On November 13, foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides joined 22 of his grinning EU counterparts in signing a joint notification on the Permanent Structured Cooperation (Pesco) at a ceremony held amid much fanfare in Brussels. The momentous event has got scant traction back home; no debate whatsoever was held prior to the cabinet’s decision to join Pesco, despite the fact that – some warn – the government may have just signed away the country’s sovereignty to the EU.
The EU’s Foreign Affairs Council now has to adopt a decision establishing Pesco by qualified majority, at the next Council set for December 11.
But that is a formality; essentially Cyprus’ accession to Pesco is a done deal.
Both Kasoulides and defence minister Christoforos Fokaides were abroad and could not be reached for comment when this report was being written.
But a defence ministry spokesman told the Sunday Mail that the proposal to join Pesco, submitted to the cabinet on November 8, was drafted jointly by the defence and the foreign ministries.
Foreign policy being the purview of the administration, it’s understood that zero discussion of Pesco took place in parliament or elsewhere. That said, neither did MPs seem overly interested in the subject.
Most of the local commentary has focused on the financial cost of joining Pesco, as Cyprus will be required to increase defence expenditures.
But others are highlighting a far greater issue – the possible undermining of the nation’s sovereignty.
The joint notification itself contains some alarming elements, says Stavri Kalopsidiotou, a member of Akel’s central committee.
From a close reading of the text, Kalopsidiotou – an expert in international law – finds that “at the very least we are ceding sovereign rights, if not our sovereignty outright.”
Contrary to public perception, Pesco – the vehicle for completing the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (Csdp) – will not create an ‘EU army’ per se.
EU military unification is not about replacing, but subsuming the militaries of participating states.
“Interoperability” being the keyword.
This is stated quite clearly in the notification.
But Pesco goes well beyond that. It aims down the line to establish a joint defence budget and an EU-wide procurement system:
“Pesco could… facilitate the development of Member States’ defence capabilities through an intensive involvement in multinational procurement projects and with appropriate industrial entities including small and medium-sized enterprises…”
In short, the stated objective is to federalise defence procurements across the EU.
The signatories also commit to submitting “national implementation plans” detailing their contributions to Pesco and which projects they are financing.
Crucially, the implementation plans are subject to the review of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, a position currently held by Federica Mogherini.
“What this means in effect, is that participating states are devolving fiscal powers to the EU’s ‘foreign minister’. It’s akin to the Eurogroup or the European Central Bank,” Kalopsidiotou points out.
“Thus, the sovereignty of member states begins and ends at the moment they accede to Pesco. Sure, they joined of their own free will, but after that, there are all kinds of strings attached.”
Down to brass tacks: will Cyprus be required to allocate Cypriots troops and military materiel to Pesco missions even though such operations might clash with the national interest?
On this the notification reads: “With regard to availability and deployability of the forces, the participating Member States are committed to: Making available formations, that are strategically deployable, for the realization of the EU LoA [Level of Ambition], in addition to a potential deployment of an EUBG [EU Battlegroup]. This commitment does neither cover a readiness force, a standing force nor a standby force.”
The text is fuzzy – perhaps deliberately so – on how decisions for military and/or humanitarian missions are to be made. Presumably, this issue among others will be fleshed out a bit more at the upcoming Foreign Affairs Council.
It states: “The High Representative recommendation will provide inputs for the Council to decide on the list of Pesco projects within the Pesco framework following a military advice by the EUMC [European Union Military Committee] in Pesco format and through PSC [Political and Security Committee] in Pesco format. The Council shall decide by unanimity, as constituted by the votes of the representatives of the participating Member States.”
Again, this smacks of a highly centralised process.
What operations would Pesco carry out? Will this structure be separate to Nato or work in tandem with it?
Here, the text does provide clues: “Enhanced defence capabilities of EU Member States will also benefit Nato. They will strengthen the European pillar within the Alliance and respond to repeated demands for stronger transatlantic burden sharing.”
And: “A long-term vision of Pesco could be to arrive at a coherent full spectrum force package – in complementarity with Nato, which will continue to be the cornerstone of collective defence for its members.”
Furthermore: “Commitment to agree on common technical and operational standards of forces acknowledging that they need to ensure interoperability with Nato.”
For UK-based defence analyst David Ellis, EU military unification is a means to an end.
Follow the money, says Ellis: by concentrating the staggering amount of defence contract funds into one pot, you set up a ‘master treasury’ that ultimately leads to a European super-state.
“The EU must have/attain EUMU to get their Treasury in order to close the money loop and underwrite all euros issued. It’s a key policy component that goes hand in hand with the currency union,” he tells the Mail.
“The money control flows in EUMU are enough to prop the currency and then they can/have to set up a single-point budget at Brussels. The EU will control all defence and defence services in the eurozone, including all industry capital budget, operational budgets, and command and control.”
Ellis, who is Director of Strategic Defence Initiatives, said of the possible impact on Cyprus:
“Very sad day, you’re no longer a nation, your guys have just given a good piece of your country away to a corporation called the EU by subcontracting your military out.
“Any decisions or money that Cyprus makes/spends will be affected, any local firms and companies, contract people who work in this area. The EU will take total control of it all. You may even get other troops, ships, planes from any eurozone country, arrive and take up operations and services.”
Cyprus joining Pesco might look like dropping out of the blue, but can one trace threads leading up to this point?
It’s likely no coincidence that the cabinet rubberstamped Cyprus’ accession to Pesco just two days after President Nicos Anastasiades saw French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris.
France and Germany are leading the way in pushing defence ‘cooperation’ across the EU bloc.
Macron spoke of “very close ties” between the two nations in the defence sector.
Government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides later stated that Cyprus plans to offer France facilities at Mari naval base as well as at the Andreas Papandreou air base in Paphos.
And, he added, this was all within the context of the “new security architecture being discussed in the EU.”
Alex Thomson of Eastern Approaches, who appears on UK Column News, suggests a possible connection between EU military integration and the ‘tripartite axis’ being forged in the eastern Mediterranean between Cyprus, Greece and Egypt.
“It’s informed speculation on my part, but I regard the tripartite business as a Franco-German attempt to disenchant the Greeks and Cypriots away from viewing Russia as a strategic partner and/or as salvation against the Turks,” says Thomson, a GCHQ officer from 2001 to 2009.
Both Thomson and Ellis are regulars on UK Column News, an alternative media outlet which has long warned of EU military unification and the concomitant gutting of Britain’s defence industry.
The UK Column’s editor Mike Robinson has compiled a detailed timeline of the EU military project, tracing it back decades.
In 1984 Jacques Delors, then President of the European Commission, told a summit of European Economic Community heads of government at Fontainebleau that the first and foremost of his three big ideas for relaunching European political integration was “military union” (une défense commune), the others being currency union and the abolition of member states’ vetoes.
In a UK Column article dated November 13, the day the Pesco joint notification was signed, Robinson wrote:
“The question which should be on everyone’s lips is, what does this mean for the modern policy of intervention?
“If anything, this will make interventions easier. With decisions made at the EU level, national governments, and more importantly, national electorates, will have no say on Pesco operations. If the EU, or perhaps Ms Mogherini, decides to go to war, a vote in a national Parliament cannot prevent it – they are legally bound by PESCO to commit their military resources.