News BlogEU Defense (Doctrine)

To develop the CFSP, go slowly, have leadership, political vision (Bitterlich) (Maj)

(BRUSSELS2) Joachim Bitterlich was invited by the EPC to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Maastricht Treaty in fine company (Jacques Delors, Philippe Maystadt, Antonio Vitorino). In terms of European foreign policy, he has, as they say, “a little” experience. Advisor to Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher (1985-87), then to Helmut Kohl (1987-1998) on European issues and then on all foreign and external security policy, he prepared three times for the presidency of the EU by Germany. Then, he was ambassador to NATO (1998-1999), at the time of the strikes on Kosovo.

We lack leadership

The message he delivers, full of realism, is worth listening to, even if we cannot share all its contours. Even if it is harsh, it contrasts with a certain Euro-pessimism which seems to gnaw at everyone today. For him, Europe can do better, be stronger abroad… But we must be patient. “ I advise everyone to take detours to ultimately reach the objective, apply the Union method, apply differentiation. And, in the end, it will develop, according to what I call a 'renewed community method' (...) But above all what you need is 'leadership'.

A European caucus

After the conference, we discussed this position, particularly on defense policy. " I can't talk about it, it would take me a whole day to tell you about it." he interrupts me. But, passionate about the subject, we continue to discuss. He has just returned from Munich, from the security and defense conference. “ I was surprised by the Ministers' loss of vision. Everyone only thought about their means, their budget reductions. Everyone only had those words in mind.” To refuse the European approach, in particular the “pooling” and “sharing” projects carried out within the European Defense Agency, “certain countries invoke duplication with NATO (and its Smart Defense project), and the additional cost that this entails. which is nonsenseOn the contrary, we must give the necessary means and powers to the European Defense Agency ". We must also go further, question the future of the relationship between the two organizations NATO and the EU, as well as between Europe and the United States. “ It's time to have initiatives, to have a European caucus. The Americans will not be able to oppose it. »

The SEAE, the cart before the horse

Regarding the European diplomatic service (EEAS), he has a clear opinion. For him, " we put the cart before the horse ". Because we cannot do without the Member States. As an old European veteran, J. Bitterlich has his own analysis of the international situation, quite harsh, but overall imbued with his experience and reality. Europe weighs little compared to the greats of this world, because everyone leaves divided. And other countries are not fooled. “In China, there is a European delegation led by an excellent ambassador. But no state has withdrawn its embassy. Everyone continues to negotiate, each on their own. And the Chinese have understood this well. They play with each other, against each other »

Have a political, global vision, rely on the Member States

The whole challenge then appears to represent a significant decision-making weight in front of an interlocutor. “ What does someone from the Commission weigh abroad? » he asks himself. Except on issues where they have real competence, power – trade… – they cannot get involved, he explains.. For J. Bitterlich, the essential thing for the EU today is to have: “ a political vision », that is to say global, general, and not by file. But, for this, we must also rely on the Member States, on their diplomatic power or their various sensitivities. “For example, on Russia why not ask Angela Merkel, mission her on behalf of Europe, to negotiate with the Russians. Not only does she speak Russian but above all she has this necessary sensitivity. »

(Update) some clarifications have been made, particularly on the “Caucus” chapter.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).