Is war an opportunity for th EU?

Many commentators have highlighted how the Paris attacks could be seen not only as a terrible event, but also as an opportunity for the consolidation of Europe. Etienne Balibar, on openDemocracy, writes that we are in a war and that Europe has an irreplaceable function to build up safeguards together. After the “financial crisis” and the “refugee crisis”, the Paris attacks impose responsibility on Europe to the re-constitution of international law and the securing of a balance between the demands of stability and those of diversity and plurality. In a similar vein, Bernard Guetta, on Internazionale, argues that the fact that the members of the EU have decided to help France, even despite the requirements of the deficit limit, shows that although the EU is not a political entity yet, it is getting closer to it. Slightly more pessimistic is the position of EurActiv’s founder Christophe Leclercq, who writes that solidarity, reinforced by terrorism, may support faster changes. However, not all changes may drive towards “more Europe”: some targeted retreats to regroup and be stronger may be necessary, as for example a reconsideration of the Schengen agreement. Finally, although a war could be an opportunity for the EU, Jan Techau, on EurActiv, observes that, because of strategic and military reasons, waging and winning a war is impossible without the involvement of the United States.

Invoking article 42.7

Hollande’s invocation of article 42.7 of the Treaty on European Union has raised hopes and questions. The article states: “If a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power, in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations CharterSven Biscop of the Egmont Institute emphasizes how this is the first invocation of mutual assistance, and for this reason is of particular importance: after Paris, article 42.7 is not just a symbol anymore and it requires and promotes strategic and institutional changes apt to elaborate an EU global strategy. While the invocation of the article is important, this move may not be considered the most ambitious one. Ian Traynor on The Guardian shows that invoking article 42.7 is in reality a conservative strategy. Indeed, article 222 of the treaty could have been invoked instead: “the union and its member states shall act jointly in a spirit of solidarity if a member state is the object of a terrorist attack or the victim of a natural or man-made disaster. The union shall mobilize all the instruments at its disposal, including the military resources made available by the member states”. The distinction is important because article 42.7 supports bilateral agreements, whereas article 222 calls directly for the involvement of European institutions.

Facing terrorism

The Paris attacks have made Europeans even more diffident towards refugees and provided political support for populist movements and parties across the member states. On this point, The Editorial Board of the New York Times warns against the temptation to see all refugees as terrorists. Moreover, they strongly approve of Junker’s statement that Paris attacks should not be used as a reason to revise the European Union’s entire refugee policy. However, it is necessary to recognize that the fight against terrorism in Europe cannot be but complicated: Judi Dempsey on CarnegieEurope observes that, in order to strike a balance between the idea of the open society and the security of citizens, we need not only greater intelligence sharing, but also a sustained, systematic, long-term policy of integration. The Paris attacks have as well drawn the attention on the problem of what the true values of Europe are, and how these very values can be hospitable to persons with different cultural backgrounds. Luciano Fontana, on the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, argues that in order to effectively protect European citizens, the need for more security is to be fulfilled without sacrificing the European principles and freedom. More provocatively, Žiga Turk on EurActiv writes that if we are not ready to stand by and defend the western values against the terrorists, then Europe is dead. The problem is a war of culture: from his point of view, our values cannot be compromised and therefore we should persuade and convince our neighbours that such values are better for human and civil flourishing. With respect to the integration process in Europe, Henning Meyer on Social Europe writes that, although the European culture has always been associated with the ideas of open society and cosmopolitanism, it is important to understand that multiculturalism is not the same as cultural anarchy. Indeed, multiculturalism must mean freedom of cultural expression and mutual cultural enrichment within an accepted framework, which in Europe can be provided by what Jürgen Habermas has called Verfassungspatriotismus (constitutional patriotism).


This Ideas Monitor is by Giulia Bistagnino and Carlo Burelli


Photo Credits CC: Colville-Andersen

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