European Parliament (Link) (February 17, 2009)
In a troubled world wracked with terrorism, environmental destruction and where failed states threaten havoc, the EU and NATO should develop a closer relationship, according to a report to be debated by MEPs Wednesday. It calls for both sides to avoid competition and develop greater cooperation in crisis-management operations. It also calls on the EU to develop its own security and defence capabilities. However, some MEPs are critical of more EU involvement in NATO.
The debate about the parliament's first ever report on the EU-NATO relationship is sure to be contentious. It comes as the military alliance prepares to celebrate 60 years in April.
"NATO is the backbone of European security"
The report - adopted by MEPs on the Foreign Affairs Committee - says that NATO has a fundamental role in the security architecture of Europe.
Finnish-born MEP Ari Vatanen, who is guiding the report through parliament, said, "not only is NATO the backbone of European security but 94% of the EU's population live in States that are members of the alliance."
Mr Vatanen, who sits as an MEP for France added: "The EU's raison d'être is peace-building and its mosaic-like composition gives it a unique potential to intervene in different parts of the world to reduce human suffering. But it can only fully realise its potential by developing a strong transatlantic tie and a complementary relationship with NATO."
On some of the institutional blocs to further cooperation between countries he said, "it is really important that any incompatibility between membership of the EU and non-membership of NATO be addressed so as not to hinder effective EU-NATO cooperation."
"Will lead to a further militarization"
Not everyone agrees. Long time peace activist Tobias Pflüger along with 7 other members of the leftist GUE/NGL group in Parliament have laid down a "minority opinion" on the report and is opposed to closer links.
The member of the Foreign Affairs Committee said, "military alliances like NATO are by their very nature exclusive organisations and therefore create front lines between members and non-members."
"Every effort to strengthen NATO via a closer cooperation with the European Union increases the potential for international conflicts. It will also lead to a further militarization of the EU's foreign policy and accelerate the tendency to use military force in order to 'solve' conflicts," he said.
"I argue for a civilian EU that spends its money for civilian and social purposes instead for military means - thereby enabling it to challenge the roots of conflicts - especially poverty," said Mr Pflüger, who was an anti-nuclear campaigner in the 1980s.