish position seemed to be weakening. Several of the member states felt that the Presidency's declaration had jeopardised the 'good' relations with Morocco (Interview 06/02/2003), a state which arguably had developed of all the North African states the best relations with Brussels16. But even more importantly, EU's stance in the crisis had also seriously upset feelings in the Arab world17.

On July 17, the Political and Security Committee (COPS) met in Brussels. The Danish Presidency brought the issue up by proposing the adoption of a text which was reaffirming EU's solidarity with Spain. The aim of the proposed text was to make the Danish Presidency Declaration into a Union's one (Interview, 28/02/2002). At this point we should underline the fact that "before the discussions in COPS the Presidency had acted on its own" (ibid). Its Declaration of July 14, was purely its own initiative in the sense that it had not consulted its 13 EU partners -except Spain of course- and did not have their consent on the issue (Interview, 19/02/2002). It further appears that the Danes in their actions -which played the major role in defining the EU position in supporting Spain-, were in very close contact and co-ordination with Spain (Interview, 19/02/2002). It is indicative that the draft of a declaration in the COPS -a Presidency's proposal- had been actually prepared together by Denmark and Spain (Interview, 06/02/2002).

This 'special' relation between the two countries can largely be attributed to the fact that the shift in the Presidency of the Council -which had taken place just few days before the crisis- was between the same two member states (Interview, 19/02/2002). The provisions of the London Report on the so-called 'troika' had been long before incorporated in the Union's legal framework. Article 30 of SEA fully incorporated the recommendations of the London Report. Article J.5.3 TEU declared that "the Presidency shall be assisted…by the previous and next Member States to hold the Presidency". Under the provisions of the Treaty of Amsterdam assistance was provided only by the "next Member State to hold the Presidency"18. The Spanish Presidency of the first semester of 2002 certainly did not constitute an exception in not following these long established procedural rules. Spanish political and diplomatic officials of high and low ranks had to exercise their representation, implementation and consensus building roles, tasks assigned to them as a consequence of the fact that their country was at the Presidency of the Council. In fulfilling successfully these tasks it was required that they had to be constantly in close co-operation with their Danish counterparts.

Nevertheless, the meeting of COPS on April 17 did not lead to the adoption of the proposed text. The reason for that was a veto by the French delegation arguing that as Madrid had not properly informed and consulted its EU partners it could not now claim their manifestation of solidarity. However, this was not the main reason for the French position. As Monar categorically argues, there was not any real doubt that "the close economic and political links between France and its former colony which Paris did not want to put at risk by a tougher EU position", primarily influenced the French considerations on the issue (2002:252). In parallel, several other member states, not wishing to be drawn into a major international conflict after the Spanish reoccupation, "were quite happy to hide behind the French back" (ibid). After the successful US mediating efforts, the just renamed "General Affairs and External Relations Council" tried to play down the whole issue. The 15 Foreign Ministers met on July 22, but the Perejil Island crisis did not even open a debate except a briefing by the Spanish Foreign Minister over lunch (SN 10945/02).




IV. Analysis
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