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Can France trigger a solidarity clause from its allies? What interest ?

FlagsBernNATO@NATO151114(B2) After the Paris attacks, which are of a significant magnitude but not unprecedented in Europe (1), several solidarity clauses can be activated both at the level of NATO and the European Union. And France could request one or the other, or even both at the same time, depending on what the French government decides. Nothing prevents, in fact, Paris from soliciting both NATO allies and its European Union allies (often the same ones). The two clauses are also complementary. One is more political and military; the other is just as political but includes a broader range of measures.

The NATO solidarity clause: a major act

The most famous solidarity clause is that included in the North Atlantic Treaty (NATO). It is Article 5 which provides that if an Ally is the victim of an armed attack, each of the other members of the Alliance “ will regard this act of violence as an armed attack against the entire membership and will take such action as it deems necessary to render assistance to the attacked Ally ". It was only invoked once, by the United States, during the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, on September 11, 2001. By the politico-military nature of NATO, the natural response to this type of consultations is rather military in nature.

A substitute exists, a consultation or alert procedure, provided for in Article 4 which provides for consultations between allies " whenever, in the opinion of one of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of one of the parties will be threatened”. Clause invoked several times by the Turks in particular.

Read our fact sheet: The article 5 clause (solidarity), the alert clause (article 4)

The European solidarity clause: never used as such

Since the attacks in Spain in 2004, and the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Union has had a formalized alert and solidarity procedure that can be triggered in the event of a major problem (terrorist attack, major natural or human disaster) planned. in Article 222. It is triggered by a Member State when it “ Considers, after having exploited the possibilities offered by the existing means and instruments, both at national and Union level, that the situation clearly exceeds the reaction capacities at its disposal ". There is a notion of partial incapacity to respond, which is not present in the NATO solidarity clause. A decision was made to clarify, in 2014, the terms of use of this article.

The European Union then mobilizes “ all relevant instruments (that) can best contribute to the crisis response ", whether these instruments are “sectoral, operational, strategic or financial” indeed "military". The interest of this instrument is that it is as much technical as it is political and, above all, that it offers a range of possible response tools, in a very flexible manner. In addition to temporary measures, we can therefore consider that there is a need to make a mandatory decision, to commit funding, to make resources available to other countries (police officers, intelligence experts, etc.). We can even consider that it is necessary to postpone certain financial commitments of France (for example in terms of deficit).

However, Commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas did not want to make this assumption. “ We are in the period of mourning and contemplation, this is not the time » he declared this afternoon, in response to a colleague's question. “ A whole series of conditions are associated » to the implementation of the clause. However, he did not want to completely exclude this hypothesis among all the other measurements. “ The college (of European commissioners) will discuss it on Wednesday (just like) the ministers on Friday " he added

Read our fact sheet (B2 Pro): The solidarity clause – article 222

The mutual assistance clause

The European Union also has another clause, called defense or mutual assistance – similar to that of NATO and arising directly from Article V of the Treaty of Western European Union signed in 1948. —. If a Member State is the object of an armed attack on its territory, the other Member States " have to "help and assistance" by all means in their power, in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter », thus provides for Article 42.7 of the Treaty.

Read our fact sheet: The solidarity and mutual defense clauses in the Treaty

A very important political signal

Beyond the symbol, the triggering of one of these clauses would oblige Europeans and Euro-Atlantic allies to commit further, whether through political, financial, security or even military measures. The use of Article 5 of NATO would be a political signal of notable seriousness, in connection with the (warlike) declarations of President François Hollande a few hours after the attack. It would require extreme, military solidarity from the other member states. The use of Article 222 of the European Union as well as Article 42.7 would be a first in itself. It would be consistent with François Hollande's European tropism and would require European partners and European institutions to be both more united and more responsive, not only in words... but also in actions.

(Update – 17 p.m.) The President of the French Republic, François Hollande, has just announced in Versailles that he has asked his Minister of Defense, Jean-Yves Le Drian, to discuss tomorrow, Tuesday, during the meeting of ministers of Defense of the EU, the implementation of the mutual defense clause, provided for in Article 42.7 of the EU Treaty.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(1) The attacks that took place in Madrid in several stations at the same time on March 11, 2004 left nearly 200 dead and 1400 injured

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).