Blog AnalysisEU Defense (Doctrine)

Why invoke Article 42.7? What is it used for ? What consequences?

(B2) The mutual defense clause – alias article 42.7 for short – invoked by Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French Minister of Defense last Tuesday – is little known. In any case less than its alter ego NATO (article 5) or even than the solidarity clause of the European Union (article 222 of the Treaty). However, it has several interests. And its triggering is rather finely played.

First, it is a political act. An obligation of solidarity as mentioned in the text - and as I explained on Viewws.eu (look at her video lesson). Also a commitment. What differs from other events (for example Charlie Hebdo) which had brought momentum symbolic: minute of silence, condolences, promise of solidarity, firm conclusions, often without immediate follow-up.

Secondly, it requires the mobilization of Europeans in the various theaters of operation in question. Certainly if the French expect a deployment within three days, with bombings on Syria, they will be disappointed (article to follow). This requires reflection within each country, which has already started, but will last several weeks.

Third, this mobilization is essentially military. Even if the text does not mention it (for essentially political reasons of respecting the different modes of organization of each country), the term assistance means the commitment of military means. And this can (should) operate at different levels.

Fourth, it is each “according to their means”. In other words, we will not ask Ireland, a neutral country, to come and lend a hand by bombing in Syria. In any case, it has no fighter aviation. But it could strengthen resources in the Sahel, or in the Central African Republic, in training missions for example.

Fifthly, it allows flexible consultation which can gain momentum as events progress, in an intergovernmental manner at the beginning (nothing excludes a more organized form later, such as a mission or PSDC operation). The provisions of Article 5 of NATO were too cumbersome to invoke. And it would have had a (serious) disadvantage: eliminating any possibility of having a single coalition, particularly with Russia. The provisions of Article 222 of the EU Treaty (the other solidarity clause) in force today, have a more community scope, and a dimension more “civil protection” than external military intervention which is more the objective sought by Paris. In addition, he was surrounded by a device, quite complex, which would quickly harm the proven objective.

Sixth, and this is not the least of the effects, it is an “objective” circumstance, provided for “legally and politically ratified, to allow France to be granted an exception to the stability pact. This was not the original intent of this clause. But this could be one of the main effects.

Comment: choosing to invoke this clause is therefore an intelligent decision taken by the Hollande-Le Drian team. Because it results in a multiplier effect, without necessarily setting up heavy structures. At no time does it undermine the French desire to act in an ad hoc coalition with other countries around the world. It does not oblige any State to follow France in its most robust path (the bombing in Syria). On the other hand, it allows a whole series of new actions which will make it possible to complete this action. Criticism has been raised against the fact of not seeing the clause of article 222 raised. This would have been interesting but more unsuitable in this case if we are looking for an operational commitment. Engagement in military operations is, in fact, still today a matter of the sovereignty, the will, and the sole capacity of the Member States. What, on the other hand, could be useful is to raise the two clauses (42.7 and 222). And nothing excludes that, in the future, this will also be raised.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Read also: The Le Drian effect

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).