December 9, 2022

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In case of an attack on a member country: The EU is well aware of the coalition case

Attack on member country
The EU is also well aware of the coalition case

By Maximilian Beer

How will the EU react if Russia one day attacks its member state? In fact, the EU has a contract assistance rule. In view of the war in Ukraine, Article 42, paragraph 7 will become more important in the future.

On November 17, 2015, when something historic happened in Brussels, Europe was still in shock of the terrorist attacks in Paris: France announced the EU alliance case. In a meeting with his colleagues, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Trian called on member states to help both sides and “within their means.” In the struggle against the “Islamic State” responsible for the attacks, the French held their European allies accountable.

Le Drian later wrote on Twitter: “Article 42.7’s unanimous support.” This is the first: no country has used this paragraph of the Lisbon Treaty. Article 42, paragraph 7 states:

“In the event of an armed attack on the border of one member state, Article 51 of the United Nations Charter states that other member states are indebted to all their assistance and assistance, which is without prejudice to certain member states.

At that time some countries were engaged in counter-terrorism work. For example, Germany supported an international coalition against IS in Iraq and Syria. Assistance was also provided for other tasks, for example in Mali. The aim was to free the French troops so that they could transform themselves.

So far, fortunately, this is the first time it has relied. Since then, the aid rule has never been implemented again, and it rarely plays a role in general. But now there is a war of aggression in Europe. The Kremlin is threatening the West, Ukraine wants to join the European Union, and potential obligations in the event of an alliance are being re-discussed. The question is how Russia will react if it invades the member state one day. It is about the role of the EU as a security guarantee.

Help is not clearly defined

In fact, the EU Mutual Aid Unit is reminiscent of NATO’s most well-known Section 5. Coalition litigation occurs when a member is assaulted. However, there are differences, says Nicolai von Ondarza, a European and security expert from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). This provision is as legally binding as the passage in the North Atlantic Treaty. “However, help is not exactly what it should be.” Unlike NATO, the EU has no definite plans to regulate a common defense. Countries operate separately and bilateral talks are held.

This means that if Russia attacks a member state, support may range from civilian or economic aid to sanctions or arms supplies to military intervention. It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post.

This is shown by the case of the 2015 French Alliance. Some states have re-dedicated already completed missions, others have participated in training missions, and only a few support airstrikes against IS. To some extent it was with identity. In addition, most EU countries are members of NATO anyway. In the event of war, Section 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty applies primarily to them.

Important for neutral and non-aligned states

The European aid division is therefore particularly important for neutral or non-aligned EU countries, namely Cyprus, Malta, Austria and Ireland and, of course, Finland and Sweden. The Kremlin has repeatedly threatened retaliation if it joins NATO. Sergei Belyayev, head of the European Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, recently told Interfax that this would have “serious military and political consequences.” Article 42, paragraph 7, “does not affect the specificity of the security and security policy of a particular member state” also allows neutral or non-aligned EU countries to make their own decisions during the alliance. Necessarily, to be withdrawn.

Nikolai van Onderza firmly believes: “If Russia attacks its Finnish neighbors, this rule will suffice for the EU’s military response.” But apart from this legal obligation, according to the SWP expert, the EU cannot accept war without a consistent reaction against one of its members. Nothing else would call into question the EU itself.

But what does it mean for Ukraine to join the EU? The country’s NATO membership in the future looks beyond question, so the European Mutual Assistance Rule may gain prominence in the future. The former Soviet republics of Moldova and Georgia also want to join the European Union in response to the Russian war of aggression.

All three applications are currently being considered, and Kyiv does not have an expedited membership. “One lesson learned from the annexation of Cyprus is that the EU no longer wants to accept states with regional conflicts,” says Nikolai van Onderza. Not to mention a comprehensive list of multiple criteria for joining. They are related to areas such as anti-corruption, the market economy or the protection of minorities. All of these can take years to evaluate.

The French expect even more material

How much security can and does the EU offer to its current and future members? Does it want to be a security association? Although Article 42, paragraph 7 of the EU summit in Versailles a few weeks ago did not improve – especially Finland and Sweden can be taken as an important signal to Moscow. The joint statement also announced an increase in defense spending.

“The EU must now take a quick step towards becoming a defense player,” said Van Onderza. In a situation where one is currently in a lucky situation, the US government is working closely with its partners to ensure security. However, the United States will elect its next president in 2024. If his name is not Joe Biden, but Donald Trump, Western defense architecture, NATO, may stumble again. In view of the Russian occupation, von Onderza believes that the development of military capabilities and the regional security of the European Union seem to be of paramount importance.

Therefore the auxiliary section of the Lisbon Treaty can be made more firm and bound. For example, it is conceivable that the EU could play a greater role in mobilizing support. In early 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron said: “We really need to give extra substance to Article 42, paragraph 7 of the EU Convention on France, which was first implemented by France in 2015 after the terrorist attacks.”

At the time, large parts of the EU, including Germany, were still cautious. This attitude is likely to change with the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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